<< DISCOURSE VII: The Atonement >>
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the Great God and our Savior Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us; that He might redeem us from all iniquity; and purity unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.–TITUS ii. 13, 14.
THE world is marred by sin and sorrow. This is the conviction and the complaint of man everywhere. The traveler comes upon a landscape full of beauty; he sees the undulating country stretching far away, a very paradise of loveliness; the forests and the fields with tints and shades innumerable, enchanting all; the river with its silvery hues, a form of winding gracefulness. The rapt spectator feels at once here must be peace and sweet content; but it is not so. A closer acquaintance reveals neighbor at feud with neighbor, village with village. There are smoldering hates and rivalries, only checked by the healthy restraints of labor and of duty. It is the same with private homes. We speak not of the abodes of wretchedness, where squalid misery reveals itself at every turn; but we speak of the abodes of elegance, where not only comfort is supplied, but abundance ministers to luxury, and refinement and splendor appear on every side; even here a thousand petty demands of selfishness poison life; and where you hoped for serene enjoyment you find anxiety, weariness, bitterness, and care.
The world of mind has broken off from its God. There needs everywhere in the human world a RECONCILIATION, an ATONEMENT. But what is this? It is REUNION with God by the transformation, the REGENERATION of man. God has brought Himself near, and provided the means: man must adopt them. Be ye reconciled to God (2 Cor. v. 29).
This doctrine of the Atonement has two aspects,–what God has done from love to man, and secondly, what man must do from love to God. In the work of redemption, which the Lord Jesus effected in the world, and finished on the cross, we have God’s part, which was done most perfectly. In the reconciliation of man to God, which is effected by repentance and regeneration, we have man’s part, which has, alas, been done very imperfectly.
The imperfection of man’s part of the work of full atonement, is not owing to any want of interest in the subject, for, especially since the Reformation, no subject has been so abundantly preached sad expounded, as the subject of the Atonement. In proportion, however, to the importance of a subject is the importance of having true ideas upon it. ERRORS are greatly dangerous, and mischief from them is widespread when they affect concerns of universal interest. Mistakes then are deadly, and such, alas, have they been on the subject of the ATONEMENT.
We have said the Lord’s work in the Atonement was perfectly done. Then came mans part in co-operating, with the Lord. To have man in freedom trained for heaven, he must work out his salvation: by fighting against his inborn evils; by repressing and purifying his passions; by amending his habits; by fulfilling the law of love, and walking in obedience to the Divine Commandments. But this part man has shrunk from doing. Instead of acquiring a loving spirit, and amending his ways, in too many instances man has remained the creature of his appetites, scarcely heeding the dictates of a higher law. Recklessness, selfishness, and disobedience, have been, and are, the wild companions of very large portions of the human race, and the truth that would make them free has been neglected or denied. But the All-merciful has not left himself without a witness in the souls of any.
There are emotions stirred by the Spirit of the Lord; moving on the face of the deep, felt by even the most thoughtless; some rays of truth penetrate even to them. They are far from being truly obedient, but they are restrained from those extremes of sin into which they would otherwise have descended. The roughness of their natures is not made smooth, but smoother than it would have been; their crookedness is not made straight, but straighter. They acknowledge but little the claims of obedience; nevertheless truth is not without its effect upon them. And if, as it percolates to them through the examples and the words of the professors of religion, it were presented in a purer practice, is deeds more just and true, in speech more fully imbued with loving kindness, its influence would doubtless be more potent and influential. Why, then, is this not the case? Why are not the followers of their Lord and Savior living examples of purity, justice, and love? Why do they not keep the commandments He gave? Why is not. His will done, by those who profess to be His in faith and worship? Why, with a Lord so pure and holy, whose commands, if obeyed, would make all mankind happy, why is the practice of Christians so very imperfect? Why are the followers of the Gentle One so little gentle; of the Merciful One, so little forgiving; of the All-embracing One, so restricted and sectarian; of the Peaceful One, so warlike? Why hear we so much of faith, so little of practice? Why are the redeemed not also the regenerated?
We suggest these questions for the attention of all. We trust those who hear and those who read, will put them home to themselves, until they have obtained satisfactory answers: satisfactory, that is to say, to the perception of the cause or causes of our imperfect Christianity. It will be admitted, no doubt, by many, that our very faulty practice is owing to the evil that is in us. Can it be, that the evil within us, has disposed us to faulty doctrine? Does it inwardly instigate us to receive readily views that excuse our shortcomings? Does it dispose us to acquiesce with eagerness in doctrines which lighten the responsibilities of life, and under the pretext of honoring our Savior and His work, leave us in states of disobedience to His commands, and a stopping short in the work of salvation? When God has, in his infinite wisdom, given His commandments as a Law of Love and Happiness, accompanied by the assurance that His commandments are not grievous (John v. 2), and man tells us that it is not necessary to salvation to keep God’s commandments, and that they are so hard that they cannot be kept, and we eagerly listen to such assertions and readily embrace them, is it possible that the same hidden tendencies which make the reckless daringly disobedient, make the religious easily ensnared and smoothly disobedient?
It is worth the inquiry. The examination of ourselves may reward the labor.
When the Savior spoke of the two sons who were told to go into the vineyard, and the one said I will not, but went, and the other said, I go, sir, but went not, He did not speak approvingly of the last. Certain, too, it is, that a large portion of the Christian world, when called by the Savior to go into the vineyard of doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with the Lord exclaim, We go, sir, but go not. They say, but DO not (Luke vi. 46). And, strange to say, this want of real obedience is palliated and justified by the profession of higher honor to the Savior and the Saviors work. He has done everything, say some, and it is dishonoring to Him to say we have anything to do. What shall we do to be saved? cries the penitent. You have to do nothing, the teacher replies, only believe. If, as Dr. Cumming asserts, you have been the wickedest of criminals up to the hour of death, and in that hour are ready with the plea upon your tongue, My Substitute has been punished for me, and therefore I ought not to suffer, that plea is sufficient, you are ready for the Bridegroom, and certain of everlasting happiness.*
Now, how do you expect to appear? What will be your answer when you stand before the great white throne, and when you are asked why sentence of endless exile should not be pronounced upon you? Have you the answer in the depths of your heart, on your tongue and on your lips, ever ready to be uttered the instant it is inquired for? He that knew no sin became sin for me and bare its curse, and, therefore, I ought not to bear it: He stood in my stead, obeyed the law for me, fulfilled all righteousness, and deserved heaven as my Elder Brother, and, therefore, I am entitled to it? That answer is complete and conclusive, and were you the worst and wickedest of criminals, if in the hour of death and at the day of judgment, you can plead that glorious Sacrifice, that perfect Righteousness, let the hour be when you think not, and where you think not, all is well with you. The bride hath made herself ready. You are prepared for the Kingdom of Heaven.--Dr. Cummings Great Tribulation, p. 201.
The doctrine of the Atonement, is made to defeat the work of the Atonement.
A supposed pacification of God is put instead of the real regeneration of man. To ransom us from God’s wrath, is said to have been the work of the Redeemer, instead of delivering us from all iniquity. And, while we are taught, to be delighted at having escaped the tortures threatened by an angry Deity, imagined to rule, instead of the real God of the Universe, who is Love Itself, our attention is distracted from the ravages of self-love within. Self-love is thus suffered to pervert the very tissues and principles of the soul, until a character is formed so out of harmony with all order and a righteousness, that to its pride, vanity, sensuality, and folly, the whole universe is a torture-house, in time and in eternity.
