THE EXTENT OF THE ATONEMENT
RELATION TO GOD AND THE UNIVERSE.
REV. THOMAS W. JENKYN, D. D.
Including Sections 1 and 2
THE ATONEMENT IN ITS RELATION TO THE ETERNAL STATE OF THE UNIVERSE.
THE entire universe of God is under the government of Jesus Christ. In the present administration of it, there is a mixture of good and evil, but he intends to remove out of his moral government every offence and "everything that defileth." This administration of it is to come to a close; and then, the state of probation will end, accountable beings will be reckoned with, sentence will be passed on each class of agents, and their respective states will be fixed. By these measures, a separation will be made between the good and the wicked. Rewards and punishments will be awarded to each respectively. Both will be awarded for eternity, and both will be awarded by a mediatorial authority founded on the atonement. The glorification of the saints, the rewarding of angels, the condemnation of the wicked, and the eternal condition of all beings, are connected with the mediation and the atonement of Christ
THE INFLUENCE OF THE ATONEMENT ON THE HAPPINESS OF HEAVEN.
All the blessedness, and all the glory, of all heavenly Beings are connected with the atonement of Jesus Christ. The spirits of just men made perfect owe everything to it.
The whole of their happiness is represented as consisting in being with Christ where he is--in having a clear and full sight of all his glory--in being as to their souls and bodies perfectly like him--in having without interruption the most intimate intercourse with him,--and in having an ample and an eternal share in his glory, dominion, and blessedness, being glorified together as joint-heirs.
The happiness of angels will take a character, or a modification, from their long inquiries and services in connection with the great atonement of their Lord. Their interests were embraced in the mediatorial system, by which measure their present happiness was increased, and their eternal happiness secured. Their eternal adorations are connected with the atonement. In heaven they will be always praising him, singing, "Worthy is the LAMB that was SLAIN." They cheerfully join the ransomed of the Lord in celebrating his praises; and though one of the sweetest lines of our song is not in theirs, yet they will always desire to look into these glorious themes, and never will they forget the scenes of the manger and the cross.
The Scriptures teach us to regard the eternal glory and blessedness of God as connected with the mediatorial atonement. The FATHER will rejoice in the redounding of all things to the praise of the glory of his GRACE, according to the eternal purpose which he had purposed in Christ Jesus. The SON will be pleased and satisfied in seeing of the TRAVAIL of his soul. The joy of the HOLY SPIRIT will be connected with GLORIFYING Christ, by introducing to heaven millions of souls, sanctified, and formed after his likeness. For this, all the works of God were made, and all the word of God spoken. Through this all the divine perfections were displayed and honored, and all the divine purposes accomplished and glorified. The mediatorial administration of the divine government shall come to a close, but the influence of the atonement on the interests of the divine empire shall never end.
There are two elements in the state of the blessed that are inconsistent with a restricted atonement on the principles of commercial redemption, viz.: its freeness, and its gradations, Commercial redemption supposes that Christ suffered so much punishment for so many sins of the elect, and consequently by so much suffering, purchased so much blessedness for them, and for them only. The blessedness of heaven is, first, free--all of pure, unmerited, and unpurchased grace. It was not due to the elect; nor did the atonement constrain the Father to confer it from justice to Christ. It is meant that public justice was honored in awarding blessedness to the saints for the sake of Christ but justice was not the ground and cause of the award--it was sovereign, free grace exercised through the medium of the atonement. If, however, Christ paid so much suffering for so much blessedness, that blessedness is due in justice, either to Christ, or, according to his will, to the persons for whom he paid the amount, whose song ought to be to the praise of the glory of his justice, and not of his grace.
