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3. The death of Christ forms a ground of encouragement to the sinner to hope and to plead for remission of sins.
As a sinner, even on the ground of the atonement he can claim nothing. Christ did not die to make God just, nor did he die to constrain him to exercise justice, but that he might be just in justifying the ungodly. It does not become the sinner to demand pardon as a claimant but to crave it as a penitent suppliant. There is no instance in scripture of the sobs of penitence assuming the tone of demand.
“Sue out your right,” is a phrase very common in religious parlance, and has been frequently used by “the olde Dyvines.” If this phrase means, that a sinner should demand his salvation as a right due to him, it is an egregious error, it shocks every Christian grace, and horrifies all common sense.
But if "to sue out” means to plead with all the earnestness of a humble suppliant, and with the firm resolution “if I perish I perish,” then the phrase is good, and may be used, and used safely when the tears of penitence glisten in the sinner's eye.
For earnest entreaties and importunate pleadings at the throne of grace for pardon, the atonement affords a broad, firm, and free ground. To a sinner praying for free mercy for the sake of the atonement we can say, “Ask what thou wilt, thou canst not be too bold."
4. The death of Christ furnishes the believer in it with a safe foundation for peace of conscience, confidence towards God, and for every other blessing.
Hence, the death of the Son of God is represented as, sealing a testament, ratifying a compact, and confirming a charter. This charter says, “There is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus!" With this in the hand of faith, the Christian exclaims, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?” “Who is he that condemneth?" "Who shall separate us from the love of God?” This gives him "the full assurance of hope." The conscience, which none but the God who had been
offended could hush, finds joy and peace in believing. The trembling sinner has his mind stayed upon a reconciled God, and says, “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
He shews forth the Lord's death in all his duties, in all his conflicts, in all his fears, and in all his privileges and enjoyments. He shews it to God as the ground of his hope; he shews it to the accuser of the brethren as the ground of his justification; he shews it to the world as the medium of all his blessings, and he shews it to his own heart as the greatest motive to holiness and joy.
Particular Atonement inconsistent with the substitu
tionary sufferings of Christ.
The hypothesis that Jesus Christ endured the identical punishment due to the sinner, is one of the substrata of the doctrine of particular or personal atonement. It has been, I think, proved that this substratum is not of the formation of apostolical times, but the recent alluvium of modern systematic theology. Such a sandy deposit cannot, therefore, be a safe foundation for such a weighty doctrine.
1. The sufferings of Christ regard all the sins of mankind.
No passage of scripture can be adduced that limits the atonement to the sins of the elect. Whenever the death of Christ is mentioned in connection with sin, it is always with sin universally. The Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all. He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. John, indeed, seems expressly to guard against every shadow of a supposition that Christ made atonement only for the sins of the elect. "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for
ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.” When Paul says that God condemned sin in the flesh, he does not suppose that he condemned only the sins of the elect. He condemned every sin. By the death of Christ he branded the entire revolt of mankind with infamy and condemnation. “The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin.” This passage does not mean that it cleanseth all who are actually cleansed, but that it is the means to all of cleansing from all sin. Blood is not in the class of agents, or means, of cleansing in the sense of washing or cleaning the person, as by the application of water. “The "cleansing" therefore ascribed to the blood of Christ, is the cleansing of expiation, a cancelling of liableness to punishment. The passage, therefore, means, "the blood of Christ expiates from all sin.” It will be immediately objected, "then why are not all men saved?” You perceive that this very objection goes on the principle that Christ did not expiate from all sin unless he endured the identical penalty due to all sin, which if it had been endured by him, could not again be inflicted on the sinner. It supposes that if Christ expiated all sins of all sinners, then should all sinners go free, as if expiation for sin were a commercial transaction. The objection "why are all men not saved” is not removed by reading "the blood of Christ cleanseth, instead of expiates from all sin." The scape-goat expiated all the sins of all the tribes, nevertheless many who would not repent and afflict their souls, were “cut off.” Expiation is not the deliverance, it is only a medium of deliverance, and must be used for deliverance.
2. To expiate the crimes of a certain number of offenders by sustaining the identical punishment due to them is impracticable and absurd in a moral govern
Such an expiation is not an atonement, it is a literal infliction of the law as far as the penalty is concerned. It is true that where the punishment can be numerically portioned out, the penalties of a certain number of persons might be borne. If seven men be sentenced to receive thirty-nine lashes each, a friend of strong frame might sustain the whole amount for them. If seven men were sentenced to the stocks for a day each, one might be found to bear this for them. But this would not be an atonement. It would be a literal infliction of the law-only on another person. The deliverance of the seven men would not be of grace and favor, but of justice—for the literal penalty due to them had been literally sustained by their friend.
The scriptures no where give us any such views of expiation and atonement. Did the lamb of the daily offering' expiate sin by bearing the numerical amount of punishment for the day? Is the displeasure of God against sin a thing capable of being numbered and counted out? Is sin itself capable of being calculated in weight and number? The wrong which Ham did to Noah could not be numbered by items, nor was Noah's displeasure doled out by weight. Such a thing could not be made a matter of commercial measurement.
There is a theological phrase in very frequent use, but I think very few understand it. It is, that "the sufferings of a mere man cannot give satisfaction to the law.” I suppose it is meant, that he cannot give satisfaction to the law and survive his sufferings. The law says, “Do this-or dying thou shalt die." If the man "do this,” the law is satisfied. So if the disobedient dies, the law is satisfied, for it has received what it required of the disobedient. The law is perfectly satisfied as to its penal sanctions, in every sinner in the place of torments.
A thousand times has the necessity of the Mediator's being God, been founded on this proposition, that "no man could endure the curse of the law.” This phrase, and others of the kind, always conveyed to my mind the idea, ihat this curse of the law was something like a dark cloud loaded with a stormy tempest, which, if made to pelt on any one, would require infinite physical
and muscular strength to sustain it. Then, Christ was able to bear this storm which would have destroyed the human race, merely because he was God. I appeal to all my readers, whether they have not had such thoughts about the death of Christ? My reader will find that he did not come by these thoughts from reading the scriptures: they can be traced to some excellent divine, to some popular preacher, or to some sweet singer of our Israel. All such imaginations proceed on the opinion, that Christ suffered or sustained every drop of the identical shower that was to have fallen on the elect. This argument can never be valid for the divinity of Christ, for were there no greater reason for Christ's being God, than that he might be able to bear under the storm, God, no doubt, could have imparted to an angel sufficient strength to sustain any infliction.
3. It is inconsistent with substitutionary atonement as MORAL MEANS, to be peculiarly designed for particular persons. In the arrangements of providence, every one will allow, that God designs the light of the sun as means to enable all men to do the duties of the day; and the man would not be deemed sane, who at sunset would argue, that God had not that design towards those who had turned out to be idle loungers and slothful servants, that he had really and truly, only de. signed it for those who had done their work. In like manner will men consent that God had designed the brazen serpent to cure all who were bitten in the wilderness; nor will any one reason, that it was specifically designed and purposed only for those who were actually healed. Men will not argue so perversely in such instances, because they have no theological system to maintain. Yet, because sinners perish by rejecting the atonement, men will persist in arguing, that it was actually designed for those alone who accept it.
4. The bearing of this principle of substitutionary sufferings on the principal controversies connected with the atonement, shows how opposed it is to particular redemption. If an ultra Calvinist can gain the point,