THE EXTENT OF THE ATONEMENT
RELATION TO GOD AND THE UNIVERSE.
REV. THOMAS W. JENKYN, D. D.
Including Sections 1 and 2
ON THE ATONEMENT IN ITS RELATION TO THE SALVATION OF THE HUMAN RACE.
THE ATONEMENT RENDERING THE SALVATION OF ALL MEN POSSIBLE.
If my reader has ever asked himself seriously, "Can a sinner like me be saved?" or, "Is it likely that I shall be saved?" the matter of this section cannot fail to interest him. To such a reader I would answer in the words of Him who came to save--"The WORLD THROUGH HIM MIGHT BE SAVED." I hope my reader has considered what were the circumstances which rendered his salvation difficult and improbable. A sinner will never value the salvation of the gospel, till he perceives, and feels, and confesses, the circumstances which made his salvation apparently impracticable and unattainable.
There are two great and awful obstacles in the way of saving any offender against the divine government. These are, the wicked enmity of his own heart against God, and the Honor of the divine law. These two obstacles will never be removed by man, for enmity will never change itself into allegiance, and repentance will never of itself restore and sustain the honor of the law. What, then, shall we do to be saved? The marvellous light of the gospel breaks in upon our bondage, and shows that these obstacles can be removed, and that "THE WORLD MIGHT be saved."
I. The obstacles to salvation, on God's part, have actually been removed by the atonement of Christ.
The obstacle in God's way was neither the want of a disposition to save men, nor the literal claims of the penal sanctions of the law. The obstacle to salvation on his part was that which prevented Darius from saving Daniel, the want of an honorable medium for the expression of mercy, in a manner consistent with the honors of the law. Darius after a long inquiry could not find such an expedient,--but our God looked into his own fold, and found there the Lamb of burnt-offering, his own Son, whom he sent forth as a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, that He might be a "Just God and a Saviour."
God did not remove this obstacle by an arbitrary exercise of omnipotent power, but by an apparent means, and this splendid apparatus of means is the atonement of his own Son. The atonement has removed the obstacles on God's part, because it has honored the law of God. This substituted expedient has the same effects on the community, as if the threatened penalty itself had been literally inflicted on all the transgressors; and all the perfections of God, which are, in other words, the principles of his government, are honored in being exercised and expressed through the medium, and for the sake of such an atonement.
If the moral Ruler himself had not provided such an expedient as the atonement, no sinner would ever have been saved. Man could never have invented such a measure; and had he invented it, he could never have supplied the costly and magnificent furniture of it, the sacrifice without spot or blemish, the satisfaction that the authority of the law should not be relaxed by saving criminals. If this point can be gained, the entire hinderance on God's part is fully removed, and it is now the message of the gospel to set forth, that this point has been gained, and that sinners can be honorably saved.
Since God has introduced such a measure as this into his government, all obstacles on his part are removed fully and effectually, and that, whether any transgressor be saved or not. The salvation, or the perdition, of the sinner makes no difference whatever in the FACT of the clear removal of the obstacles out of the way. If any are saved, it is because the obstacles to their salvation have been taken out of the way. If any perish, it is not because these hinderances have been unremoved, but because the men themselves loved darkness rather than light.
God declares and proclaims himself able, willing, ready, and delighted to save. In this work he has a Sabbath in his love, and joys over sinners with singing. Zeph. iii, 17. He confirms by an oath, that he has no pleasure in the death of a sinner, and that no one perishes because it is his pleasure. He asks men a reason for their perishing so perversely, and inquires, "Why will ye die?" He declares with all openness and sincerely, that "He willeth ALL men to be saved." He proclaims himself to all sinners as a God "in Christ reconciling the world to himself." He is awfully displeased and angry with those who will not receive the provisions of his gospel feast, and who neglect so great salvation. These things fully prove that now there is nothing, on God's part, to prevent any sinner from being saved.
II. Sovereign grace has provided MEANS to remove the obstacles to salvation on MAN'S part.
We have seen that one hinderance, the hinderance on God's part, has been perfectly taken away by the atonement that honored the law. There is another hinderance to the salvation of man. That is, an enmity of heart against the divine government, an unwillingness to be holy and good, an indisposition to be saved from sin.
Man wants a disposition to be saved. This disposition like any other dispositions is to be acquired by the use of means, and God in his gospel has provided all necessary means for producing and fostering such a disposition. These means are, the atonement of Christ, the ministry of his word as a system of inducements, and the influences of the Holy Spirit.
