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This argument has force only on the hypothesis that Christ suffered the identical penalty due to sinners. The argument is, that it would be monstrous for Christ to suffer the punishment of persons who were actually suffering it themselves at the hour of Christ's crucifixion. If the ARMINJANS allow the data of this hypothesis, their theory of a universal atonement is at once crushed; for it is impossible to show how JUSTICE can inflict a punishment on the substitute which it is at the same time, and has been for ages, literally executing upon the criminals themselves.
This difficulty is obviated by the doctrine that the sufferings of Christ were substituted, instead of the literal penalty due to sin, as a ground or reason for not inflicting on the sinner the sufferings due to bim. It did not necessarily and unavoidably do this, as a quid pro quo, but it was available for this by being pleaded as such by the sinner for his remission. As a moral cause the death of Christ had an influence long before it actually took place, just as the promise of payment realizes an influence long before the payment be actually made.
Take the case of antediluvian sinners for an instance, Was their salvation ever a POSSIBLE case?
Was it their own FAULT that they perished? Were they in as
a state as that of the fallen angels? For what purpose did the Spirit of God strive with them? It was, no doubt, for their salvation. But, has God any salvation for any sinner irrespective of the atonement of Christ? Was Their salvation possible if the atonement, in promise, did not reach their case? These very men were called to believe promises which were to be established by the influence of a future atonement. If these promises were not established as true and sure, in their offers, by the atonement, the event proved it was no crime to doubt and neglect them. . God, therefore, had a public atonement to vindicate the measures of his government towards these lost sinners, on the same principle, that he will have a
public Day of Judgment to vindicate his administrations towards all others who have perished. If we plead that an atonement can be of no use for them that perish, we might as well argue that a day of Judgment can be of no use for those who are already in punishment; for in both cases we forget the character of the divine government.
Under every dispensation, the atonement was a sweet savor unto God both in them that are saved, and in them that perish, the one a såvor of life unto life, to the other the savor of death unto death. Every unprejudiced mind will see, that it was as necessary for Christ to die to justify the condemnation of sinners, as it was to justify the admission of saints to heaven under every dispensation.
The universal extent of the Atonement not inconsistent
with the limited promulgation of the Gospel.
The advocates of a limited atonement have argued, that if God had given his Son an atonement for all, he would have given and sent a revelation of that fact universally to all.
This objection is founded on wrong principles. It supposes that God cannot justly perform any one good, unless he also do every other conceivable good in connection with it. It supposes that the atonement cannot be of any benefit to any persons unless they are informed of it; whereas we know that thousands are benefited by providence, who never knew that it is the providence of God; and we have seen, in the progress of this inquiry, that mankind owe even their existence to the mediation of Christ, though they do not know it. It supposes that the atonement was offered on the principle of commercial justice, so that God is bound in equity to dispense all the good, for which he had value received in the death of his Son. It supposes that all the good which the atonement was capable of securing
shall be infallibly attained, though it is a contemplated Fact that very many will NEGLECT this salvation, receive its grace IN VAIN, and come short of the heavenly rest. It supposes that, notwithstanding man's abuse and neglect, and loss of moral means, God is bound to continue them to him; whereas it is an inseparable characteristic of moral government, that the use of means is left to the free choice of accountable beings. It supposes, also, that God must inform every individual of all the good that he is doing in the universe.
The question has been frequently asked, “Did Christ die for those who have never heard of his atonement?” For a solution I would suggest the following hints: 1. We have already seen that God may
and can do good, e. g. providence, to a creature, without letting that creature know the medium of doing it.
2. God has provided ample means to make the provision of this mediurn known to all who are concerned.
3. As it is the duty of every nation to come out of its barbarism, ignorance, and political bondage, so are all the nations of the earth under obligations to come forth, from the moral darkness in which they have involved themselves.
4. All people who possess the knowledge of the death of Christ are under the most awful responsibility to communicate it to those who need it.
5. The revelation which God has given of his salvation is unrestricted, and of a universal aspect; and the limited promulgation of the gospel, is not owing to the scantiness of the provision, but to the negligence of the people who possess it, and hold it back in unrighteous
6. All will be dealt with according to the light that they have. And wherever there is a heathen Cornelius, he will be accepted before God for the sake of a Savior, of whom he has not heard.
7. Faith is necessary to salvation only to those who have the gospel. Faith cometh by hearing—and hearing can only be where the gospel is. INFANTS are saved for Christ's sake, though they do not know the medium of their salvation; and so might a virtuous heathen, wherever such can be found.
8. Missionary institutions take for granted that Christ has died for heathens, who have never heard of his death. If Christ has not died for them, what message can these institutions send to them? When a missionary arrives among a heathen nation he tells them, “Jesus Christ died for you.” Suppose he go to China, instead of to India, would that circumstance imply that Christ had died for the Chinese, but not for the people of India? Does the fact that he delivers the message to the heathen of the nineteenth century imply, that Christ had not died for the heathen of the eighteenth, or the fifteenth, &c. Christ has died for them, whether he goes there or not-for a fact in the nineteenth century cannot alter what transpired in the first.
There is one topic more to which I would advert. It is that the extent of the atonement is not to be measured by the actual success of any dispensation, but by the design and aspect of all dispensations. Each and all of these dispensations had a universal aspect of good-will towards the interests of all mankind. " Their limitation was not owing to any sovereign restriction from God. But, say the objectors, if Christ was intended for the salvation of all men, how comes it to pass that so few are saved?
1. This implies that God must save all whom he CAN save. But POWER is not the rule of his administration. He can create more worlds—for no one would say
that He has created all the worlds that he could. And it would be the highest blasphemy to think that no more good is done in the universe, because God CAN do no more. If power were his rule, his government would not be moral.
2. The salvation of sinners is not the last end of the atonement, but the GLORY OF GOD. His last end in endowing minerals and vegetables with healing virtues
is not the cure of disorders, but his own glory. And in a free and moral government the provisions redounds to his glory, whether men use them or reject them.
3. All that is in the gospel is adapted, designed, and intended to be the means of saving all men, and all men are invited and pressed sincerely to use them.
4. The gospel system invariably ascribes its inefficacy to save all men to their own unbelief and voluntary rejection of its provisions.
5. Nevertheless, through the exercise of sovereign grace, the number of the saved will not be few, but will far exceed the number of the lost.
6. To limit the efficacy of the atonement to save, to the actual instances of its success, is incongruous. You do not measure the power to create by the actual number of worlds created. You do not measure the virtue of a medicine by the number of persons which it cures. You do not limit the power of Christ to work miracles to the mere number actually wrought. You know that he was prevented from working some miracles by the unbelief of the people. By parity of reasoning, the efficacy of the atonement is not to be measured by the number of the saved.