The Atonement

NEW VERNON, N. Y., April 13, 1846.

     Our correspondent "F." has laid out work enough to keep the editor and correspondents of this periodical busy for some time to come; and no doubt exists in our mind that the several points submitted may be discussed with greater satisfaction and far more profit to our readers generally, than the further discussion of those questions of Associational Order which have occupied so large a portion of our sheet for some months past. There are many subjects of importance involved in the inquiries of our correspondent, and, after we have filled out this article in reply, we shall probably leave room enough for abler pens.

     We can conceive of no more direct connection between the atonement made by our adorable Redeemer, and the temporal mercies enjoyed by the human family, than there is between the atonement and the final perdition of the ungodly. There is, as we conceive, a connection existing, by which all the administrations of our God’s providence, retribution and grace are placed in harmonious order, the one with all the others; so that, if it were possible that any part of the divine purpose or arrangement of God could fail, such failure would effect, confuse and derange the whole system of the divine government. Temporal mercies were enjoyed before sin corrupted the human family; nor have they been withheld since sin entered the world. Up to the present hour God in providence continues to send his rain upon the just and unjust; but instead of regarding the providential mercies of God as evidence of a reconciliation by the blood of Christ, embracing the recipients of those common or temporal favors, Paul speaks of them (Rom. ix. 22) as illustrative rather of the manner in which it is the pleasure of God to show his wrath, and make his power known; as in the case of Pharaoh, God exalted him for that very cause.

     The atonement made by our divine Redeemer, either was exclusively for those who shall finally reign with him in glory, or one of two things must be inevitable: first, all mankind will be saved by it; or, second, none will be saved by it.

     If, according to the advocates of a general atonement and offered salvation, or, according to the mongrel vender of terms and conditions, in the vicinity of our correspondent, Christ died for his elect in no sense in which he did not die for all mankind; or, in other words, if he died for all mankind in every sense in which He died for his people, if all mankind are not finally and everlastingly saved from wrath and condemnation, then the blood of Christ does not cleanse from all sin, nor does his atonement reconcile the objects of it to God; in which case Christ has died in vain. Do not those who hold such heresy trample under foot the Son of God, and count the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing. If his blood lacks efficiency to secure the object for which it was shed, it is defective; and if defective, it must be an unholy thing. To this conclusion we cannot come without doing despite to the spirit of grace. But if it be admitted that his blood is a holy thing, and that it cleanses the sinner from all sin, it must follow unavoidably that all for whom it was shed, are by it cleansed, redeemed, saved and reconciled to God.

     Many arguments of the most conclusive nature are at hand, to show that there was no partial atonement made by Christ. Of all that work of which he is the Author, he is also the Finisher; he is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

     The word atonement, or at-one-ment, signifies reconciliation; we are therefore reconciled to God by the atonement made, or there was no atonement made for us. Christ "was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification," (Rom. iv. 25) or we are not of the number for whom he died. If he died for our sins, he arose for our justification; and if he has died and arisen for us without putting away our sins and effecting our complete justification, then He has died in vain, having failed to secure the objects for which He suffered.

     If his object in suffering was to procure temporal mercies for us, that object is not attained, as we enjoy them to no greater extent since, than before he suffered; and we see those who fear not God, and who regard not man, in possession of a much greater abundance of temporal favors than the saints; insomuch that their eyes stand out with fatness, and they have more than heart can wish. If the object of his death, according to Wesley, was only to bring man into a salvable state, unless he has absolutely saved them, he has failed in this, because there is salvation in no other.—Acts iv. 12. And as there is salvation in no other than Christ, salvation can proceed from no other.

     We have not been able to find the passage where "it is expressly stated that Christ is the Savior of all men," in any sense. We think "F." has allusion to 1 Timothy iv. 10: "For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe." We cannot understand this universal salvation to proceed from Christ in his official or mediatorial distinction from the Father; but the apostle very justly ascribes the salvation by which all temporal mercies are extended to the whole human family, to that "Living God," in whom all the apostles and prophets trusted. That common salvation which secures us from famine and death, to the full extent that it is enjoyed, is attributable only to the "Living God," in whom, as his creatures, we live and move and have our being; and from whom also the special salvation of all that believe proceeds. For he so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, (for what? that all might have opportunity to secure the salvation of their souls? By no means; but this was it) "that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’—John iii. 16. Of believers, he is the Savior, in a sense differing from that in which he is the Savior of all men. Now, who are thus denominated? "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed."—Acts xiii. 48. "Because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth; whereunto he called you by our gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."—2 Thess. ii. 13, 14. From these scriptures, with a multitude of other passages, the conclusion is unavoidable, that God gave his Son to die for the sins, and arose from the dead for the justification of as many as were ordained to eternal life, and for no more. "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified."—Rom. viii. 29, 30. Now, if the learned gentleman in Massachusetts can show that all these provisions are made alike for all mankind, he will do service to the doctrine of universal salvation.