The atonement of Christ has been the means of effectually removing the obstacles on God's part, and it is also the appointed means of removing the obstacles on the sinner's part. The atonement of Christ crucified will soften and melt the hard transgressor; that is, it is calculated to do so, as he looks to him, whom he has pierced. Such a view is calculated to break his heart into contrition and repentance, into a willingness and a disposition to be delivered from the sin which the atonement condemns. It will not necessarily and infallibly do this, but it is a means intended and adapted to do so. The atonement is only a means to an end; and as means, to be effectual, it must be used and applied. You find five minutes' serious thoughts of the cross of Christ to produce in you holy thoughts, and favorable dispositions. Suppose these thoughts to continue an hour, a day, etc., until they become habitual, these dispositions would become more strong and established. This would be removing the obstacle on your part to your own salvation; and the hints which I have suggested, show that the atonement is calculated to do this. As the atonement is in the list of moral means, it secures nothing purely of itself. It is the balm of Gilead, but it will cure none without being applied and used. "The world through him might be saved." It is never the language of Scripture, that since Christ died for his people, God must save them, or be unjust. No; notwithstanding the atonement, grace is free in saving man. "I am come," says Christ, "that ye might have life." He says, even to those who "will not come to him," ye might have life.
The Ministry of the gospel, as a system of motives and inducements, is fitted to produce a cordial acquiescence in the great designs of the death of Christ. This gospel is for every creature. Its inducements are to be fully exhibited to all men. Faith comes by hearing it; and faith receives its testimony, and closes with its offers. The gospel, as the means, is the hammer to break the rock, the net to catch the souls of men, the cords to draw sinners to God. The constant using of this ministry, and the continued keeping of the soul's eye on the exhibitions of the gospel, are calculated to bring man to cry, "What shall I do to be saved?" and to give him a disposition, a wish, to be free from sin.
The influences of the Holy Spirit form an indispensable link in the chain of these means. Without this, all the other links are of no effect. If this be snapped, the whole chain of salvation is broken. This link is as inseparable from the agency of man in believing, repenting, and obeying, as it is from the agency of God in working in him to will and to do. The influences of the Spirit are represented as being accessible to any and to all who ask for them; and men are even blamed for "not having the spirit." It is impossible to answer the question, "What shall I do to be saved? "without intimating that, in his salvation, the sinner must do something, must exercise his own agency. Let those who doubt this try an answer. The sinner's salvation is represented as if it entirely depended on that doing and yet the efficiency and success of that doing is never ascribed to his own agency. Do not startle at a mere phrase. Suppose I had said that, "a man must use his own agency in his own salvation;" why should this alarm you? You surely do not believe that it is God himself that believes the gospel, that repents for sin, and that sorrows after a godly sort, when you believe and repent. In these things man is an agent, yet all that he does, does not procure or deserve his salvation. No. It is God that effects this. Let me try to make this plain to you. The success of the farmer is ascribed entirely to the blessing of God on his labors, yet it is felt and acknowledged as if it depended entirely on his own efforts. He toils and labors, fences and watches with much diligence and anxiety, yet he cannot point to one action to which he can ascribe--the giving of life to the grain of corn. After all, the good man sings his "harvest home,"--"Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory."
In the provisions of the gospel, then, we find an apparatus of means to remove out of the way of salvation, the obstacles on man's part. The very appointment of the means for such a purpose shows that your salvation is a contemplated case, and that all men, the world, through Christ might be saved.
III. The right and successful USE of these means is not beyond the reach of man.
I wish it to be observed that I do not say that the removal of the obstacles is not beyond the reach of man, but that the using of the means to remove them is not beyond his reach. No man can make atonement for the sin of his soul; and the human heart will never spontaneously change itself, and so remove the obstacles to salvation. But to use the means which God has appointed for removing them, is practicable to every hearer of the gospel. To quicken the seed in the earth is a work which the farmer cannot do, but to use the means of God's appointment for quickening it, is within the reach of every one. And God will not quicken the seed without the agency of man. To remove the hinderances to salvation, is indeed above man's mere agency, but then in the use of means, the spirit is promised, with all the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ, according to the working of his mighty power.
God would never have established a train of means that would be inadequate to secure the desired end. The use of the atonement, the use of the gospel, the use of the supply of the Spirit, are surely sufficient to save the soul. There has never been an instance of their failure known. It has never been known that any man made a faithful and serious trial of these means, and found his salvation an impracticable thing. Has my reader tried, and found it so? Give us your evidence. Have you tried to believe the testimony of the gospel, and found it impossible to believe it? Have you tried to love Christ, but found it a thing impracticable?
God would never command such use of means as would really be impracticable. No man can be justly bound by any law, human or divine, any farther than his faculties and capacities reach. This is as self-evident as that there is a difference between right and wrong, liberty and oppression. If the use of the appointed means were impracticable, the sinner would be excusable, and his negligence could not be condemned.
