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 CHURCH.
THE DESIGNS OF THE ATONEMENT TO BE INFALLIBLY SECURED IN CERTAIN INSTANCES.
THE designs of the atonement in reference to mankind have already been secured in numerous instances; and we are informed by the Scriptures that there shall be such instances of its success, in every age of the world. The persons in whom the success of the atonement is instanced, form what is called, the CHURCH Of Christ. These instances are not matters of chance,--they are the result of definite purpose, and of an adjusted plan settled in eternity. God will direct that the workings of the great principles of the atonement shall infallibly issue in the personal salvation of multitude which no man can number, so that "the faith of God shall not become of none effect."
He is a theologian of no mean temerity who will meet this statement with a negative. It would be, in fact, to say that the designs of the atonement come to pass at random. Hitherto the doctrine of this statement has been combated only by a liberal use of the ample and furbished arguments about the free agency of man; but in the heat of conflict, and the din of battle, it has been forgotten that God is a FREE agent, as well as man. Besides, in the smoke and dust of polemics, these arguments have been brandished as if man would always use his free agency well, if he were left to it; and God could never use His free agency without infringing on the rights of man. A theological system, founded upon the hypothesis, that if God will ever exercise his free agency he is sure to exercise it wrong; or, that if he does what he wills with his own he is sure to injure some persons, is one that should make its defenders to examine more minutely its foundations, and to take heed to the towers thereof.
The "certain instances" in which the designs of the atonement shall be secured, mean, special cases of definite persons. It is meant that personal election in purpose shall certainly issue in actual election to personal salvation. If the reader would rather have the statement, that they who were personally foreknown as Believers shall be personally called and glorified. I can have no objection to it; for "whom God did foreknow, them he also predestinated, and whom he predestinated them be also called." To cut off the link of predestination, will not make the links of foreknowledge and calling fit better into each other, nor will it thus make the chain look fairer or stronger. Suppose the chain ran," whom he foreknew them he also called," how is it improved? WHAT did God foreknow about the called? He foreknew that they were enemies to him by wicked works, that this state of enmity would by no means change itself into love; that they would not make themselves to differ; that they would never obey his call, unless his Spirit would take away the heart of stone, and be foreknew that he would send them that spirit. "Yes," it is rejoined, "but he foreknew it conditionally."
This is one of the jargons of systematic theology. A definition of "conditional foreknowledge," is a great desideratum in moral and theological science. Does it mean that God foreknows the meeting between the agent and the condition, but does not see any further,--does not foreknow what the result of the meeting will be? If God does not see the result, it cannot be called fore-KNOWLEDGE.
The principles of mental philosophy, as well as the revelations of theology, know no more of conditional foreknowledge, than they know of conditional past knowledge. A man who, in order to maintain a fond metaphysical conceit, would assert that a certain event in the Roman empire was but conditionally known to historians, must calculate largely on the tender mercies of mankind, not to be treated as a dreamer. If there be any prophecies which have come to pass, and which God only foreknew conditionally, the question is decided.
God foreknew with perfect certainty the particular instances in which the designs of the atonement should be secured in the personal salvation of particular individuals. I use the phrase, personal or particular salvation, rather than that of particular redemption for this reason. The phrase, particular redemption, as often used in theological discussion, covers a fallacy, about the atonement, which is seldom detected in the heat of argument. If by particular redemption is meant that the ransom price was given only for some particular persons;--if it means that only some particular persons were atoned for, then it is wrong, and directly opposed to the Scriptures. If the phrase particular redemption means that only some particular persons will, in the event, prove to be actually delivered from sin to heaven, then it is true, just in the same way as particular providence is true. A particular providence is the operation of the provisions of a general providence, graciously directed to bear upon the interest of special particular persons; and particular salvation is the working of a general atonement, made to bear upon the interests of particular persons, with designed specialty. The advocates of general atonement never mean, by such a phrase, a general actual deliverance of all men from sin and misery in the event; they simply mean by the word "redemption," the ransom price, the atonement that was offered up for all, that whosoever believeth, might be saved. The phrase "particular salvation," then, seems to steer clear of the supposed fallacy.
