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ures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Heb. 9: 12-14, 22-28. "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool, For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." -Heb. 10: 10-14. "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he hath consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say, his flesh," &c.-Heb. 10: 19, 20. "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."1. Pet. 1: 18, 19. "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed."-1. Pet. 2: 24. "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit."1. Peter 3: 18. "But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."-1 John 1: 7.
And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin."-1. John 3: 5. "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins.”—1. John 4: 9, 10.
These, as every reader of the Bible must know, are only some of the passages that teach the doctrine of atonement
and redemption by the death of Christ. It is truly wonderful in how many ways this doctrine is taught, assumed, and implied in the Bible. Indeed it is emphatically the great theme of the Bible. It is expressed or implied upon nearly every page of Divine inspiration.
V. The next inquiry is into the design of the atonement. The answer to this inquiry has been, already, in part, unavoidably anticipated. Under this head I will show,
FIRST. That Christ's obedience to the moral law as a covenant of works, did not constitute the atonement.
1. Christ owed obedience to the moral law both as God and man. He was under as much obligation to be perfectly benevolent as any moral creature is. It was therefore impossible for him to perform any works of supererogation; that is, so far as obedience to law was concerned, he could, neither as God nor as man, do any thing more than his duty.
2. Had he obeyed for us, he would not have suffered for us. Were his obedience to be substituted for our obedience, he need not certainly have both fulfilled the law for us, as our substitute under a covenant of works, and at the same time have suffered, a substitute for the penalty of the law.
3. If he obeyed the law as our substitute, then why should our own personal obedience be insisted upon as a sine qua non of our salvation?
4. The idea that any part of the atonement consisted in Christ's obeying the law for us, and in our stead and behalf, represents God as requiring:
(1.) The obedience of our substitute.
(2.) The same suffering as if no obedience had been ren
(3.) Our repentance.
(4.) Our personal obedience.
(5.) And then represents him as, after all, ascribing our salvation to grace. Strange grace this, that requires a debt to be paid several times over before the obligation is discharged! SECOND. I must show that the atonement was not a commercial transaction.
Some have regarded the atonement simply in the light of the payment of a debt; and have represented Christ as purchasing the elect of the Father and paying down the same amount of suffering in his own person that justice would have exacted of them. To this I answer:
1. It is naturally impossible, as it would require that satisfaction should be made to retributive justice. Strictly speak
ing, retributive or distributive justice can never be satisfied in the sense that the guilty can be punished as much and as long as he deserves; for this would imply that he was punished until he ceased to be guilty, or became innocent. When law is once violated the sinner can make no satisfaction. He can never cease to be guilty or to deserve punishment, and no possible amount of suffering renders him the less guilty or the less deserving of punishment; therefore to satisfy retributive justice is impossible.
2. But as we have seen in a former lecture, retributive justice must have inflicted on him eternal death. To suppose, therefore, that Christ suffered in amount all that was due to the elect, is to suppose that he suffered an eternal punishment multiplied by the whole number of the elect.
THIRD. The atonement of Christ was intended as a satisfaction of public justice.
1. The moral law did not originate in the divine will, but is founded in his self-existent and immutable nature. He can not therefore repeal or alter it. To the letter of the moral law there may be exceptions, but to the spirit of the law no being can make exceptions. God can not repeal the precept, and just for this reason he can not set aside the spirit of the sanctions. For to dispense with the sanctions were a virtual repeal of the precept. He can not therefore set aside the execution of the penalty when the precept has been violated without something being done that shall meet the demands of the true spirit of the law. "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."— Ro. 3: 24-26. This passage assigns the reason or declares the design of the Atonement, to have been to justify God in the pardon of sin or in dispensing with the execution of law.
Isa. 43: 10-12: "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the
strong: because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors: and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." 2. Public justice requires:
1. That penalties shall be annexed to laws that are equal to the importance of the precept.
2. That when these penalties are incurred they shall be inflicted for the public good, as an expression of the lawgiver's regard to law, of his determination to support public order, and by a due administration of justice to secure the highest well-being of the public. A leading design of the sanctions of law is prevention; and the execution of penal sanctions is demanded by public justice. The great design of sanctions, both remuneratory and vindicatory, is to prevent disobedience and secure obedience and universal happiness. This is done by such a revelation of the heart of the lawgiver, through the precept, sanctions, and execution of his law, as to beget awe on the one hand, and the most entire confidence and love on the other.
3. Whatever can as effectually reveal God, make known his hatred to sin, his love of order, his determination to support government, and to promote the holiness and happiness of his creatures, as the execution of his law would do, is a full satisfaction of public justice.
4. Atonement is, therefore, a part, and a most influential part of moral government. It is an auxiliary to a strictly legal government. It does not take the place of the execution of law in such a sense as to exclude penal inflictions from the universe. The execution of law still holds a place and makes up an indispensable part of the great circle of motives essential to the perfection of moral government. Fallen angels, and the finally impenitent of this world, will receive the full execution of the penalty of the Divine law. Atonement is an expedient above the letter, but in accordance with the spirit of law, which adds new and vastly influential motives to induce obedience. I have said it is an auxiliary to law, adding to the precept and sanctions of law an overpowering exhibition of love and compassion.
5. The Atonement is an illustrious exhibition of commutative justice, in which the government of God, by an act of infinite grace, commutes or substitutes the sufferings of Christ for the eternal damnation of sinners.
6. An atonement was needed, and therefore doubtless designed, to contradict the slander of Satan. He had seduced
our first parents by the insinuation that God was selfish, in prohibiting their eating the fruit of a certain tree. Now the execution of the penalty of his law would not so thoroughly refute this abominable slander as would the great self-denial of God exhibited in the Atonement.
7. An atonement was needed to inspire confidence in the offers and promises of pardon, and in all the promises of God to man. Guilty selfish man finds it difficult, when thoroughly convicted of sin, to realize and believe that God is actually sincere in his promises and offers of pardon and salvation. But whenever the soul can apprehend the reality of the Atonement, it can then believe every offer and promise as the very thing to be expected from a being who could give his Son to die for enemies.
An Atonement was needed, therefore, as the great and only means of sanctifying sinners:
Rom. 8: 3, 4. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." The law was calculated, when once its penalty was incurred, to shut the sinner up in a dungeon, and only to develop more and more his depravity. Nothing could subdue his sin and cause him to love but the manifestation to him of disinterested benevolence. The atonement is just the thing to meet this necessity and subdue rebellion.
8. An Atonement was needed, not to render God merciful, but to reconcile pardon with a due administration of justice. This has been virtually said before, but needs to be repeated in this connection.
Rom. 3: 22-26. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time, his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."
I present several farther reasons why an Atonement under the government of God was preferable in the case of the inhabitants of this world to punishment, or to the execution of the Divine law. Several reasons have already been assigned, to which I will add the following, some of which are plainly