Study the Lord Jesus Christ's fine and clear exposition of natural ability and moral impotency, in John v. 39-44; "Ye will not come to me that ye might have life. I have come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." Here we may learn the following lessons: that the Jews had sufficient power to receive a Messiah or Deliverer of their own liking; that had they only exercised these very powers aright, they would have received Jesus Christ; and that the only reason why they did not use these powers to receive Christ was, that they did not like him."Ye will not come unto me."
In salvation, God deals with man as in the arrangements of common life, he deals with him as a reasonable creature, as an intelligent being, capable of understanding his own happiness. In medicine he only says to men, "you might be well." In science he only says, "you might be wise;" and in the seasons, "you might reap a harvest." And in the atonement he employs the same language, "the world might be saved."
IV. The gospel imperatively calls upon ALL MEN to use these means duly and effectually.
God, in the gospel calls upon all men to avail themselves of the provision of atonement, to believe the ministry of reconciliation, and to "ask" for the supply of the spirit. God solemnly warns men, and assures them that it is at their peril that they neglect or abuse these means of Salvation. The call of the gospel is universal; it excludes none: it indiscriminately invites every one. The commission of the heralds is, "As many as ye find, bid unto the marriage." A minister of the gospel, with his commission in his hand, can never tell any sinners, that some of them cannot be saved, or that it is impossible to save them. No; this is the message to be proclaimed, "He is able to save to the uttermost, even the chief of sinners."
Hear the noble language of this vocation. "Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth." "Preach the gospel to every creature." "Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely." "Him that cometh I will in no wise cast out." "Now God commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent." With these free and large invitations, can the hearers of the gospel doubt whether they might be saved? Can they think the gospel of truth a pious fraud? Will they blaspheme God by supposing HIM insincere? Perish such a thought in every heart; and let it be anathema in every theological creed.
The gospel invites all to Christ, because he tasted death for every man. A general call is founded on a general atonement. Such a noble message would not be founded on the ignorance of the messenger. His commission does not run--"Come, because, for aught I know, some of you may be elected to the feast, and therefore I invite you all." No; but, "come FOR all things are ready, and yet there is room." Thus has he a more sure word, a more distinct testimony, worthy of all acceptation.
The tone of legislative authority is employed by the gospel when it summons all men to use the appointed means of saving their souls. It says, "Hear, and your souls shall live." The call of the gospel is a command to the sinner to comply with the provisions and designs of the atonement of Christ. It comes from the throne of God, invested with all the authority of that throne. All the authority of the divine government says, "Repent and believe the gospel;" and, therefore faith in a gospel is regarded as an act of homage to the throne of God; and unbelievers are condemned as those who "obeyed not the gospel."
V. Sinners of every description, of every class, and of every grade of depravity, have been saved; and, therefore, it is not the greatness of any man's sin that makes his salvation impracticable.
It is a grievous and lamentable fact that, notwithstanding the ample provisions of the atonement, many sinners are still perishing. Here is a matter for the serious and very painful inquiry, why and how do these sinners perish, while others have been actually and effectually saved? What obstacles remained in the way to prevent their salvation? We have seen that there were but two great obstacles in the way of saving transgressors--the honor of the government on the side of God; and unwillingness to be holy, on the side of man. Were there more obstacles in the way of those who perish, than in the case of those who are saved? Was the atonement insufficient to reach the case of those who perish? Were they excluded from availing themselves of the benefits of the atonement? Were their sins too great to be pardoned? The gospel of the truth of the case answers all these questions with a decided negative. If the sins of those who perish were too enormous to be forgiven, then the atonement did not reach their case. If they are decretively excluded from all lot in the matter, then an obstacle on God's part still continues unremoved. Far is this from the God of mercy and truth. He solemnly proclaims and announces, that every obstacle on the part of his law is removed entirely and forever by the substitutionary propitiation of his Son; and that consequently, he sincerely invites, and earnestly beseeches the offenders to lay aside their enmity, and be reconciled to him by the blood of the cross.
Let any of my readers suppose themselves standing by the margin of the fiery gulf of woe, and asking the miserable spirits of wicked men, "Why were you lost, were you sinners too great to be saved?" The voices of a thousand awakened consciences would break on your ears--"No; sinners as great as we were, have been saved from this place of torment--we perished for no other reason than the neglect of so great Salvation--we would not be gathered."