The blessedness of heaven, secondly, has gradations, as one star differeth from another star in glory. Now on the principles of commercial redemption, how will you account for the gradations of saints in glory? This commercial hypothesis supposes that Christ sustained, or paid, greater sufferings for a great sinner, and less for a sinner of a lower grade. Here, then, we have two difficulties:--First, the more Christ suffered for any one, the more he deserved for him, and consequently that sinner must have a greater share in the blessedness. Secondly, The reason why any one may be least in the kingdom of God is, that Christ suffered least for him; and Christ suffered least for him, because he had the least sins to suffer for! How mercenary, pitiful, and absurd ! On the contrary, the Scriptures represent the atonement as the medium, and not as the measure of the rewards. Though the reward is not for our works, it is according to them. As the atonement contemplates God as a free agent, so it contemplates man as a free agent. Consequently, though all rewards come from free grace through the atonement, yet the measurement is, "he that soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly, and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." Such an arrangement accounts for the gradations in glory, on principles honorable to the government, for it supposes every saint perfectly and fully happy in his gradation according to his several ability. Glorified saints will never have the apprehension that their glory is of such a grade, and of no other, simply because Christ has deserved and purchased no more for them.
The eternity of a happy universe will be perpetually and progressively unfolding the glories of the GREAT ATONEMENT, for amid all the splendor, blessedness, and joy, of the heavenly worlds, "the LAMB will be the light thereof."
THE ASPECT OF THE ATONEMENT ON THE PERDITION OF THE LOST.
On the day that shall terminate the probation of all accountable beings, they will all be judged by the Mediator, and the eternal separation between the good and the bad shall be effected by mediatorial authority. It is not in his authority as God, the Maker of all things, that Christ will judge, but in his authority as Mediator; and he has no authority as Mediator, but what is founded on his atonement.
I. The eternal condemnation of fallen angels will be connected with this mediatorial authority founded on the atonement.
The Scriptures clearly assert, and constantly suppose, that a race of fallen spirits and wicked intelligences do exist, that they exert an agency and influence in this world, and that their agency is exerted entirely for evil. These fallen and wicked spirits have attempted to ruin the whole human race. They have tried to convert this world into a theatre of the most malignant evils. When the Son of God came as a second Adam to oppose the progress of evil, they grievously afflicted him, and made every effort to conquer him. They have been, since, employing all their agents and instruments for crushing and destroying the church of Christ. With inveterate and undiminished malignity, they have constantly aimed at clouding the honors of the divine perfections, and at frustrating all the divine purposes, and especially, purposes of mercy and favors.
As the eternal happiness of angels will take a character and modification from their services in the cause of the atonement, so will the eternal punishment of fallen spirits take a character from their machinations and opposition against the atonement. Though they have not rejected the atonement, they have opposed it from enmity against the redeeming measures of the Seed of the woman; and the bruising, and crushing, of their agency and influence, will be by mediatorial power and authority.
II. The condemnation of the heathen, who have perished without hearing of the atonement, will be an act of Christ as the Mediator.
It is through the provisions of the atonement that the heathen have had their being. Had it not been for the prompt interposition of Christ in Eden as Mediator to "save the world," neither the heathen, nor any other nations, would ever have come into existence, They have, therefore, become members of moral government, and mental endowments and means of accountableness have been conferred upon them, on account of the introduction of a compensative dispensation. Consequently, all the favors of providence, and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness, come to them, though they do not know it, through the mediation of Christ. They will, therefore, be dealt with according to what they have through the atonement, and not according to what they have not. As they have not received the ministry of the atonement, they will not be condemned for rejecting that, but for abusing or neglecting what they had actually received.
It is sometimes objected that it were unreasonable to judge the heathen on the principles of the mediation of Christ, since these principles were never known to them. This objection would suppose it unreasonable to judge them on any other principles. On what principles can they be judged? If they be judged on the principles of God's providential government over them, it will be objected that they never know that the government, under which they were, was the providence of God. If they be judged on the principles of God's right to them as their Maker and Owner, it will be objected that they did not know that God was their Maker. "He will judge them," say some, "as the God of nature;" but they do not know that he is the God of Nature. The objection then, must suppose that they are excusable, that they will not be judged, and that they are not accountable to God. Against all this, examine the word of God. There you will find that the heathen are ALREADY condemned, upon principles which are not known to them. The word of God now condemns their manners and actions, and we cannot doubt that this "judgment is according to the truth" of the case. Though the word of God judges them on these principles, it judges them according to what they have, and not according to what they have not. What the word of God condemns now, it will condemn in the day of judgment, and its condemnation will be pronounced by the Mediator. The judge of the whole earth will do right, and to him they stand or fall.