The work of Atonement, as unfolded in the Scriptures, is truly simple: it is the work of God manifest in the flesh to reconcile and unite His erring children to Himself. It is God our Father, becoming incarnate in a Humanity called His Son, to remove the powers of hell from His creatures, and to enable them to subdue their sins, to do good, and to prepare for heaven, by becoming heavenly. Thus it was Divine Love, putting itself forth, to give the means of salvation to His weak and erring children. The Good Shepherd coming to seek and to save that which was lost. This is so often and so fully stated in the Sacred Scriptures, that it is a perfect marvel that we go wrong,a marvel only to be explained by the inherent subtlety of our fallen nature cunningly contriving to avoid the power of truth, covering itself with specious and misleading fallacies. A perverse will can alone account for such strange mistakes as the Christian world has made, in the face of such strong, clear, simple, direct utterances of Divine teaching upon the subject.
Let us take as our first example, the prophetic declaration of Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, when filled, it is said, with the Holy Spirit. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David: as He spake by the mouth of His Holy prophets, which have been since the world began: that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us….. Thus He would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear; in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life (Luke i. 68-76).
Here we have the clear and simple fact staled, that the Lord God of Israel Himself visited and redeemed His people: which He did by assuming the Humanity, the horn of salvation, in the house of His servant David; that this was to deliver us from our enemies; and that when this was done, we might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.
Here, there is not a word about one divine person having to die to appease the wrath of another, but the Lord God of Israel Himself would visit and redeem His people. There is not a word about being saved from the wrath of God; but we were to be delivered from the hand of our enemies. There is not a word about being saved by only believing; but we must serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life. What can be more simple, what more rational, what more calculated to excite our love for our Heavenly Father than this? And what more calculated to elevate the world than this? to lead men to walk in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life.
Take, again, the concise account of the Savior in Matthew. Thou shalt call His name Jesus (Savior), for He shall save His people from their sins. Evidently mans Maker was to become His Savior. He Himself would save His own people FROM THEIR SINS; not from the wrath of another Divine Being.
Again, listen to the Apostle Paul. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them: and hath committed unto us the Word of reconciliation. Now, then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christs stead, be ye reconciled to God (2 Cor. v. 19, 20). Nothing, surely, can be more simple, clear, and emphatic than this. God was in Christ: not a second divine person; God Himself in Christ. Reconciling the world, not needing Himself to be reconciled; reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. God and His angels impute good. Evil spirits and wicked men impute evil. Not imputing their trespasses unto them. And now that God, in Christ, has visited the world, and redeemed it, the whole work is begun, but not completed: a Word of reconciliation is given, glad tidings of great joy. Men, must be cheered and comforted, directed, strengthened, blessed, changed, and reconciled by the light and the power of that Word. Be ye reconciled to God. Repent, turn, embrace, love, obey.
Be ye reconciled to God. He has done His part, and He has given you power to do yours. Use it. Be ye reconciled to God. Oh, do we not bind with shame, that this Omnipotent, All-merciful, All-loving Benefactor has thus wooed us with Infinite Tenderness, and still the words have to be said, Be ye reconciled to God.
Let us view our text, as another description of the Atonement. The Great God and Our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous for good works (Titus ii. 13, 14).
The apostle thus states that Jesus Christ, our Great God and Savior, was not himself bitter against us with vindictive justice, but gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity. Not that He might redeem us from the anger of God, but FROM ALL INIQUITY. Iniquity is mans ruin. Iniquity debases the heart, find leads us now as it led men aforetime, to thraldom beneath the powers of darkness. Iniquity leads to ignorance, to disorder, and to misery.
This grand purpose of God in our Redemption has always been His purpose. How earnestly is this declared in Ezekiel, Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions: so iniquity shall not be your sin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart and a right spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves and live ye (xviii. 30-52).
Equity is straightness, fairness, right. Iniquity is crookedness, unfairness, wrong. Iniquity in the heart divides it from God, depraves the affections, and pollutes and sensualizes the desires. Iniquity in the mind, darkens its counsels, corrupts its conclusions, and makes it the ready defender and apologist for every mean passion and base delight. Iniquity in practice hardens and fixes sin, strengthens inclination, and burns as it were the habits which enslave the soul into the warp and woof of the character, so that the sins which came in as dwarfs, grow up to be gigantic tyrants, lender escape to virtue daily more difficult, and at length almost hopeless: ever-hopeless without a Saviors hell.
Iniquity is mans ruin: to redeem him from all iniquity his Savior came, and comes; to purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous for good works.
To purify unto Himself a peculiar people, seems at first sight, to be almost the same thing with the statement of the former part of the verse, to redeem us from all iniquity, but it is not so in reality. Redemption refers more to deliverance from iniquity, out of us, such as it is embodied in evil spirits, with hell as their headquarters, that fearful power which interposed between God and man before the incarnation, wrapping human souls in captivity, darkness, and, death; THE SERPENTS HEAD. The Lord redeemed us from this iniquity, when He subdued this fearful power, in His life and at His cross, and gifted the souls of men with new freedom, and thus prepared the way for purifying their souls individually by regeneration, from the iniquities within them. This latter process is salvation as distinguished from redemption. We are redeemed from the power of hell: we are purified and saved from the power of sin. And as this latter process goes on, we become zealous for good works.
Zealous for good works. How different is this language of the apostle from much that we have for many years been accustomed to hear. Fearful of good works, would much more truly express the spirit which is engendered by the preaching of many who teach that man is saved, not by the impartation of the righteous Spirit of the Savior, but solely by the imputation of His righteous merits. In many pulpits, and in many tracts, much more is said against keeping the commandments and being zealous for good works, than in their favor. Nevertheless such is the apostolic teaching. And, how simple it is. The Great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ, gave Himself for us, to redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
This clear and precious statement is the doctrine of the whole Sacred Scripture. Let any one read the prophetic announcements of the coming Savior, and if he expect to find it said that the Second Person of the Trinity would come to pacify the wrath of the First, according to Dr. Jelf’s assertion of the meaning of propitiation, in the last meeting of the Convocation, he will be disappointed beyond measure.
The prophecy of Isaiah proclaims a coming Savior continually; but that Savior is always Jehovah Himself, not another, a second person. There is nothing about pacifying divine wrath; but to satisfy His Divine Love, by redeeming man from infernal bondage, is ever declared to be His work. He would suffer, because, only by suffering could mans redemption be wrought out, and a kingdom of love set up. In His Love and in His Pity He redeemed us (Isa. lxiii. 9). The Great God and our Savior gave Himself for us.
We may here be reminded, that sometimes the Scriptures state that He gave His Son, and sent His Son into the world. But we must not forget the peculiar manner in which this Son is spoken of, the Only Begotten Son of God. He had no human father. He was produced by the Spirit of God, by the instrumentality of the Virgin, that God Himself might be present in the world. The Humanity was the Son of the Divine Love (2 Pet. i. 17), as thought is the son of will, as the body is the son of the soul. Not as a son which is another, but as a Son which is Himself: a Son, One with His Father (John x. 30); a Son with His Father in Him (John xiv. 8-10): a Son which is God manifest. Thus, whether the apostle says, The Great God and our Savior Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, or gave His Son, which is the Humanity by which He manifested Himself to the world, it is the some thing. The Lord Jesus Himself said, He that seeth me, seeth Him that sent me (John xii. 45).
Let us turn then to the Scriptures in which the coming Redeemer is spoken of, and see if it be any other than the Great God, Jehovah Himself, who is described as about to undertake the great work of redemption. Let any friend who has been trained to think that a Second Person in the Trinity is the redeemer, keep an especial eye on the prophetic testimony, and discern, if he can, one word about any Second Divine Person. The prophetic declarations are so full, that one cannot but be amazed that readers of the Scriptures should have failed to mark their character and teaching; but we fear that, though the possession of Bibles is nearly universal in our beloved land, thanks to the Bible Society, the reading of every part of the Bible with devout and thoughtful care is not so general.