It is plainly declared in the Word of truth that the greatness of a man's sins is no obstacle to his salvation. It was to a seed of evil doers that God said, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." In full harmony with this declaration is the language of the New Testament. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin; he is able to save to the uttermost; he came to save sinners, even the chief. Around this glorious testimony, is a cloud of witnesses formed of such characters as Adam, and David, and Manasseh; a Saul of Tarsus, a woman of Samaria, a converted thief; the sinners of Jerusalem once clotted with the blood of a murdered Saviour, and the sinners of Corinth once plunged in a sink of unutterable filth and corruption. The salvation that was enough for them is enough for my reader--enough for the greatest sinner. This healing water of the sanctuary will send its mighty tide to fill all the sinuous creeks of retiring despair, and to cover the highest Alps of guilt and sin. Since the mediatorial remedy has already been successful in the worst cases, "beginning in Jerusalem," the salvation of no sinner is impossible.
VI. The word of God ascribes the perdition of those who are lost, entirely, and totally to themselves.
On every one who perishes under the gospel, God sets a brandmark, which the consuming fires will never efface. "He heard the sound of the trumpet, he took not warning, his blood be upon him." It is this character that will make his face gather blackness in the day of judgment, and clothe him with eternal shame in hell. Hear how God speaks of these self-destroyers. "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself;"--"this is the condemnation, that men loved darkness rather than light." "They rejected the counsel of God against themselves," "ye will not come unto me that ye might have life." "How oft would I have gathered you, but ye would not."
The destruction of sinners is never ascribed to an arbitrary perfection of God, never to a secret decree, never to an exclusive edict, but totally and thoroughly to their own love of sin. It is one of the bitterest ingredients in the cup of those who are lost, that they cannot ascribe an iota of their torments to any but to themselves. It would even gratify their inveterate enmity against God, if they could trace a little of their sufferings to an arbitrary or capricious purpose in the mind of God. If the salvation of those who are lost was not once a possible case, there was no difference between their case and that of the fallen angels; and it is difficult to show how they can be justly blamed for perishing, when their escaping was, in every deed and from every appointment, actually IMPOSSIBLE.
The evidences, which I have thus enumerated, prove to my own mind, that the provisions of the atonement contemplate the salvation of all men as possible. The gospel is an authoritative warrant to induce every sinner to believe that his salvation is a possible case. This gospel is a document signed by God for this purpose, and may be pleaded with God by every suppliant for mercy. It encourages every sinner to apply for mercy at the throne of grace. The sinner's warrant for acceptance is not that he is one of the elect,--that he has some previous fitness, that he feels love to the divine government: his only warrant is, that the gospel of the God that cannot lie assures him that, "him that cometh he will in no wise cast out." It assures him individually that "God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that THE WORLD THROUGH HIM MIGHT BE SAVED." It gives him this assurance as one of "the world." If words have any meaning, the meaning of the gospel is, that the salvation of every one of "the world" is a practicable case. While a man is in "the world" he "might be saved." When he is out of "the world," his case is settled irrecoverably."
THE DUTY OF EVERY ONE WHO HEARS THE GOSPEL TO BELIEVE THAT CHRIST DIED FOR HIM.
I wish to argue this subject with men as accountable sinners, and not as curious disputants. I wish myself to forget, and I wish my reader to forget, that the matter of this section has ever been a controversial one. I take it as a shame to polemical divines and to christian churches, that the great measure provided to settle the grand controversy between God and man, should be turned into an instrument of strife and contention among men themselves, and even among Christians.
In the wording of the title of this section, my meaning is that it is the duty of every sinner who hears the gospel to adopt and employ the words of the apostle Paul concerning Christ "Who loved me and gave himself for me." These words are frequently quoted as embodying the frame of mind commonly called "assurance." The word "assurance," as used in theological discussion, or religious conversation, means what is really the "full assurance of hope." The "assurance of hope" is the Christian's confidence and persuasion as to his personal state towards God, and his final salvation from sin. The "assurance of faith" is the penitent sinner's confidence in the designation, sufficiency, and applicableness, of the atonement of Christ to his own case and condition.
When a man takes a medicine it is in the "assurance of faith," that it is adapted to his disorder; and in the "assurance of hope" that it will cure him.
The "assurance of FAITH" is the frame of mind with which a sinner is taught to approach the throne of atonement in Heb. x. 19, 20. "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in FULL ASSURANCE OF FAITH, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." In this passage, does the apostle--does the Holy Spirit,--expect a penitent to approach the throne in the "full assurance" that he is actually accepted, and that he shall and must be finally saved? No; he is to approach with a full assurance and confidence that even he may be accepted and saved, and that "he who cometh shall in no wise be cast out."