     That all new covenant blessings, (salvation from first to last included,) flow to the heirs of promise through Christ as a federal Head, is so clearly demonstrated in the scriptures of truth, that he who can remain skeptical upon the subject is strongly tinctured with infidelity, let his professions of piety or his pulpit eloquence be what they may.

     The inspired apostle affirms that God has given him [Christ] to be the Head over all things to the church, which is his body, and THE FULLNESS OF HIM THAT FILLETH ALL IN ALL.—Eph. i. 22, 23. Adam was a figure of Christ (Rom. v. 14,) and the human family was the fullness of Adam. The second or anti-typical Adam was the Lord from heaven; but the first Adam was not spiritual, but natural, consequently the federal head only of his natural posterity which was created in him; but afterward, in the order of time, was the revelation of that second Adam or federal Head, which was spiritual; and as the natural federal head embodied and represented only a natural progeny, so his spiritual anti-type as a federal head represented that spiritual seed which was created in him, and which constitutes his body and fullness.

     Not in his Godhead, but in his meditorial headship of the church, Christ is the beginning of the creation of God, and the first born of every creature or created thing. "A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation."—Ps. xxii. 30. As his seed, his people existed in him before they were generated by him. They are a chosen generation because they were "chosen in him before the foundation of the world."—Eph. i. 4. "His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me," saith the Lord. Ps. lxxxix. 36. The seed of David and the seed of Israel are figuratively used to illustrate the relationship of God’s people to Christ, their spiritual Head and Progenitor. "In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory."—Isa. xlv. 25. "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 the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant, justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities."—lsa. liii. 10, 11. From these scriptures it is evident that by virtue of real vital relationship Christ has borne the grief’s, carried the sorrows, and suffered the chastisement of his people’s peace; so that by his stripes they are healed.—Isa. liii., 4, 5. How preposterous is the theory of the miscalled Baptist minister in the vicinity of our correspondent! "He does not view the atonement as canceling any sin, but as necessary to show God’s regard for holiness; not because men could not have been saved equally well without it, if God had so willed." Without what? Atonement, or reconciliation, or justification! In the estimation of the minister alluded to, it would have been equally well to save sinners in their sins without reconciling them to God, &c., if God had so willed. Glory to God in the highest! He did not so will. His will was to save people from their sins, and to constitute them a holy nation, and a peculiar people. How could the acceptance of Christ’s sufferings in lieu of the sinner’s punishment display God’s regard for holiness, if Christ was not legally viewed as federal head of those for whom he died? Nothing can be more repugnant to all the perfections of God, than the which the Yankee preacher represents as God’s chosen method of showing his regard for holiness. "He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they are abomination to the Lord."—Prov. xvii. 15. Can it supposed that God has chosen abomination to show or illustrate his regard for holiness? Away with such madness blasphemy! Deny the previously existing union, relationship and identity of Christ and his church, and you deny the only principle on which divine justice could admit of the offerings of Christ for the transgressions of his people. Well might the ministers of our civil law admit of the punishment of the innocent for the crimes of the guilty, to see that ours is a justice loving government.

     Again; if Christ’s death did not cancel the demands of the law, for the sins of those for whom he died, how they are justified by his blood? (Rom. iv. 9.) Seeing, in that case, their sins remain in full force against them. But, notwithstanding all the cavilings of men, men must be purged from all sin and guilt by the blood of Christ, or they can never see God. The legal and righteous demand of the law was, "The soul that sinneth it shall die." What the soul is to the natural body of man, Christ is to his church. When Christ died, the soul, life and immortality of the church, which is his body, was delivered up for the offenses of that body, and accepted by law and justice for the offenses of that body, and raised from the dead for the justification of that body, and by his stripes that body was healed; for he put away the sins of that body by the sacrifice of himself. "Much more then being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved by his life."—Rom. v. 9, 10.

     We will now attend to 1 John ii .2, and see if it conflicts with the doctrine of the foregoing scriptures. "And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but for the whole world." The term propitiation, according to Walker, signifies atonement. Butterworth renders it peace or reconciliation, which definitions seem to agree with the Greek Lexicon. But the difficulty in understanding this text, is to decide in what sense the term whole world is to be taken. In this text the whole world is reconciled to God through the atonement of Christ; and in the text, same epistle, (V. 19,) we are informed that the whole world lieth in wickedness, or unreconciliation to God. The apostle was evidently writing to the scattered saints of Jewish descent, according to the flesh, and would have his brethren know that the advocacy of Christ, and the reconciliation by him effected, had the same application to his people among the Gentiles as to those among the Jews.