I. The absolute or perfect certainty of the particular salvation of special persons, is not at all inconsistent with the provisions of a general atonement, intended as the means of salvation to all.
In the whole of this book it has been "the writer's end," to prove the universal extent of the atonement of Christ. The atonement has been exhibited as capable of utter failure. It is now intended to show that it shall not utterly fail, but that it shall infallibly prosper in the actual salvation of special and particular persons, that is the salvation of believers only. We will therefore proceed with calmness and candor, to examine the harmony between the particular salvation of certain persons, and the unlimited extent of an atonement for all.
1. There is the same relation between the atonement and all men, as there is between providence and all men. Providence is the means of supplying all men with physical and moral furniture, necessary for the ends of their being here. It furnishes all men with capacities, means, and opportunities, for action and improvement. All men are sufficiently supplied with abilities, means, and opportunities, for advancement in wealth, learning, liberty, and civilization. This is the general provision, but the history of six thousand years tells us, that the advancement of men has not been as general as the provision. The designs of the general provision are fully secured only in special cases, and in all such cases it comes to pass by "the BLESSING Of God." In the provision there is nothing to exclude any man from wealth, learning, etc. Nevertheless, wealth and learning are only enjoyed in special instances. Take learning as an example. The provision for improvement is general and open to all. The sun, and the moon, and the stars, have always presented the appearances which they did to NEWTON and his scholars, yet the cases are special and few in which men, like them, tabernacle among the heavens, and take stars and systems for their books. NEWTON acted freely in availing himself of the general provision, and every man who is not a NEWTON acts freely in disregarding it. It is assuredly, to the glory of God to suppose, that he intended to produce a NEWTON, and that the endowments of his mind were designed to be conferred on him. You cannot find an adequate cause, in an intelligent universe, for such a product, but, "the blessing of. God," according to his will and purpose. Yet Newton was as free and laborious, in attending to the objects presented to him, as if there were no purpose of the kind.
Why may it not be so with mankind and the provision of the atonement? There is no decree to exclude any from the benefits of the atonement. They who accept the atonement are conscious that they act freely under the blessing of God, which is only another name for divine influences. The atonement is a remedy in moral government, like any other remedy in providence. Medicinal virtues are given to plants, and minerals, as a general provision for diseases among men, but the application of them is special and particular. As to providence, no one will argue that the provision was made BECAUSE particular persons were to be healed. Unfettered common sense teaches us that particular persons were healed, BECAUSE Of the special application of the general provision to individual persons. After the same manner, the atonement was not made for all, because God intended to save some; but some particular persons are saved because the Holy Spirit "takes of" the general atonement, and graciously applies it to particular cases.
2. The same relation exists between atonement and all, as exists between the word of God and all. By the word of God, I mean all that God has revealed to man as a system of motives. These motives, in all their extent and influence, belong to all accountable beings. Some have these motives exhibited more abundantly and more clearly than others. Some, under their influence, become better fathers or children than others, or better masters and servants. Wherever these motives are successful, it is by the blessing of God, and wherever they fail, it is by the voluntary negligence of man. The provision of motives is general, but the instances of successful result are special and particular. The general provision of motives was not made because these particular instances of success were to, be realized, but these particular instances come to pass because God specially blessed the general provision. It were highly incongruous to argue that the general provisions of the British constitution were made, only for the particular instances in which they were observed, but were never intended for those who disregarded them.
Again I would ask, Why may it not be thus with the atonement? Providence is the medium of furnishing all accountable beings with abilities and means; divine revelation is the medium of influencing all by motives; and the atonement is the medium of saving all by faith. Man is free in using providence, he is free in yielding to motives, he is free in pleading the atonement. There is a specialty in the providential furniture, there is a specialty in the operation of motives, and there is the same specialty in the application of the atonement. It is therefore undeniable that the special application of the benefits of a universal atonement is in perfect agreement with the whole constitution of the moral system that we occupy; and that if our creeds clash with this, they must clash with the universe.