Suppose a messenger had been commissioned to go through all the camp of Israel, to announce the provision of the brazen serpent as a medium, for healing all those who had been bitten by the fiery serpents. Suppose any one in the camp--suppose each and all to say, "Do you really mean for me individually? Would not the messenger cheerfully and honestly say, Yes, I mean you, and whosoever is bitten." From such a testimony every one bitten might look up to the brazen serpent in the full assurance of faith, that there was healing in it for him; and each might say of it, "Which regards me, and was lifted up for me."
It is to this assurance that every faithful herald of grace wishes to bring every sinner who hears him, even to the belief and assurance that Jesus Christ "loved him, and gave himself for him." Is the prominency which I gave to this subject startling? Then I can only take up my lamentation, that it has not been, before, made more prominent in the ministrations of truth, that now its whole outline and features might have been more familiar to every hearer of the gospel. It is high time that it should take its due place in the ministry of the gospel. In this discussion, are you jealous for the credit of some human system of theology? What?--would you rather that sinners perished, than that they be saved to the detriment of a theological system? It is to be lamented that in the christian church, as well as in the Jewish, the "traditions of men" have the attachment and homage which are due only to "the commandments of God." Let Christians and divines consent rather to sustain the crash of all the theological systems in the world, than reject or unsettle one stone in the temple of divine truth.
I will now state the evidences which prove that it is the bounden duty of every man who hears the gospel, to believe that Jesus Christ died for him, and made atonement for his sins.
I. The testimony of the Holy Scriptures plainly shows that the death of Jesus Christ concerns every man in the world.
For the fullest and clearest evidence of this disposition, I refer the reader to the following passages: John iii. 14-17; iv. 42;i. 29; iv. 51; 2 Cor. v. 10, 19; 1 John ii. 2, iv. 14; Matt. xviii. 11; 1 Tim. iv. 10, ii. 4, 5, 6; 2 Cor. v. 14, 15; Tit. ii. 11; Heb. ii. 9, 10.
There is not, in the Scriptures, a hint that can suggest the apprehension to any sinner that Christ did not die for him. There is not the remotest allusion to any class of sinners for whom Christ did not die; though there are many references to classes for whom he died in vain. There is no text of Scripture that expresses the sentiment that Christ did not die for every man.
The class of passages which assert that Christ died for his sheep," and that he gave himself for "his church," do not at all exclude others. Such passages only point out, as has been hinted before, the actual result of his death, and not its design, and aspect, and adaptation. Suppose an anti-slavery society had ransomed all the slaves of our colonies, and designed to remove them to another country. Some slaves, nevertheless, proved so fond of their slavery, and so attached to their oppressor, that they would not take the benefit of the ransom. If the Society, or the historian of the Society, speaking of the slaves actually emancipated, should say, "We redeemed you with a high ransom," or, "a great ransom was laid down for them," no reader would infer that the ransom had not embraced the rest, who had loved slavery more than freedom.
The passages which I have marked above give a clear, simple, and unsophisticated testimony, concerning the applicableness of the death of Christ. Good sense and right reason require no warrant for believing a testimony but its truth. This is truth, that Christ tasted death for every man. Therefore, every man can say, and Ought to believe, that Christ died for HIM. He can use the language of Paul, "who loved me, and gave himself for me."
II. The gospel comes to every sinner as an authoritative message to invite him, to require, and demand of him, to accept and partake of the benefits of the death of Christ.
Let the reader refer to the following passages:--Matt. xi. 28, 29, xxii. 2-4; John viii. 37 ; Isa. lv. 1-7; Rev. xxii. 16, 17; John vi. 29, xii. 35, 36; Acts xvii. 30; 2 Cor. 20 to vi. 2.
The parable of the marriage supper supposes the commission of the gospel to be, "As many as ye shall find, bid unto the marriage." If Christian ministers, in their missionary search to "seek and to save that which is lost," find out every individual of the human race, they will act an unfaithful and a dishonest part, if they do not bid every one of them in to the feast of provisions in the atonement of Christ. The gospel leaves out none; even rejecters and despisers are invited.
The belief or unbelief of a sinner cannot alter the fact of Christ's dying for him. A sinner cannot make it true by believing it, if it were not true before. Nor can he make that which was previously true, to be untrue, by his disbelieving it. The fact is unalterable, and cannot be annulled. That Christ died for many, is true, whether believed or not; and that Christ tasted death for every man is as true as the Bible, whether believed or not. the sinner's belief of this testimony is an act of homage and obedience due from him to the declared will of God; it is a compliance with the invitations of the gospel. His disbelief of this message is "making God a liar," and is therefore, condemned as wrong and inexcusable.