Let us take first, as an example, one chapter, the forty-fifth of Isaiah.
One thought, one great truth, evidently pervades the prophetic writings.
To us it is amazing that so many professed students of the Scriptures fail to see it. It is, that Jehovah, the one Lord of heaven and earth, our heavenly Father, would become our Redeemer. The Scriptures know no second Divine Person; the Son is the Humanity assumed by the Father, that He might manifest HIMSELF to man. The Great God and our Savior gave Himself for us. He Himself became our Redeemer.
Let us then notice the clear and unequivocal character of the prophetic statements in the chapter we have named. I am the Lord (Jehovah), and there is none else; there is no God beside me (ver. 5). I am the Lord (Jehovah), and there is none else (ver. 6). Then, the Human Nature of the Lord is spoken of, inwardly DIVINE from the Father, and called the Son of God. I have raised Him up in righteousness, and I will direct all His ways: He shall build my city, mid He shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the Lord (Jehovah) of hosts; That this Divine Manhood had God Himself in Him, as His soul, is plainly stated, Surely God is in Thee; and there is none else, there is no God (besides). Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior (ver. 14, 15).
Here it is explicitly declared that God as a Savior would be God hiding Himself, but nevertheless He would be God alone. See, further, the following verses in the same chapter. Israel shall be saved in the Lord, with an everlasting salvation (ver. 17). There is no God else besides me; A JUST GOD AND A SAVIOR; THERE IS NONE BESIDE ME. (ver. 21).
Again, LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED, all the ends of the earth; for I AM GOD, AND THERE IS NONE ELSE (ver. 22). Surely shall one say, in the Lord (Jehovah) have I righteousness and strength, and to Him shall men come, and all that are incensed against Him shall be ashamed. In the Lord (Jehovah) shall all the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory (ver. 24, 25).
Here, in this one chapter, we have the most clear and positive announcements that there is One God, and no more, and that this One God is the only Savior, Jehovah Himself, to whom men should come. There is not the slightest him that one Divine Person is our Savior, and that He would come to pacify the wrath of another, and that other, the very one who here declares that besides Him there is no Savior.
We might select several other chapters in which the same truth, namely, that Jehovah our Heavenly Father is Himself the only Savior and Redeemer, is presented in the clearest and simplest manner. Notice the forty-third. In the opening of the chapter we read, But now saith the Lord Jehovah that CREATED thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, fear not, for I have REDEEMED thee: I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine. Surely it is plainly stated, that the same person who created man also redeemed, and will preserve him.
Again, in verse 3. For I am the Lord (Jehovah) thy God, the HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL, THY SAVIOR: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Once more, Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there he after me. I, even I, am the Lord (Jehovah), and BESIDE ME THERE IS NO SAVIOR. I have declared and have saved, and I have showed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord (Jehovah), that I am God (ver. 10-12). The Divine Speaker continues, Thus saith the Lord (Jehovah), your REDEEMER, THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL. Again, I am the Lord (Jehovah), your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King (ver. 14, 15). Surely it must be confessed that these texts declare the great truth that Jehovah, the Creator, is also the Redeemer and Savior of man; or, if they do not, it must be admitted that language altogether fails to declare that truth.
We have taken the term SAVIOR chiefly as the name expressive of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is generally regarded as the Second Person of the Trinity, in obedience to the creed of unknown origin, commonly called, as the church of England judiciously states, the creed of St. Athanasius. But He, as we have thus abundantly shown, was Jehovah the Creator Himself, manifest by His Humanity, called His Only Begotten Son.
We take now the other name, the Redeemer, undoubtedly the appellation of the Lord Jesus Christ, and again, undoubtedly, no other than Jehovah Himself according to the Scriptures. And here, let us remark, that there is a considerable difference between salvation and redemption, and between the divine character as Savior, and as Redeemer. It is not without a reason that the Eternal is called so frequently Our SAVIOR and REDEEMER.
Redemption is deliverance from the powers of hell; salvation is deliverance from the power of sin, in the soul. The Lord is our Redeemer, because He delivers us from our enemies (Luke i. 14). He is our Savior, because He saves His people from their sins (Matt. i. 21). Redemption comes first, salvation afterwards. All men were redeemed by the Lord alone; to be saved they must cooperate with the Lord. While men were under the slavery of hell, they were in fetters; they were like the victims of banditti, shut up in a cave, wounded, bleeding, and dying. So long as their prison-houses mere shut up, no possible step in their regeneration could be made by the imprisoned slaves of the powers of darkness. They sat in the valley of the shadow of death. Redemption, was putting the robbers to flight, breaking open their prison-doors, and proclaiming deliverance to the captives. Whether they would really use their freedom, come out to the light, walk to the holy city to which they were called, and, by throwing away their sins, will their glorious inheritance, would depend upon themselves; and in case they did this, they would be saved.
The Lord Jesus opened His ministry by saying, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He birth sent Me to heal the broken hearted, to preach DELIVERANCE TO THE CAPTIVES, and recovering of sight to the blind, TO SET AT LIBERTY THEM THAT ABE BRUISED, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke iv. 18,19). This He said as the Redeemer. When men had become by redemption free, and heard the glorious Gospel preached, inviting them to holiness and to heaven, and came to the Lord for help against their individual evils, He gave and He still gives that help by which they overcome their sins, and in such case He is their SAVIOR. In both cases, it is the Divine Man, Jehovah Jesus, the God of the Old Testament, the Father, manifested as the Good Shepherd of the New,– the Son, who is the Savior and Redeemer. We have seen this plainly declared in relation to the character of the Savior; we will now notice the same truth in relation to the character of Redeemer. We all remember the declaration of Job, made so familiar in the burial service, I know that my REDEEMER–liveth; and it is equally clear that the Redeemer he meant was God Himself, who did afterwards appear to him.
The Psalmist expresses the same truth, And they remembered that God was their rock, and the High God their Redeemer (Ps. lxxviii. 35). But nothing can be more emphatic than the divine language in Isaiah, Fear not thou worm, Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy REDEEMER, saith the HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL (Isa. xli. 14). For thy MAKER is thine Husband; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel: the GOD OF THE WHOLE EARTH shall He be called (liv. 5). Let any one ponder over this declaration, until it has sunk deeply into his mind and impressed him with the remarkable truths it contains, and he can scarcely hesitate to admit that it does indeed fix the attention upon one Adorable Being, who is the MAKER, the HUSBAND, and the REDEEMER of mankind, and whom, sooner or later, all mankind will confess to be the Only God. The God of the whole earth shall He be called. The same declaration is made with equal plainness, where it is written, Thus saith the Lord (Jehovah) the King of Israel, and his REDEEMER the Lord (Jehovah) of hosts; I am the First and I am the Last; and beside Me there is no God (Isa. xliv. 6). Again, Thus saith the Lord (Jehovah) thy REDEEMER, and He that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord (Jehovah) THAT MAKETH ALL THINGS; that stretcheth out the heavens ALONE, that spreadeth abroad the earth BY MYSELF (ver. 24). If any one does not realize in these words the declaration that Jehovah our Maker and the REDEEMER are the same Divine Person, let him try if he can conceive any other words that would declare it. We cannot. The Being who says He made all things, who declares He stretched forth the heavens alone, and spread abroad the earth by Himself, is our REDEEMER. The Redeemer says He is the First and the Last, and beside Him there is no God.
Again, it is written, Thou shalt know that I the Lord (Jehovah) am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the MIGHTY ONE of Jacob, (Isa. lx. 16). And, if any one would still, ask for the term Father, being applied to the Redeemer, he will read it in chap. lxiii. 16. Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not, thou O Lord, art our FATHER, our Redeemer; thy name is from everlasting. And, here, we must not forget those other divine words: Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the EVERLASTING FATHER, and the Prince of Peace (Isa. ix. 6).