Let us try to illustrate this case of specialty. Suppose we say,--and "0 let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but once"--suppose we say that, on the foresight of this world's being peopled by sinful generations, there would have been no atonement but for God's intention to save. He foresaw that after all his provision, men would be so wicked that they would not accept of this atonement, and that, therefore, he determined to exercise his influence to secure some, whom he had foreknown as persons, in whom the designs of his death should be infallibly magnified and made honorable. Jesus Christ foreknew these, definitely and personally, and had a direct reference to them in his sufferings and death. If a special reference to them, in the divine government, does not involve a denial of a general providence, I cannot see how a special reference to them, in the death of Christ, can imply a denial of a general atonement.
Should some objector say--"since it was foreseen that some would not accept of it, why was an atonement made for them?" I might say, that the objector cannot claim an answer. He replies against God. He must suppose another system of the universe. He might as well ask, why God took the Israelites out of Egypt, when only two of them entered Canaan?--or ask, why God made free and accountable creatures? Jesus Christ has taught his disciples to say, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight."
Nevertheless, in discussing this subject, we might be within the bounds of legitimate inquiry, if we were to suppose that it is impossible, on the present principles of moral government, to make an atonement for the sins of the elect, without affecting the sins of the others. On the present principle it is impossible to administer, even providence itself, for the benefit of some without affecting others. What would you think of a medicine that would only cure the predestinated? What would you think of a land that would yield a harvest only to those who were decreed to sow it? What would you think of the sun shining only on the good and the elect? Just such a thing would be an atonement that would only benefit the select few who had been decreed for it.
But to illustrate this, I will take the favorite notion of a limited atonement. I will suppose an army of a thousand soldiers to rebel against their rightful sovereign. And I will suppose that the king is determined to save five hundred of them, and that to effect this honorably, the king's son consents to suffer ignominy and death for the sin of these five hundred. Now, I mean, that this cannot be done without affecting the other five hundred. An atonement is an equivalent for a threatened punishment; and the design of an atonement is, as we have frequently shown, to suspend the execution of the penalty, and yet secure the ends of that execution. These ends could not be secured, in the five hundred to be saved, without affecting the five hundred left. Let us consider what are the ends of punishment that are to be secured by an atonement? They are to show the evil of rebellion, to express the king's determination to maintain his law, and to show that even when he pardons, it is on honorable grounds. The king cannot condemn the rebellion of the five hundred to be saved, without, by the same measure, condemning the rebellion of the rest. Yea, he intends, even upon this showing, to express to the rest his determination to maintain his law.
This favorite comparison would be valid, if the five hundred left were in the same state as fallen angels. The atonement of Christ even affects devils, so far as to express the wickedness of their rebellion, the determination of Jehovah to honor his government, and to show that he will exercise mercy only on grounds honorable to his law. The devils feel this--they believe it and tremble. If the five hundred left are intended to represent the "rest" of' mankind, the analogy fails. Let us suppose that after the king's son died for the five hundred to be saved, the government issued a proclamation, declaring that the other five hundred perished because they refused the benefits of the son's death. "REFUSED the benefits of his death?" an astonished empire would exclaim, "how can this be, when it is known that he only died for the favored five hundred! "What!--Perished solely for refusing the benefits?" might the hardened rebels mutter, "when it was a previous fixed arrangement that his death should not be available for us?"
This comparison, then, does not give a correct representation of the circumstances of mankind in connection with the atonement. The relation of the atonement to all mankind, to the saved and to the lost, I conceive to be somewhat of this kind. It was foreseen that this world would be inhabited by a sinful race of accountable beings. They were to be in a state of probation. The accepting of the atonement of the Seed of the woman was to be the test of their probation, as the tree of knowledge was that of Adam's. They had every necessary power, and means, and motives, to accept it; but they loved darkness rather than light, and they voluntarily rejected it. God, therefore, determined by means of his truth, to influence them graciously to accept it for their salvation. Nevertheless "they had power over their own wills." 1 Cor. vii. 37 and God had arranged that "he that taketh warning shall save his own soul."