In the message of the gospel, God offers pardon, peace, and acceptance to all, "reconciling the world to himself" in Christ. God does not offer what he cannot honorably grant. As moral governor he cannot honorably grant pardon and reconciliation to any sinner, without an atonement for his sin; that is, he cannot offer acceptance to any sinner for whom Christ did not die. Unless atonement were made for a given individual, all the believing in the world would not save him; and, therefore, to offer him salvation on his believing, would be horrible trifling. An offer of pardon to one who has never been atoned for, is an effect without a cause, a measure without a reason.
Christ is offered to the sinner as "the author of salvation," that is, as one that has made atonement for the sins of that sinner. An exhibition or an offer of Christ to the sinner, in any other character, is not the gospel. The gospel reveals and offers Christ to the sinner to redeem him, to cleanse him, and to save him. Christ cannot do these things for any sinner, without having died for that sinner. The Saviour of man will not die again; therefore, since the gospel offers him as a Saviour to every man, he has already died for every sinner--for all to whom the gospel can make an offer for him. Yes: this only is the ground of the broad and ample invitations of the gospel. The universal offer to every sinner, is not founded on God's foreknowledge that some will not comply, nor on the minister's ignorance as to the persons of the elect; but it is founded on the actual and understood offering up of the atonement. The invitations of the gospel are founded on the actual provisions made in the feast; and these are the same, whether those who are bidden hear, or whether they forbear.
III. Every sinner is now in the actual possession of mercies and blessings, which would never have come to him, but for the sake of the death of Christ for him.
The Lord Jesus Christ is "the Heir of all things," the "Head over all things;" for "the Father hath committed all things to the Son." Christ is the Heir and Owner of every man's health and life, talents and property, mercies and influence. He is the heir and owner of these things, not merely as God, but as Mediator--as the author of atonement.
Let me reason this point with my reader. How came you to be possessed of these mercies and favors? You know that God has no way of showing any favor to a sinner, except through Jesus Christ. If he could show any favor, he could show every favor, irrespective of Christ; and then the atonement must appear a measure unnecessary and unreasonable. You have all the mercies of this life, you have the means of grace, you have the strivings of the Holy Spirit. Did these come to you by natural descent from Adam? Came they by your own merits? Or, came they from mere arbitrary will of the divine Ruler? If you exclude the atonement, you cannot account for them.
Consider the three following facts:--every sinner is under the just curse of the divine government--the providence which extends any blessing to such a sinner, is the disposal of things by the atoning Mediator; and he is crowned with this authority, not because he is God, but because he tasted death for every man.
The mercies which you have are, to you, the effects of his death for you. Had he not, on the fall of Adam, interfered on the ground of his atonement, we have shown that neither you, nor any other single child of Adam, would ever have come into being. Had this gracious interference not been for you, you would never have existed. Your existence, therefore, and all its mercies, come through him, and for his sake. It is for his sake that your life has been spared so long--it is he that has hitherto interceded for you, and said "spare it this year also." When you are ill, or any of your children or friends are ill, for whose sake do you pray for health to be restored and established? It is for Christ's sake ; therefore your health and life are connected with the merits of his death. The language of every mercy you have, is, "I come for Christ's sake, and by neglecting or abusing me, you wrong Christ."
Now these things prove that Jesus Christ "loved you, and gave himself for you"; for if he died for these lesser favors, for temporal benefits, for your body--you cannot doubt that he died for your soul, and for its eternal welfare.
IV. Every hearer of the gospel owes duties towards Christ, which could only arise from the fact of his having died for him.
I will enumerate a few of them. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." "Repent and be converted every one of you." "Pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee." "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema." "Come unto me all ye that labor, and are heavy laden." Indeed, there is scarcely a page of the New Testament, which does not record some such duties as I have mentioned. These are not duties which God, as moral governor, binds on man, as a moral agent, with the sanctions of the moral law merely; but they are duties which "the Just God and Saviour" binds on him, as a respited criminal, with all the sanctions of the gospel message, and of the moral law. The moral law could never alone, either require, or enforce, such duties upon any sinner. They are duties which never could be required, but under a redeeming and restorative dispensation founded in the atonement of the Son of God.
The moral law marks out only the duties of moral agents; but the duties which I have enumerated are the duties of a sinner, a character which the moral law, as such, could never contemplate as the subject of duties, but as the subject of penalties only. The duties of a sinner, then, are duties which the gospel binds on him.