Surely, then, the first proposition of the text is clearly proved. The Great God and our Savior Jesus Christ gave Himself for us. It was no other Being, but the Great God Himself, our Father, our Maker, who became our Redeemer, and gave Himself for us.
He gave Himself. What better thing could He give. He gave Himself. Elsewhere it is said, He gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world (Gal. i. 9). Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify, and cleanse it, with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it unto Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish (Eph. v. 25-27). It is elsewhere said, He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life (John iii. 17). And this is only another form of the same truth, for His only-begotten Son, is Himself, in His Humanity. The Father, who is the Invisible Godhead, could not give Himself for mans redemption, but by the Son, the Visible Divine Man. In so other way could His mercy, His wisdom, His power, His love, His tenderness be unfolded, so as to win human hearts, and ransom them to Himself. Himself alone could attract to Himself. No love was like His: no patience like His: no truth like His: no gentleness like His. Through the heart, the eyes, the words, the acts of the Son of Man, the Father flowed, to win His children to Himself. The Father who is in Me, he said, He doeth the works (John xiv. 10). I and the Father are one (John x.30). He that seeth Me, seeth Him that sent Me (John xii. 46). He that seeth Me, hath seen the Father (John xiv. 8).
The Father formed the Son, as the soul forms the body. The Father was in the Son, as the soul is in the body. The Father gave to the Son power, as if of Himself, to work out mans redemption, loved the Son, gave all things into His Land (John iii. 35). All, that in, and through the Son, He might give Himself to man, and ransom man from hell, and sin, from folly, and ruin. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Cor. v. 19).
He thus gave light to ransom man from darkness, love to ransom man from hatred, strength to ransom man from weakness, Himself to ransom man from the powers of hell. He whom God sent, spake the words of God, for God gave not the Spirit by measure unto Him (John iii. 34). How contrary to all this, and to the Scriptures is the view, that has too commonly prevailed. The Father has been represented as vindictive, and requiring the Son to be punished to satisfy Him. The attention of men has been turned to the supposed necessity of pacifying God, instead of being themselves changed from evil; and when they have got God’s anger appeased, they have rested satisfied, and supposed they were free from all danger, while sin, open or concealed, still remained to a great extent unconquered and unexpelled from them. The result has been, that to a great degree the work of regeneration has been neglected, believing that because God was pacified, they were all safe. Under these circumstances, the religion of life has been grievously weakened. The great doctrines of repentance, of obedience to the divine commandments, of daily growth in heavenly virtues, of complete sanctification of soul and body to the Divine Will, have become faint, and in many cases have faded from the esteem of Christians. Great numbers have been taught, that if at any time in their lives, even at the last hour, they could believe that Jesus died for them, their salvation would be accomplished. Under these circumstances, the power of religion to improve the world has been largely paralyzed, and instead of the world being made better and happier by it, a fixed conviction exists with many on the one hand, that religion is a thing of faith, and not of life; of belief, and not of practice; and on the other, large numbers conclude that a religion that does not make the world really better, is not of any sterling worth.
Those who have thus conceived that our salvation was first effected by pacifying God’s anger; and that we become personally possessed of salvation as soon as we believe that this was done, for us, declare that God could not forgive, unless He had been satisfied by the punishment of some one. In their estimation, either the guilty person, or an innocent person will do; either the sinner or a substitute will suffice. Justice is not particular whom it punishes; only it will punish some one, ere it forgives a sinner. It only forgives for the sake of another, whom it has punished, though He was not guilty.
This phantasy, born of the natural man, who is prone to revenge, is in direct opposition to the declarations of the Divine Father Himself. I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for MINE OWN SAKE, and will not remember thy sins (Isa. xliii. 25). If Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy to all them that call upon Thee (Ps. lxxxvi. 6). If Thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayst be feared (Ps. cxxx. 3, 4). The Lord is good to all; and His tender mercies are over all His works (Ps. cxlv. 9). A certain creditor hath two debtors, the one owed five hundred pence, the other fifty, and when they had nothing to pay, He frankly forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of them will love Him most? (Luke vii. 41, 42).
Nothing can be more contrary to these divine truths, than the ordinary doctrine of the Atonement. The true doctrine, however, the doctrine of our text, is in perfect harmony with them. He gave Himself for us to REDEEM US FROM ALL INIQUITY, not from divine wrath. It is iniquity that is mans ruin. God seeks to redeem him from it, and thus to save him. The head-quarters of iniquity are to be found in the kingdom of hell. The kingdom of hell, had man in kingdom, when the Redeemer came. The work of the Redeemer, then, was to deliver man from this bondage. This deliverance was foretold in the first prophecy. The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpents Head. It shall bruise tiny head, and thou shalt bruise His heel (Gen. iii. 16). The head of the serpent is the concentration of self-love in the dark world. To overcome this the Redeemer came, and He accomplished it. Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive be delivered? But thus saith the Lord, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children…. And all flesh shall know that I, the Lord (Jehovah), am thy Savior, and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob (Isa. xlix. 25, 26). I will ransom them from the power of the grave, or, as it would be better rendered, hell; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, (hell) I will be thy destruction (Hos. Xiii. 14).
To redeem us, then, from all iniquity, by first overcoming the infernal powers, was the true object of the Saviors coming into the world. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the devil (John i. 3, 8), and He did it. He descended to redeem man from hell. He jived to redeem man from hell; He died to redeem man from hell. For as much, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage (Heb. ii. 14, 15).
Such, then, is the first part of the work of Atonement according to the Scriptures. It was the work of the mercy of the Lord, our Heavenly Father, descending into the world, to free mens souls from the powers of darkness, from infinite love to His children. It was our Father ransoming His lost ones from the hand of them, wile were stronger than they. Blessed be His Holy Name, He did not forsake us, when we were at our worst and darkest period, but followed His sheep into the wilderness, nod rescued them from the wolf. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits. Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies (Ps. ciii. 3-5).
Another part of the gracious work of the Atonement, which is not expressed in our text, though very amply unfolded elsewhere by the Apostle, as well as by His Master in the gospels, was the making perfect of His Humanity. There was a Oneness to be produced in Himself by the sanctification and glorification of His Human Nature, which prepared the way for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, by which His servants could be made One with Him. This subject is little understood, but it is of great importance, and accounts for much in the gospels which otherwise remains perplexing. The Lord assumed a Humanity by the instrumentality of a virgin. This Manhood partook necessarily of the infirmities of our fallen nature. We had a high priest who was touched with a feeling of our infirmities, and was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb, iv. 15). The Lord indeed laid on Him the iniquities of us all (Isa. liii. 6); not actual sin, but the crookedness of our nature; that he might be tempted as we are by the powers of darkness, conquer them all, as our Head and example, find by the same process, so perfect His Human Nature, that in Him might for ever dwell all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. ii. 9).