III. There cannot be a doubt that the condemnation of the rejecters of the gospel will be connected with the atonement.
That sinners will perish notwithstanding an atonement for them, is one of the most flagitious and tremendous facts in the history of evil. This fact is so awfully melancholy, and on some theological principles, so unaccountable, that many have disputed the reality of it, and have indeed denied that those who perish had any relation to the atonement, as their perdition would be a great dishonor to it. This strange and awful fact, then, deserves an examination.
1. It is an indisputable fact that sinners perish notwithstanding an atonement made for their sin.
a. The Scriptures declare plainly that Christ died for all and yet they announce as plainly that all will not be saved. No one will dispute the melancholy fact that all will not be saved, but they dispute whether Christ has died for all. Paul, in 2 Cor. v. 14, 15, assumes the death of Christ for all as a conceded, or, indeed, as an undisputed point. It is therefore beyond a doubt, that though Christ died for all, yet all will not be saved.
b. It was foreseen and contemplated that the atonement of Christ would not have the same effects on all. It was known that Christ should be for the rising and falling of many in Israel, that he should be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to the world; but to the saved, the power and wisdom of God; and that the atonement would be to some the savor of life unto life, and to others the savor of death unto death. By saying that such effects were foreseen and contemplated, it is not meant that such consequences were intended and contrived, but that they were known and recognized as possible and probable. We do wrong when we deny such consequences, merely because they run athwart our theological views. These results did not thwart the theology of the inspired writers, and they ought not to thwart ours.
c. The holy Scriptures avowedly suppose that there are some cases in which the death of Christ will be of no effect. In Gal. v. 2, 3, 4, Paul distinctly mentions two cases which would make the atonement of Christ unavailable and unprofitable. To any man who trusted for salvation either in outward ceremonies, or in works of law, the atonement of Christ would be of no effect; it would be to him as if Christ had never died. Here is no intimation that Christ had not died for such a man, but a distinct avowal that Christ had died for him in vain. Final impenitence is another case, which the atonement of Christ does not reach, and, speaking with reverence, could not reach. No purposes of moral government could be secured by an atonement for final impenitence, and such an atonement would be as unreasonable and unjust as an act of pardon to persevering and persisting rebels.
d. The death of Christ for souls that perish is used as an argument against our being the occasions of their perdition. "Destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ died." "And through thy knowledge shall thy weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?" Rom. xiv. 15. 1 Cor. viii. 11, 12. If there be meaning in "words which the Holy Ghost teacheth," these passages teach us, that souls for whom Christ died might, by our wrong conduct, be destroyed and perish, and that their perdition, by such means, is a grievous wrong, and a public injury against Christ. If it was ever the doctrine of Paul that souls for whom Christ died could never perish, these very solemn warnings and injunctions are worse than serious trifling. He speaks of "destruction," and "perishing," as results that would take place, in given cases, notwithstanding the death of Christ, and as consequences which the atonement did not, and would not prevent.
e. It is solemnly announced that all the rejecters of the atonement shall perish, notwithstanding its worth and sufficiency, Heb. ii. 3. "How shall we escape (neglecting or) if we neglect so great salvation?" Heb. x. 26, 27, "If we sin wilfully after that we receive the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin," or the sacrifice for sin is no more available for us. Fallen angels cannot be charged with neglecting a salvation that was never intended for them. This great salvation, then, has some relation towards the men who perish which it never had towards fallen angels. Men perish, not by being left without a salvation, but by neglecting the salvation provided for them in the atonement. The apostle supposes that these persons, for whom an atonement was made, may reach a case in which this atonement will be no longer available to them--they are gone beyond its reach. But were they ever within its reach? Did the atonement continue for any time available for those who have ere now perished? The apostle takes this as a granted truth, and founded upon it, as on a sure foundation, a powerful and awful argument for cultivating a state of mind corresponding with the designs of the death of Christ. It is here clearly assumed that there is nothing in the provision of the great atonement to prevent the perdition of those who neglect it.