It is a grievous insult to the gospel of the blessed God, that divines should make it a question, "Whether every sinner who hears the gospel ought to believe it?" These very divines think every man who reads their books ought to believe them; but if God sends a letter of message and testimony to "every creature under heaven," they begin to dispute, whether every one who reads it, or hears of it, ought to believe it. OUGHT TO BELIEVE IT? Why, is the gospel true? If the gospel be true, it ought to be believed. It will perhaps be objected that the dispute, about the obligation of sinners to discharge these gospel duties, is not founded on any uncertainty in the gospel, but upon the inability of sinners themselves. But even this is indefensible. Men can believe one another. They can believe ancient and foreign historians. They can believe the testimonies of their favorite controversial divines,--why cannot they believe the testimony of God? The only reason is, they do not like it. Such a reason can never prove that a sinner ought not to believe the gospel, unless it can be proved that no man ought to believe a truth that he does not like. The truth of the case is, that no man can disbelieve the gospel, but with the very same powers with which he could believe it, if he liked it.
Under the phrase, believing the gospel, I wish to comprehend every act of homage, obedience, and devotedness, to Christ as Mediator and Saviour. As every sinner is accountable to Christ, Christ must have claims on every sinner, for which he will reckon with him. The claims, which Christ has on sinners, are claims for--obedience to his call, compliance with his invitations, and cordial reception of a "saying worthy of all acceptation, that he came into the world to save sinners;" and all these are founded on his great atonement.
There are very few pastors who do not find in their congregations an awful number, living and, alas! dying, under an apprehension of this kind,--that religious duties are not binding on them, since they are not actually members of churches, or decided Christians. This is the reason why such multitudes neglect the Lord's supper, family and private devotions, conscientious attendance on the means of grace on the days of the week, etc. They think that they may do these things if they please, or let them alone if they please; but they have no conviction that they ought to "take the yoke," and be bound to them. Hence they think that many worldly and sinful compliances are perfectly allowable in their case, which would be inexcusable in the case of religious men. Now this pestilential sentiment is one of the first-born of the theology that I am combating. A sinner very naturally thinks that, if Christ has done nothing for him as a Saviour, he can owe him no duties under that character. To the sinner it is precisely the same as if the gospel had left him without a Saviour, and therefore he must be free from gospel duties. Afterwards, if he be persuaded that Jesus Christ died for him, he thinks that religious duties are binding on him, and he begins to attend to them. The supporters of this theology avow the correctness of these impressions in their sermons, and sanction it in the sacredness of religious conversation. The argument generally employed by them is, that religious duties ought not to be done irreligiously. This is true, but it supplies no reason for abstinence from religious duties. Our Saviour reproved the Jews for the manner in which they read the Old Testament, but he never exhorted them not to read it at all. Paul reproved the Corinthians for the manner in which they celebrated the supper of the Lord, but he never hints that they ought not to celebrate the supper. It was the doctrine of Paul that every man living ought to live to Christ. "He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them."
V. Christ himself will condemn in judgment every rejecter of the gospel, on the ground that he did not believe that he died for him.
This is the doctrine of the following passages. "He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not, is condemned already, BECAUSE he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." "He that believeth not shall be damned." "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that OBEY NOT the gospel of Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." John iii. 18. Mark xvi. 16. 2 Thess. i. 7-11
The whole of the xxvth chapter of Matthew proves that, men will be judged by Christ in the last day, and judged, according to their conduct towards him. Christ will not condemn sinners for not believing that he died for them, if the real truth be that he never had died for them. In the language of the Judge there will be nothing like the sentiment--"I adjudge thee to hell because I never died for thee."
Christ, in the course of his ministry "upbraided the cities because they repented not." They who refused to come to the marriage feast were blamed, and condemned and destroyed. To these very rejecters it had been said, "all things are now ready," which they must have understood as ready for you." They never doubted whether the master meant them or not. Eventually they perished, not because, no provision had been made for them in the supper, but because they deliberately refused to partake of it. Matt. xxii. 2-10; Luke iv. 16-24.
"Bring those mine enemies which would not that I should reign over them, and slay them before me." Luke xix. 27. Did Christ really and verily propose to reign over them? Did he indeed offer himself before "they would not have him?" Might they have had him over them as their saving king? Here they are charged with a serious crime. Their crime is an opposition to his authority, a rejection of his mediatorial power; that is, an unwillingness to be governed and controlled on the principles of the atonement. They would not be saved by an atonement, therefore they are destroyed.
The Word, which is the formula to be used in the last judgment, declares that a "sorer punishment shall befall the rejecters of the atonement, than those to whom it has not been punished and offered. Their sorer punishment is founded on their crimes, because they have trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith they were sanctified, expiated, or atoned an unholy thing. These men were bound to receive the Son of God as their atoning sacrifice; and for not receiving him in this character, they are punished. All the rules of eternal Truth and Justice forbid that they should be punished for not receiving Christ as the Lamb of atonement for them, if the actual fact, and the real case be, that he never had made an atonement for them. Judas will not be condemned in that day, because he did not believe that Christ died for Peter--nor will any sinner be condemned because he did not believe that Christ had died for others; but because he did not believe that Christ "loved him, and gave himself for him."