During the progress of the work of redemption and glorification, there was more or less a sense of separation from the Father, especially while a trial or temptation was in progress. Though the life and all the power of the Humanity was from the Father, set it was so given that the Humanity consciously felt as if it lived of itself, just as mans lower nature feels as if it lives of itself, though the Divine being gives it all the life it has, through its inner and higher nature. As the Father hath Life in Himself, so hath He given unto the Son to have Life in Himself (John v. 26). While infirmities from the mother were in the Lord, there was a sense of disunion from the Father, a sense of two-ness in His consciousness. And the manhood was to sustain temptation to the uttermost, and conquer, as if it were left to itself until all infirmity was rejected, and then, when all order was introduced into the Humanity, the Divine Life would descend so fully and gloriously, that perfect one-ness would be the result. Until this was done, there was a sense of straitness in the Savior; the Holy Spirit was not fully operative, and there was prayer to the Father. There was an ATONEMENT, a RECONCILIATION, to be effected in the Lord, between the Son and the Father, by the perfecting of the Son through suffering and death, which was essentially completed on the cross, and by the cross. The Humanity achieved this from the Father, and then the two became eternally, in all respects, one, just as the two degrees of mans nature become one, when regeneration is completed. To this work the Lord often refers. I have a baptism to be baptized with, He said, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished (Luke xii. 60). And, again, I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected (Luke xiii. 32). Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being MADE PERFECT, He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him (Heb. v. 8, 9). The apostle speaks of the same work of perfecting the Human Nature, that through it God might for ever act as the Savior of His people in another place. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man.
For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation PERFECT THROUGH SUFFERINGS (Heb. ii. 9, 10). This perfection through suffering, produced One-ness between the Father and the Son, and the Son became glorified, with all the glory of Infinite Love and Wisdom. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory (Luke xxiv. 26). Whatever of will there was, that was not the Fathers (Luke xxii. 42) was put away, so that the Father was perfectly in Him and He in the Father (John xvii. 27). The Son of man was glorified, and God was glorified in Him (John xiii. 31). And, having sanctified Himself, the Divine Lamb, all glorious, sent forth the Holy Spirit to sanctify all who felt the need of wisdom, purity, and peace, and would obey Him. To this, refer these striking words of the apostle, Having abolished, in His flesh, the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain, one new man, so making peace, that He might reconcile both unto God, in one body, by the cross, having slain the enmity, thereby (in Himself) (Eph. ii. 15, 16). The unity produced first in His humanity, and then the perfect reconciliation of humanity and divinity in Himself, was a type and a foreshadowing of that brotherhood of Jew and Gentile, bond and free, which His Gospel is producing, and will produce, until all nations shall be united in brotherhood with each other, and in fatherhood with the glorified Jesus, the First and the Last.
Till o’er our ransomd nature
The Lamb for sinners slain,
Redeemer, King, Creator,
In fullness, comes to reign.
Thus One with the Father, thus folly glorified, His Holy Spirit, would act upon the souls of His disciples, giving them liberty, light, and power, through the new and living way of His Humanity, to perform in all the obedient, the third part of the work of the Atonement, to purify unto Himself, a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
The work of Atonement thus consists of three parts. First, the conquering of hell; second, the perfecting of the Lord’s Humanity, that through it the Holy Spirit might illuminate, and warm, and bless.
These two, which are of the Lord, are perfectly done; then comes the third, in which man must co-operate, the regeneration of the soul, and thus its reconciliation to God: to purify mite Himself a peculiar people. So, the Apostle adds after he has declared God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself not imputing their trespasses unto them, and until committed unto us the ministry of RECONCILIATION,Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christs stead, be ye reconciled to God (2 Cor. v. 19, 20).
The Lord, having conquered hell and made man free; having also glorified His Humanity, and thus poured out the Holy Spirit, and given the Word by which the Spirit acts; then comes the co-operation required of man. God’s love is shewn to be unuterrable. He has descended to save His rebellious creatures. He has endured mortal life, contumely, from those He came to save; He has endured buffeting, thorns, scorn, and death, for every man. The hatefulness and folly of sin have thus been shewn. The ineffable mercy of oar Heavenly Father, and the Gospel containing the glad tidings of the Saving Love of the Most High, were to be preached, to induce repentance and hatred of sin, that sin might be remitted, that is, put away; and so individual men were to be reconciled, by being purified from evil, and made zealous for good works. This is the apostolic doctrine of the Atonement. How simple it is! How clear it is ! How effective it is! Man was ruined by sin; he is saved by mercy. He did evil in his lost state, and suffered misery; he does good in his saved state, and feels peace and joy. His redemption was real, he was delivered from hell; his salvation is real, he is delivered from sin. He is not sinful in temper; the Lord has infused love and gentleness. He is not sinful in thought.
To purify unto Himself a peculiar people, that is, to remove their evils, and to make them meek, loving, just, and pure. A peculiar people. The nations of the earth had become selfish; pride, with its exclusiveness and insolence, strove everywhere for rule; vanity, with its yearning for display, decked itself out, and claimed homage on all sides. Corruption, lust, and cruelty abounded. Men sat in darkness. They not only were ignorant, but satisfied with it; besotted, hugging their greatest curses, and supposing there was nothing amiss. To make men Christians, was to make them a peculiar people.
Through repentance, to make them pure; through faith, to make them trustful, confiding, bold for their Lord and His kingdom, and against their sins; through truth, to make them intelligent; through love, to make them self-sacrificing, gentle, good, and kind. This was to be a peculiar people. The earth had for a long time not had such people. They are not numerous now. But all the true followers of the Lord Jesus become, such a peculiar people. They receive the truth, and apply it to their sins; to their owe sins. They pray daily to become better. They look up to their loving Savior for help, and for example. The worlds motives, the worlds ways, and the worlds laws, are nothing to them, where they are opposed to the motives, ways, and laws of the Lord Jesus. They are a peculiar people. They are dead to the old world; alive only to a new world of virtue, holiness, truthfulness, pence, and joy. Heavenliness is their character, and heaven their home. They believe the laws of their Divine Master, which make heaven hereafter, would make heaven here. To them, justice is before self-interest, truth before fraud and deception, active usefulness before lounging idleness; iniquity, of every kind, shunned with aversion, and growth in goodness daily sought. They deliberately choose the folly, in the worlds esteem, of renouncing power and pelf, if these can only be reached by meanness, hypocrisy, and truckling to wrong; they despise the wisdom that creeps through crooked ways to a temporary triumph. They know that every success, not founded on the eternal principles, goodness, wisdom, and order, must be only stages on the way to a final defeat. They ore a peculiar people; they believe and they do what the commandments of the Lord require, and are sure it must issue in all being for the best. Their idea of salvation is of a real salvation: a salvation from bad tempers, bad principles, and bad habits. They do not dream of being saved, when they know that they are not saved. They look for an imparted righteousness, imputed only so far as imported. He that doeth righteousness is righteous, they say with St. John (1 John iii. 7). To declare that a vicious man is innocent, an angry man peaceful, a corrupt man pure, a fraudulent man righteous, a hypocritical man sincere, a mean man noble, because of the merits of our Savior being imputed to him, is then attributing fraud and self-deception to the Most High.
Their forsaking of evil is a real forsaking; their growth in goodness is a real growth. They have no merits in anything they do. They are accepted because the Lord is merciful, and ready to forgive, and they really seek His forgiveness, and to be made by Him fit for heaven. They are a peculiar people. They fight against those things which the evil prize. They hunger and thirst after righteousness, and they are filled. They dwell in love, end thus they dwell in God, for God is love. They grow daily in heavenly excellences and heavenly wisdom. They are beloved of the Lord, and they follow His will. They are content in the present, and they confide in the future. The beloved of the Lord dwells in safety by Him. The Lord covers him all the day long. Blessed of the Lord is his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath.
They know experimentally the blessedness of these divine words, He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father; and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him. If a man love Me, he will keep My. words: and My Father will love him; and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.
They who are obedient to the divine commandments, shew their love to the Divine Truth, and they who love the Divine Truth prepare themselves for the descent of the Divine Love (the Father), and from love, to see the Truth in greater and greater fullness. From the increased reception of Divine Love, they will become still more lovingly diligent in carrying out the Lord’s words, and Divine Love and Divine Wisdom will dwell in their hearts: and intellects, blessing all they purpose, think, and do: on earth, and for ever. They are a peculiar people, zealous for good works.