I am much inclined to think that the exercise of Divine Influence in applying the benefits of the atonement to some more than others, is a measure ABOVE the atonement, but exercised THROUGH the atonement. Thus the atonement itself is a measure above moral government, and yet is exercised through moral government, So miracles are measures above providence, yet exercised through providence. In like manner divine influence is above the atonement, yet exercised through it. In such language I only embody, in other words, the doctrine of Paul concerning the sovereignty of God. When it is said that all things are put under him (Christ), it is manifest that HE IS EXCEPTED who did put all things under him." In the atonement, God did not sink his supremacy, or part with his sovereignty. The atonement laid him under no obligation, under no constraint, to exercise his influence. He had a sovereign right, without the atonement, and with it, to have mercy on whom he will have mercy; but he has been pleased to exercise this right through the atonement, and according to laws and arrangements that have been established and published. He is supposed to exercise his gracious agency actually in saving, even when men have exercised their agency in rejecting his claims, and when they have become liable to what is justly due to them for their sin, and to evils which they themselves have voluntarily chosen. So that after all, the rejecters receive nothing but what is just, nothing but what they choose themselves; and even in the instances in which he exercises his agency, it is exercised in arranged combination with the agency of the believer himself.
Will any say, "Cui bono, such a statement--what do you gain by it?" GAIN! I gain everything; I gain the accountableness and blamableness of men for not being saved; I gain the unsullied honors of the divine perfections and government in the condemnation of such perverse rejecters; I gain the eternal and imperishable glory of free and sovereign GRACE, that condescended to save any of such a race of evil-doers; I gain everything that can make theology valuable, and religion practical.
II. The sacred Scriptures give us the most clear, ample, and cogent evidence, that the designs of the atonement shall be infallibly secured in instances without number.
Scriptural testimonies of this class are so abundantly and so constantly, exhibited in Calvinistic Bodies of Theology, and in other works and treatises bearing on the doctrine of predestination unto life, and so accessible to the inquirer, that a formal induction of them here is deemed unnecessary. The sacred Scriptures distinctly assert that the designs of the atonement shall be infallibly secured--that Christ SHALL see of the travail of his soul--that the word of reconciliation shall NOT return to him void--that as many as the Father gave him SHALL come unto him, and that none SHALL be able to pluck them out of his band. They lift up for us the veil of futurity and assure us, that in the last day there shall be, and will be, many on the right hand of the Judge; and they represent heaven as infallibly to be peopled with a multitude which no man can number, all of whom shall have. washed their robes in the BLOOD of the Lamb. The revelations of the Scriptures consider this as a sure case. Another class of Scriptures designate and mark out the characters in whom all the purposes of the death of Christ shall be fully accomplished. They are called his "sheep," his "friends," his church, and, "the people whom the Father gave unto him." The Scriptures do not mark these as the only characters for whom the Son of God died, but as the only characters in whom the great designs of his death are fully answered. Another class of passages represent the production and formation of these characters as the result of a divine and eternal purpose and plan. They are called out of the world from amid others, according to God's purpose and place. Christ gives the honor of sitting at his right hand in his kingdom, only to those for whom it has been prepared by the Father. Hence, in the last day he will say to these very persons,--"Come, inherit the kingdom prepared for YOU before the foundation of the world." They are predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ, and chosen in him that they should be holy. The Scriptures hold up the sovereign RIGHT Of God to produce such characters, according to such purpose, in all the sunbeams of truth. He has a right to have mercy on whom he will have mercy.--Even so, for so it seems good in his sight. No theological writer has ever, manfully and openly, attacked the sovereign right of God to confer any favors on any sinners he pleases; that is, no one has fairly attacked the doctrine of sovereign election. The crusade against this doctrine has been perfectly QUIXOTIC. Some have mistaken the proud towers Of FATE for it. Others have mistaken the dungeons Of REPROBATION for it. In the mean time the doctrine itself stands as a fair and glorious TEMPLE, whose foundations are laid deep in the eternal purpose and grace of God, whose pinnacles sparkle in the light of uncreated glory, and over whose portals is the inscription of truth, "Him that cometh, I will in no wise cast out."