VI. The greatest pains of a sinner in hell will arise from the consciousness, that he rejected a Saviour who had died for him.
"This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light." It is not that no light had been provided for them, or that no atonement had been made for them. This passage lays the blame at the sinner's door, and it is there that it ought to be. The sinner's conscience, in the day of final decision, will blame him in nothing, but in that for which Christ condemns him. The Son of God will not blame the sinner for what it was impossible to avoid, he will not blame him for not being an angel, he will not blame him for not making an atonement for his sin; but he will blame him for sinning wilfully, for loving darkness, for neglecting so great salvation, for not believing the testimony of his gospel.
The day of judgment will declare the truth of the case, between the sinner and Christ. The divine purposes, as to the extent of the atonement, will be then unravelled; the grand problem will be solved. Follow the condemned rejecter of the gospel to the everlasting fire. Amid all his wailings and lamentations, no such sentiments as these escape his awakened conscience--"Well, it turns out, after all the offers and invitations of the gospel, that I was never atoned for; Christ, it is now clear, never died for me. If I had believed him to be my Saviour, I should have believed what, as is now proved, was not true. Yet, I am here in torments, because I did not believe what the upshot proves to be a positive untruth." Oh, No, No! The language of the sinner will be "I destroyed myself." "I have, no cloak for my sin." "I would have none of his ways." "I loved darkness rather than light; here I find my condemnation--not in God--not in the atonement--but in MYSELF; it is here the worm that dieth not, finds all its venom."
VII. The exhibition of Christ to every sinner as having died for him, is the most powerful motive to personal and universal holiness.
1. It will make God appear more amiable in his estimation. Without this exhibition he has narrow, contracted, and suspicious thoughts of God; as if he were capricious, arbitrary, and partial. But the God who "loved the world," must be an amiable and lovely Being. The Lord who will have all men to be saved, is no respecter of persons. The high and lofty One who swears, "As I live, I will not the death of a sinner," must be worthy of all love.
2. It will sweeten common mercies to him. At present he thinks his mercies have no connection with the death of Christ, and consequently he feels no gratitude to Christ for them. He regards them as some "uncovenanted" largesses, thrown about him unaccountably. The gospel teaches him to see "the image and superscription" of "CHRIST CRUCIFIED" on every mercy; and then every mercy has new charms for him--is more dear and precious, more sweet and lovely in his estimation. He will now become concerned to turn every mercy to the best account to do the most good with it, and to count it of worth, only as it is of use for the cause of Christ, both in his own heart and in the world.
3. It will shortly embitter sin to him. Now he has only the lavish motive of punishment to induce him to avoid sin, and he never sees sin in connection with Jesus Christ. The gospel unmasks sin, and exhibits it to the sinner as the murderer of his best Friend, as a grievous wrong and insult to a Redeemer, who gave his life a ransom for him. In such connection with the cross of Christ, sin will appear exceedingly sinful," and the sinner, looking to him whom he pierced, will weep and "mourn as one mourneth for an only son."
4. It will convince him how entirely salvation is of sovereign grace. It shows that God requires no motive to induce him to have mercy on man, but that he only wanted an honorable medium for exercising it with safety to his government. He was as merciful without an atonement as with it, but without it he could not show himself merciful to offenders. The atonement does not provide that now God must save, or be unjust; for salvation is all of free unconstrained grace.
5. It will persuade him how groundless and unreasonable is DESPAIR. To the trembling and the fainting the gospel says, "One died for all--whosoever will, let him come--him that cometh I will in no wise cast out." No melancholy person has ever doubted whether a remedy has been provided, or whether it were sufficient. His doubts have been about his own interest in the remedy, which he thinks to be peculiar, and limited to some class. The gospel authorizes him to say, "Who loved me, and gave himself for me."
6. It will demonstrate the folly and guilt of presumption. Many have the full assurance of presumption, but not that of faith or hope. The mere belief that a remedy will cure, will never effect the cure, unless the remedy be taken. The sinner will feel that a salvation neglected will save no man.
7. It will demonstrate the full certainty of the salvation of every one who believes in Christ. "He that believeth shall be saved." Here is no uncertainty. It is the language of every perfection in God--of every decree in the divine purposes--of every drop of the blood of atonement--of every promise in the Bible--of every syllable in the intercession of Christ--and, of every fact in the history of redemption; all reverberate, "He that believeth SHALL be saved."Return to Index Page