This is a solid, real atonement, flowing from the mercy of the One Great God our Savior, Jesus Christ our Father, our Redeemer, our Friend, the One Lord, whose name is one, and who shall be King over all the earth (Zech. xiv. 9), King of kings and Lord of lords.
That these sentiments are now growing amongst Christians of every denomination, we cannot but see, and we cannot but observe it with peculiar pleasure. It is the prevalence of real religion over superficial, of real righteousness over imputed righteousness.
It is well known that at Oxford now, for a long time, the views of Professor Jowett have been received with increasing favor; and those views were well described some time ago in the TIMES, as the restoration of the faith of the first six hundred years of Christianity; the faith that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself; by His life, death, resurrection, His Spirit, and His Word; not that One Divine Person was dying to pacify another Divine Person, and reconciled Him to the world.
In the RECORD, and in one of the Oxford papers, recently, these views have been stigmatized as Swedenborgian; but what of that? Are they not true? If so, they are from heaven and lead to heaven, through whatever instrumentality they have descended, or have been renewed.
In the Essays and Reviews the same spirit of realism in salvation, as opposed to salvation by mere imputation evidently prevails. In Professor Williams account of Bunsen, we cannot fail to discern the rejection of the prevalent ideas of the Atonement, which involves different persons and warring attributes in God, and the advocacy of the real Atonement, which is consummated in regeneration. He says, If our philosopher had persuaded us of the moral nature of justification, he would not shrink from adding, that regeneration is a correspondent giving of insight, or an awakening of forces of the soul. By resurrection he would mean a spiritual quickening. Salvation would be our deliverance, not FROM the Life-giving God, but from evil and darkness, which are His finite opposites. P. 81.
Again, Why may not justification by faith have meant the peace of mind, or sense of Divine approval, which comes of trust in a righteous God, rather than a fiction of merit by transfer? St. Paul would then be teaching moral responsibility, as opposed to sacerdotalism; or, that to obey is better than sacrifice. Faith would be opposed, not to the good deeds which conscience requires, but to works of appeasement by ritual. Justification would be neither an arbitrary ground of confidence, nor a reward upon condition of our disclaiming merit, but rather a verdict of forgiveness upon our repentance, and of acceptance upon the offering of our hearts.
Equally clear is it that Mr. Wilson has no sympathy with salvation by the imputed righteousness of our Lord’s merits in a moment, as soon as we daringly believe that our Lord’s merits are ours, when he says, Moreover, to our great comfort, there have been preserved to us words of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, declaring that the conditions of men in another world will be determined by their moral characters in this, and not by their hereditary or traditional creeds.
When the great truth is seen, that character in this world prepares for happiness in the next, and that character is only formed slowly by struggle, choice, and habit, all those flimsy fancies that an enthusiastic imagination conceives, of instant changes from a diabolic to an angelic nature, as soon as a person believes something he is told to believe, will fade away before the realities of the Divine assurance, Not every one who saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.
When Mr. Pattison mentions the recent origin of the Evangelical Schools issue of its most prominent dogma, namely, in the present century, its want of accordance with apostolical truth is thereby intimated. Even the Evangelical School, which had its origin in a re-action against the dominant Rationalism, and began in endeavors to kindle religious feeling, was obliged to succumb at last. It too drew out its rational Scheme of Christianity, in which the Atonement was the central point of a system, and the death of Christ was accounted for as necessary to satisfy the Divine Justice. P. 260.
The air and tone of the last essay, the one by Professor Jowett, is totally different from that which is engendered by the harsh demand which insists, Believe, or perish; Only believe, and you shall be saved.
Experience, he says, shows us not that there are two classes of men animated by two opposing principles, but an infinite number of classes, or individuals, from the lowest depths of misery and sin, to the highest perfection of which human nature is capable; the best not wholly good, the worst not entirely evil. p. 491. Again, no intelligent man seriously inclines to believe that salvation is to be found only in his own denomination.
Examples of this sturdy orthodoxy in our own generation rather provoke a smile, than arouse serious disapproval. p. 425. Of course, every one feels that this is language involving quite a different train of ideas from the imputation of Adams sin, condemning a man by nature, and the imputation of the merits and righteousness of the Lord Jesus, saving him by grace. It is the character here which is the ground-work of happiness or misery, the evils of the unregenerate man unfitting him for happiness, and the virtue and wisdom of the true Christian imparted from his Savior God, preparing him for that measure of joy and peace, which he has made his own by love and practice. The Broad Church in general in this country may now be said to have endorsed this. Thus far, the gospel of God our Savior, seems to be universally and happily adopted by all of that school. God is unchangeable love and wisdom. All who embody that love and wisdom in themselves by actual life, will be happy. The imputations which have no ground in real character, of which the Calvinistic views of the doctrine of the Atonement have furnished so wide a field, are rejected with an energy that is sometimes rather startling.
Mr. Robertson, the late incumbent of Holy Trinity Chapel, Brighton, whose life was a consecrated Christianity, and whose sermons are alike full of grace and full of thought, repudiates altogether the idea of our Lord’s death being a punishment or penalty paid to the vindictive requirements of another Divine Person. The only true sacrifice is complete conformity to the Divine Love. I say it firmly, he declares, all other notions of sacrifice are false. Whatsoever introduces the conception of vindictiveness or retaliation; whatever speaks of appeasing fury; whatever estimates the value of the Saviors sacrifice by the penalty paid; whatever differs from these notions of sacrifice contained in psalms nod prophets, is borrowed from the bloody shambles of heathenism, and not from Jewish altars.
This alone makes the worshiper perfect as pertaining to the conscience. He who can offer it in its entireness, He alone is the worlds Atonement; He in whose heart the law was; and who alone of all mankind was content to do it; His sacrifice alone can be the sacrifice all-sufficient in the Fathers sight as the proper sacrifice of humanity; He, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, He alone can give the Spirit which enables us to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God. Sermons, second Series, p. 162.
Still more strongly do some other ministers of the Church of England condemn those mistaken ideas of the Atonement, which they have long been popularly preaching, as essentially unreal, unscriptural, and hollow, implying make-believes as the part of the Divine Being quite inconsistent with His essential truthfulness and holiness. Take as an instance the following from the discourses of the Rev. D. I. Heath, Vicar of Brading:–
Those, for instance, who preach the imputed righteousness of Christ, those who preach that a Lamb can be angry, and teach all the kings of the earth, and the great men and the rich men, and every bondsman and every freeman, the doctrine of an angry Lamb assuaging the wrath of God. Those who preach the downright lie, that a just Being must inflict a penalty upon sin; whereas, neither the word inflict nor penalty is used once in the whole Bible, and the most just of Beings orders us when me are smitten on one cheek, not to inflict a penalty. Those who preach metaphysical non-sense about putting away the guilt of sin, instead of putting away the sin itself, as if the word guilt was ever once used in the whole Bible, and as if guilt of sin could ever be put away, except by putting away the sin. All these preachers, and such as these, either do or do not search the Scriptures when they preach. If they do not, they ought to If they do, they know in their hearts that the whole of their theology is in a state of unutterable confusion; full of contradictions; more than half of it incomprehensible; a system heaped up by the scribes and the wise of this world, whom God will confound; and in either case such ought to pass in and out among us in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling: but I, for my part, am redeemed from that vain conversation, received by tradition from my fathers, by believing that God raised Jesus from the dead, and gave Him glory, that my faith and hope might be in God. It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again. p. 113.
Elsewhere, this gentleman defines the common doctrine of the Atonement in terms that are its self-evident condemnation: The death of Christ is somehow supposed to show to the world that the Father is just because he punishes the wrong person, and when people have brought themselves to believe this, then they may expect Him to be merciful (p. 201).