THE INFLUENCE OF THE ATONEMENT ON THE INTERESTS OF THE CHURCH.
The atonement of the Son of God for sin, is the ground for calling a CHURCH out of the midst of mankind. This is one reason why Jesus Christ, in his mediatorial character, is called the "foundation" of the church. The first stones of the church of God were built of the promise of the "Seed of the woman," and on this every succeeding stone has been placed. This is the ground of the general call of the gospel; and what a sure foundation it is for a minister to stand upon, to beseech all men to be reconciled to God! On this the prophets and apostles, and all wise master-builders have placed the living materials of the "church of the Lord."
The ministry of the atonement is the great instrument for collecting the church. Unto Christ the gathering of the people is to be. Something else may gather a sect of philosophers, or bands of philanthropists; but it is this alone that will gather a church. "And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all (men) to myself." It is emphatically called the word and ministry of reconciliation. This is the trumpet of jubilee that announces the acceptable year of the Lord, and calls back to their home and their inheritance, the captives, and those that are ready to perish.
This doctrine has always been in the church. When Adam, and Eve, and Abel, formed the first members of the church, the doctrine of the atonement was a cardinal article of its creed. In the church, there never was known a way of acceptance with God but through an atonement. Whatever the church lost in seasons of afflictions and defeats, it has never entirely lost the doctrine of the atonement. Its outlines, from behind the dim transparency of ceremonial shadows, never entirely faded away from the vision of the Jewish church; and in the Christian church the ordinance of the Lord's supper has been a plain and imperishable emblem of the atonement, to show forth the Lord's death till he come. Though the emblem has been criminally shrouded from the people in the dark foldings of popish superstition, or, at another time, shamefully exhibited to the populace, in a mantle of State trappings--yet the doctrine itself has never quitted the Christian temple. Ecclesiastical History proves that, in the precise proportion that any church becomes erroneous on the doctrine of the atonement, that church, whether in Rome or in England, among Episcopalians or Dissenters, becomes corrupt, It is also capable of proof, on which no entrance can be made now, that a church that denies the atonement of Christ is not a church of his.
The Provisions of the atonement have a special reference to the well-being, the purity, the perpetuity, and the glory of the church. The general provisions of the atonement give the Mediator power over all flesh, that, according to this special reference, he might give eternal life to as many as the Father hath given him; and constitute him "Head over ALL THINGS," with specialty of application, "to the CHURCH." To the church, all the provisions of the atonement, like all the arrangements of nature and providence, work together for good.
All the services of the church have a direct reference to the atonement. No service in the Christian temple is acceptable to God, but that which is offered through the hands of the "minister of the sanctuary." The prayers of the church take Calvary in their way to heaven. In singing with grace in the heart, the harp must be tuned for the "Song of the Lamb" at the foot of the cross. It disowns all preaching, but "the preaching of the cross." The church is baptized into the death of Christ as an atonement for sin; and in the Lord's supper it sits at the feast of the atonement.
The atonement will be the theme of the church forever and ever. In heaven not a note will be sounded but in harmony with "the BLOOD that speaketh better things." The burden of the song will be "UNTO HIM that hath loved us, and WASHED Us from our sins in his own blood." The harp of Saul of Tarsus will send forth a sound which the harp of Gabriel does not reach; and a throng of ransomed sinners will forever swell the strain, "washed us from our sins," and the sounds of the harpers harping will thrill eternity into melody and praise.Return to Index Page