NEW VERNON, K. V., May 1, 1846.

     IT was common thus to speak when both Jews and Gentiles were intended, although all Jews and Gentiles were not intended, as for instance: These went out a decree from Caesar that all the world should be taxed.—Luke ii. 1. All the world in this case did not include the inhabitants of Sodom, Gomorrah, and those of the antediluvian world, but it was used in a sense common at that day, and embraced all the Provinces which were tributary to Rome. "If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him, and the Romans shall come and take away our place and nation."—John xi. 48.

     The sense of the text is simply this: Little children, we have an Advocate with the Father, even Christ, who is our peace, or the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for those of all his people throughout the world. There is no other Savior, Advocate with the Father, or propitiator for sin, but Christ, and he is our Advocate. He is our peace, our Redeemer, and our life; in him we are reconciled to God, and delivered from wrath. This view is in harmony with the words of Isaiah, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." But why should all the ends of the earth look for salvation to him? The reason is given: "For I am God, and there is none else." It requires no less than God to save a poor guilty sinner, and there is no other God therefore salvation is to be looked for only from him. A just God and a Savior, there is none beside me," saith God, neither is there any propitiation or atonement for sin, that which is in Christ, and that is for his people throughout the entire world, from Adam to the- burning day, and east to west, from north to south. The view we have of this text we conceive to be in perfect harmony with the doctrine of federal union of the church to Christ, atonement and eternal redemption. But give to this the interpretation urged by arminians, and suppose the apostle to affirm that Christ is the reconciliation of every son or daughter of Adam, that he has redeemed them all from hell, washed them all in his blood, freely justified them from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses, that he was delivered up for their offenses and raised for their justification, and that by his stripes they are healed, how shall this construction of the text be made to harmonize with those scriptures which inform us that before Christ came and suffered some of the human family were suffering the vengeance of eternal fire, and that others can­not escape the damnation of hell? The proof then, that Jews and Gentiles are alluded to in the text, lies in the fact that these terms whole world cannot mean anything else, and be in harmony with the general tenor of the scriptures.

     What we have written, imperfect as it may be, must suffice for the present on the first part of our correspondent’s letter, and we will close by offering a few remarks on her allusion to a foreign communication on the subject of free agency. We have no means of testing the precise amount of power, mental, physical, or moral, that man had before the fall, so as to compare it with his present power, and strike the balance. "Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions."—Eccl. vii. 29. We believe that man generally acts voluntarily in sinning against God; but we read of "cursed children, that cannot cease from sin."—2 Peter ii. 14; but still we believe they act voluntarily in the development of their sinful propensities. As to their ability to keep the law, they have neither disposition nor power, for the law requires perfect and perpetual obedience to the will of God, and unremitting obedience to all its requirements. In short, it requires that they should be as perfect as Adam was in his first estate; and if they could keep it they would be justified, but not prepared for spiritual enjoyments by it; but, by its deeds, no flesh can be justified.

     The redemption of the church by the blood of Christ redeemed her from the dominion as well as from the curse of the law, else they could not be legally married to Christ. The righteousness of the law which required that those to whom it was given should "Love the Lord thy God," &c., is fulfilled in them by their vital union with Christ. The saints are as dead to the law as though they were never un­der its dominion; it has no power to command them; they are now under a new and better covenant. The old could only command and demand everything, but could furnish nothing; the new covenant demands nothing, but furnishes everything. The old was written and engraven on tables of stone, but the new is written on their inward parts, and engraved on their hearts. So if Christ has set us free, we are free indeed; if under grace, we are not under the law.

     Arminian workmongers, who, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, see in the absence of Sinai’s thunder, any cannot incentive to holiness; but the in whose hearts God has recorded the law of the spirit of life, cease not to pray that they may be found in Christ, not having their own righteousness, which is of the law. Their desire is that they may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, and be made comformable to his death. As to our being released from loving our neighbor, or from anything enjoined in the law, we say, "We do not make void the law, but we establish it." For love is the fulfilling of the law, and the love of Christ constrains us. His love is shed abroad in us, and that will invariably centre in that which is lovely in the divine estimation. But if the love of Christ be not in us, in vain shall we strive to fulfill the requisitions of the law, in love to God, or love to man.

     That which is known to legalists only as duty and obligation, becomes the sweet privilege of the renewed soul, by the abounding of that grace which

"Changes the slave into a child, and duty into choice."

     Editorials of Gilbert Beebe Volume 2
     Pgs 633-642

Topics: Gospel Distinctives
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