This writer says in another place: I have myself heard the question addressed to a meeting of about twenty clergymen, From whom did Christ buy the Church? (To redeem means to buy here.) And after a long pause not one of them had an answer. I have also heard the same question addressed to some dissenting ministers, and with the same shameful result. If they answered, He bought us from God, they know well they should differ in opinion from the four-and-twenty elders who fell down before the Lamb and sang a new song, saying, Thou hast bought us to God. And if they should answer, implying that He bought us from any body or anything else but God, then all modern theology tumbles to bits; for it is all founded upon the statement that God accepts the sufferings of Christ as a satisfaction or price due to His justice. p. 160.
I might add many similar extracts from other discourses of the same clergyman, equally protesting against the theology of imputation, and yet everywhere insisting upon regeneration by obedience to the commandments and spirit of our Savior, but space will not permit. We add some additional extracts from other writers. Our aim is to show how widely the views of the New Dispensation are permeating all denominations of Christians, at which me exceedingly rejoice.
The want of truthfulness in all the relations of society, the frauds of trade, the wide-spread dishonesties of commercial life, the hollow amenities by which polite society covers its crookedness and pollution, are so largely unchecked and unreformed by the only power capable of doing it, the POWER OF RELIGION, because religion itself has been made unreal and imputative. The fall of men has been treated, not as a real vitiation of his nature, a desecration of the affections, and a degradation of man, by the folly and wickedness of listening to the serpent of selfishness; but as an annoyance to the Deity, and an excitement of His wrath. He determined, it is said, to destroy the whole human race, body and soul, for the sin of their ancestor, which he imputed to them. Men are thus led to dread not the evil tendencies which are derived to them by their parents and their hereditary ancestry, which they know to exist, but a supposed anger of God which never really existed at all. God appears to be angry to the wicked, who are contrary to Him, but in reality He is ever the Father of lights, in whom there is no darkness, nor shadow of turning (James i. 17).
The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works (Ps. cxlv. 9).
Busy with removing the supposed wrath of God, they overlook the removal of their own evil passions, evil thoughts, and evil habits, which are their grand and abiding danger, and so the curses of the earth remain,–selfish and sinful men remain, as often under the cloak of religion as is defiance of it. The religions of the earth at the present day are chiefly regarded as means of appeasing the wrath of the Deity, who is Love Itself, instead of being engaged in; their own grand legitimate work, the regeneration of man.
The imputation of one mans sin to another, is a mere phantasy. A just man would not do that, much less the All Just God. It is true, our nature was depraved in our sinful forefathers. As in Adam all die, that is, become carnally minded, for TO BE CARNALLY MINDED IS DEATH; but this was done, and is done, by man turning away from the fountain of Life. This death is a real disorder and desolation of soul, not a mere imputed evil. So the Lord Jesus came to give us real life, the life of spiritual-mindedness, the life of love, wisdom, and peace. In Christ, shall all be made alive. It is not Christs righteousness, which is imputed to us, when we do not possess it, by a self-deception on God’s part, but real spiritual life flowing into us, as we depart from evil by repentance, and seek truth, virtue, and progress in all goodness, from Him. Daily we walk on; daily we grow in faith and actual obedience; daily we acquire by prayer and practice, by struggle, patience, and effort, more of the spirit and walk of the Lord Jesus. Thus we obtain the actual righteousness of faith, and, we put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephes. iv. 29).
No righteousness is imputed to us, which we do not possess. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile (Ps. xxxii. 2).
Oh, if this real religion of actual victory over sin, and actual virtue, in doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God (Micah vi. 8), were preached in the forty thousand pulpits of Great Britain, it would surely make this a better land, and through the example of this land hold out a beacon of blessing to the world.
To be a religious men at present is one thing; to be a just man is another. But, they fire really the same. Righteousness is only the English word for justice. The Lord Jesus was embodied Righteousness, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world (John i. 29). When we follow Him, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, He gives it, not in imagination but in fact, word and deed. He washes us from our sins, by His Love and Wisdom, His living Blood, and we are made pure and white, a peculiar people, zealous of good works. The idea, that the death of the Lord Jesus was a punishment to pay the debt of mankind to the justice of the Father, is admitted by theologians to have originated with Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, in the reigns of William Rufus and Henry II., who died 1105. It started very modestly at first, but spread by degrees, until it assumed its present form and influence, chiefly since the Reformation. Now, happily, we are witnessing its decline. Hear, on this subject, another clergyman of the Church of England:–
Anselm, as I have said, is considered the author of the prevalent theology of the West on this subject; and on the whole, rightly so. But it is often overlooked, that he came greatly short of it.
He rightly argues that the devil cannot have a lawful claim of any kind; and for this, the previously received theory, he substitutes that of satisfaction to God’s justice. Indeed of phrase as well as theory, he is generally considered the author. Sin involved, according to him, a debt to God, with the payment of which God’s essential attribute of justice did not permit them to dispense.*
The Rev. Francis Garden, Subdean of the Chapel Royal. Tracts for Priests and People, No. III, pp. 5, 6.
Thus it is freely admitted now, that the ordinary idea of the Atonement did not originate in the Scriptures, but in the dark ages in this Romish Archbishops mind. Hear the same writer again:–
When men had learnt to regard the Lord on the cross as a substitute, suffering the penalty due to their sins, they were led to ask in what way did His sufferings amount to this. What was that full penalty of sin which He paid? It could not have been mere temporal death: for it was held that the true penalty of sin amounted to something infinitely more awful than that, and from temporal death, he did not seem to have delivered us.
Accordingly, they were led to the strange and revolting notion that the infinite nature of Christ rendered Him capable of suffering in a limited, what would have had to pour itself out on finite beings throughout an unlimited time,–a thought which one really dares not bring out into distincter statement. P. 9.
Another clergyman in the same pamphlet writes:–
And though I would never speak of Christ’s blood as Redemption money paid to the Devil, I do maintain that a deliverance of men by their True Father, from an evil power who had chained them as his subjects, underlies all the lessons concerning Redemption in the Bible, and explains the passage in St. Peter (1 Pet. iii. 18), and a thousand others, which, as the writer of the Essay truly says, startle the modern render. Any idea of Redemption, but that which imports that it is the purchase of a creature out of bondage by a Creator who cares that it should be free, seems to me feeble, self-contradictory, impractical. p. 27.
The same clergyman odds, in relation to Dr. Jelf’s recent statement, that propitiation means the pacifying of the Fathers wrath:–
I believe I should cheat my people of the message of reconciliation which God has sent me to deliver to them: I believe I should confuse their minds about His nature and purposes to them: I believe I should not represent the Son as the express image of the Father: if I compelled the divine words to undergo this violence. The words, pacifying of God’s wrath, may convey the best and most blessed meaning to some minds. I would deprive no one of such meaning. But I must preach God’s gospel to sinners; and to me, and from my lips, this would be no gospel at all. p. 57.
The Rev. Llewellyn Davis, in his sermons, on the Atonement, equally insists that love, not wrath, brought our Redeemer to live and die for us. He says:
I should wonder at the boldness of the man who would say that the Gospels, at any rate, contain the doctrine that God’s forgiveness could not act freely, until the punishment of His Son had satisfied His justice. How Jesus Christ when teaching upon the earth could have withheld this: doctrine, and represented God as like the father of the prodigal son, or the creditor who frankly forgave the debtors who had nothing to pay, is for those who hold the doctrine to explain.
The fact is, that there is not a word in the Bible about the punishment due to our sins being inflicted by a just God upon His own Son. The notion is indeed a very common one,–so common that there are few religious books of the widest currency which are entirely free from it. There are two, however, from which it is absent, the Bible and the Prayer Book.