f. The fact that an atonement has been made for those who perish, is employed as an argument for the infliction of sorer punishment upon those who reject it, than upon those who have not lived under its ministry, Heb. x. 29. The blood wherewith these sinners have been sanctified, that is, atoned or expiated, is the blood of Christ. Yet, notwithstanding this expiation they receive a sorer punishment for despising and rejecting it. If this blood never had expiated such sinners, to them it was an unexpiating and an unappropriated blood. If they were not atoned for by it, it is impossible to say how they can justly deserve a sorer punishment for regarding it as a blood which had done nothing for them.
On these Scriptural premises it is impossible to doubt that many whom the Lord has bought will reject his redemption, and bring swift destruction upon themselves.
2. Though the perdition of the rejecters of the gospel be a grievous and a distressing fact, it reflects no dishonor on the atonement itself.
a. Such results are constantly taking place in all the other provisions of God's moral government, without any dishonor on his arrangement. In providence, there are many things which appear to be "in vain" and "of none effect," as to a great number of mankind;--yet such failures are never regarded as a dishonor to providence. E.g. providence designs health, liberty, knowledge, to all mankind, yet they are "of none effect" to many. After all, the diseases, the ignorance, and the barbarousness of nations, which exist, are not to be laid to the blame and dishonor of providence, for providence has made every moral arrangement to prevent them. We have already seen, in some of the previous pages, that in various constitutions and dispensations of God, there have, been similar failures, as in those of Eden and Sinai. Even the economy of heaven itself failed as to some of the angels, who failed to keep their first estate. It is not, therefore, unexampled or unaccountable, that the dispensation of the gospel should be liable to failure; and in such failure there is no dishonor, which would not, in that case, belong to the whole of the divine government.
b. The word of God never ascribes the perdition of sinners to any deficiency in the provisions of the atonement. None of the hearers of the gospel perish because the atonement was not sufficient for them,--or not intended for them. Freely, and sincerely, and pressingly, they have been besought to "receive the atonement." The grand provisions of the atonement have been clearly and distinctly exhibited to them as "the things which BELONGED to THEIR peace,"--but they would not receive them.
c. The perdition of those who reject the atonement is their own personal, voluntary, and chosen act. They sin "wilfully." They voluntarily and perseveringly "reject the counsel of God against themselves." They are not influenced, constrained, or tempted, by any divine attribute, by any secret decree, or by any doubtful and uncertain gospel. It is no disgrace to a Remedy that it does not cure those who persist in rejecting it. It is no dishonor to a Refuge that it does not defend those who refuse to enter it. And it is no dishonor to the atonement to be "of none effect," to those who reject its pardon, and seek to be justified by the works of the law.
d. The atonement will appear honorable, and glorious, even in the destruction of those who reject it. The apostles' ministry was to God a sweet savor of Christ, even in them that perish; and so is the atonement itself. Its great and distinguished ends will have been answered, in the glory and the harmony of the divine perfections, in the eternal condemnation of sin, in the honor and safety of the divine government, in the "many crowns" of the Mediator, and in the salvation of countless millions of the human race. All holy and blessed intelligences will own, and approve, the justice of the condemnation of all the despisers of the way of salvation; and their punishment will be forever, to the universe, an awful monument, and example, of the evil of sinning. against God. In the fixing of the eternal state of the universe, all holy intelligences are represented as singing, "AMEN, ALLELUIA, WORTHY IS THE LAMB."Return to the JENKYN ON ATONEMENT Index Page