* * * * *
There are two or three assumptions against which I would be understood to protest. (1.) One is that God, through a necessity to which the Almighty Himself is subject, cannot pardon without the infliction of the punishment deserved by sin;an assertion utterly without warrant, contradicted by the human analogies which our Savior Himself commended to us as our best guides, and which would probably have never been thought of, unless the perverted notion of the substitution of Jesus Christ for us had suggested it.
(2.) The second is, that the guilt of sin in God’s eyes could be wiped out by any punishment, however infinite. Imagine the sinner punished to the utmost of his deserts: What is the effect produced? Is there any atonement or reconciliation? If enmity existed, will it not remain? If the sinner was offensive to God, must he not be so still?
(3.) The third is, that God’s perfect righteousness, if it called for punishment, could be satisfied by the punishment of the innocent in the place of the guilty. The reverent and the Scriptural idea of God’s righteousness is that it is more considerate, more equitable, more free and unembarrassed, than mans righteousness; and that the man who would be most really and inwardly righteous should seek after God’s righteousness and imitate that. But if the highest representation of God’s heavenly righteousness exhibits Him as accepting with satisfaction the sufferings of the innocent as the punishment of the guilty, could you honestly recommend the Divine righteousness to the imitation of the Judges of our Criminal Courts, to the heads of our families? Could you pretend, as I have seen it urged, that God’s infinite Majesty made it just for Him to do what it would be unjust for one of his representatives on earth to do?
How could the difference in greatness affect the comparative justice of the proceedings?
These are all evidences of a wide movement affecting the Church of England, and leading to the adoption of a theology based on the fundamental principle, God is Love, and rejecting the religion of terror and vindictiveness. But this, we are happy to say, is not confined to the Church of England. The leading Dissenting bodies are accepting the same great change, and adopting real regeneration, not imputation, as the substance of their preaching.
The Rev. Baldwin Brown, in his beautiful work, The Divine Life in Man, has the following just remarks, which wear a far higher character than that of the long-prevalent theology of mere imputation. He is dwelling on the passage, For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith (Rom. i. 16, 17):–
Salvation is a deliverance–an escape from death and hell. Salvation is the possession of imperishable bliss. But there is that in it which underlies both these conditions, and through which alone they can be completely realized: the recovery by the soul of that vital force which in its rudiment man lost in Eden, and which in its maturity man regains in Christ. It seems to me very significant that St. Paul connects so closely in this passage, the righteousness of God, will life. The Gospel is a power, because therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, The just shall line by faith. The righteousness of God, say the critics, clearly points to justification. Certainly, if by justification they mean something vital, something which can stand fairly in close connection with the words power and life. If they mean simply that God agrees, on account of the righteousness of Christ, to count and treat as righteous those who choose to submit to a condition which He imposes, viz., faith, it being equally within his discretion, according to a recent expositor of the doctrine, to ordain any other condition which might please him–which is called the forensic view of justification, then I say that all the vital meaning of this passage is destroyed. We must search for the roots of this theory of justification in the writings of the Roman Schoolmen of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the great and good Anselm at the head of them: and in the forensic view, the emphatic words of this passage call have but slight meaning, and the sentence The just shall live by faith, becomes inconsequent and as intrusive as a blood-warm form amidst a dance of specters, or in the valley of dry bones, a breathing man p. 132.
While Mr. Brown, with many others, is showing clearer conceptions of Salvation, the Atonement, and real progress in the regenerate life among the Baptists, among the Congregationalists, Mr. Lynch is speaking words of truth and beauty, disclosing with great power, the theology of love. We select a few brief sentences from his tract AMONG THE TRANSGRESSORS.
The crucifixion of Christ was not God’s work. It was a punishment most unjustly indicted, and God will call the world to account for it. p. 10.
I repeat again,–Christ was punished. But was it God that punished Him? Certainly not. He was punished wickedly, and God does nothing wickedly. It was the evil world that punished Him. He was not pursued with the sword of the Fathers justice, but with that of the devils injustice. p. 16.
We have looked at the feet, and seen that Christ was punished, but not by God: that He submitted to be sins victim, that He might be mans Savior. p. 31.
God cannot punish His Son in mans stead; neither can any one be justly punished in anothers stead. But one may be unjustly punished in the stead of another; and God may Himself accept such unjust punishment,–perfecting justice is receiving the stroke of injustice; expressing in an agony the fullness of that holy love which is the very ground of justice; overcoming the strength of sin,–loves contradiction,–by loves own abundantly exceeding strength. p. 31.
We might abundantly multiply these quotations, which reveal movements on all sides to more just, reel, living, practical doctrines, both of the Savior and His Atonement. We hail them as preparing for the descent of real religion from heaven. We believe they are irradiations from the New Jerusalem. He who sits upon the throne is now saying, Behold I make all things new. Old things are passing away. The old false views are breaking away from churches, and from nations. And, oh, how gladsome are the rays that come to us already.
A religion of love, wisdom, and usefulness, the very principles which form heaven, will form a heaven upon earth. The sentences in the Lord’s prayer are not Utopian sighs; they will be fulfilled. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven. Nations will learn righteousness from a truthful, living, and loving church. Laws will be founded on justice, and justly carried out. All things will be clear and kind, and love rule everywhere. Each home educated, gentle, and happy, will be, on a small scale, an exemplification of the vast home of just men made perfect. All will be cared for. Education, philosophy, the arts, beauty and plenty, will be the portion of each and of all. The LORD shall be king over all the earth. There shall be One LORD, and His name ONE.
With this just view of the Atonement, as reconciliation with God, and the reception of new life from Him in the process of regeneration, all those declarations of the Scriptures which insist upon a good life as an ESSENTIAL OF SALVATION will be restored to their proper influence over mens minds. With the idea of Infinite Merits being attributed to men, the moment they believe, a good life however desirable on metal grounds, was destitute of support, as a necessary religious. What they did, or did not do, was a matter of no account. He who believed aright in the death of the Savior, would go to heaven whether he had lived a good life or not. Judgment was practically a nullity. What he had done was nothing. All that would be demanded would be, did he believe Christ had died for Him. If he did so, all his deficiencies would be lost in the blaze of the imputed righteousness of the Redeemer. If he did not believe in this rightly, all his honest, humble, sincere efforts to walk according to God’s commandments by God’s help, would be mere filthy rags, and would not be noticed, nor cause him to be spared for a moment; to hell he must go and be lost for ever. This theology, the theology of too many railway tracts and Scripture readers, will be seen in its native superficiality and the theology of loving God in Christ and keeping His commandments, once more appear in its Divine power and authority, and the life of virtue be seen to be also the only true expression of the life of religion.
Men will again be familiar with such a passages of Scripture as the following, and believe they mean what they say. O, that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep my commandments always, that it might be well with them and with their children for ever (Deut. v. 29).
And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, FOR OUR GOOD ALWAYS; that He might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. And it shall be OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He hath commanded us (Deut. vi. 24, 25).
O how love I Thy law! it is my meditation all the day. Thou through Thy commandments hast made me miser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for Thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Thy precepts (Ps. cxix. 97-100).
O that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea (Isa. xlviii. 18).
No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of tie Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord (Isa. liv. 17).
But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and DO that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath DONE he shall live. Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways and live? (Ezek. xviii. 21-23).
Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and DOETH that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die (Ezek. xviii. 27, 28).
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall DO and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt, v, 10, 20).
And shall come forth; they that have DONE good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have DONE evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John v. 29).
Who will render to every man according to his DEEDS: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God (Rom. ii. 6-11).
And, behold I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his woes shall be (Rev. xxii. 12).
Blessed are they that DO his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city (Rev. xxii. 14).
Author: Jonathan Bayley—Twelve Discourses (1862)