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IF the great Reformer's teaching had obtained and kept possession of the faith of the reformed Church, and that I could calculate on the presence in the minds of my readers of his preaching of Christ, I might now proceed to consider the nature of the atonement, without further preface or preparation. But I need not say how far the fact is otherwise. And as I am anxious to carry along with me the minds of those who not only believe in the atonement, but give it that very prominent place which it has in the teaching usually designated "evangelical,"--though my appeal is not to what is specially distinctive of any, but is to the consciences of all,--I shall now detain my readers for a little with the teaching on the subject of the atonement associated with the name of Calvin.

Calvinism, as now living in our generation of men, presents to our attention two very distinctly marked forms:--the one, that which I believe those who hold it would recognise as best expounded by Dr. Owen and President Edwards; to whom I may add Dr. Chalmers; (whose recognition of Edwards as his theological teacher is known, and is abundantly manifest in his Institutes of Theology;) the other is that recent modification of Calvinism which is presented to us in the writings of Dr. Pye Smith, Dr. Payne, and Dr. Jenkyn, in England; and Dr. Wardlaw, in Scotland. I name these writers only--while I am aware that there are others, because my knowledge of the system is derived from them.


Two centuries separate us from Dr. Owen, and one from President Edwards; but their theology, which is one, still lives in the present generation--of the Presbyterian section at least--of the Church in Scotland; and, I presume, has much hold on men's minds also in England and in America. No man can accord with these two men in their faith without rejoicing in them as bulwarks of that faith. Owen's clear intellect, and Edwards's no less unquestionable power of distinct and discriminating thought, combined with a calmer, and more weighty, and more solemn tone of spirit;--the former writing as a man whose life was much one of theological controversy, the latter more as living among religious awakenings of which he was at once a subject and the instrument;--justify our regarding them as having set forth the modification of the doctrine of the atonement which they teach to the greatest advantage of which it is capable;--while, wherein any may think it dark and repulsive, they hide nothing, gloss over nothing, soften nothing: for they were true men, and not ashamed of the Christ in whom they believed.

Luther's anxiety to warn men "to abstain from the curious searching of God's majesty," has been noticed above. Not by such searching, but by becoming acquainted with Jesus Christ, would he teach us to expect the true knowledge of God: and this counsel is altogether in the spirit of the words, "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." How sound Luther's judgment was in sending us to Jesus, that in Him we might see and embrace God manifested in the flesh; and how much was thus to be learned which systematic theology cannot teach, and yet which we must learn if our systematic thought is to be safe, may well be suggested to us 51 by the history of the preparation for their high calling which the disciples received. Only after their Lord's resurrection were their minds opened to understand that "it behoved Christ to suffer, and afterwards to enter into His glory." Yet were they, in that ignorance, already far advanced in the true knowledge of God, because in the true knowledge of Christ--not of His work, and of its bearing, but of Himself. Luther in telling us "to go straight to the manger, and embrace the Virgin's little babe in our arms," expresses a sense of God's approachableness, as divested of all terrors and revealed in the simple confiding attraction of love, which we feel full of instruction. We can conceive the long self-tortured monk, who had sought God earnestly but ignorantly, thinking, as he tells us, of Christ as an exactor and judge, as now, in the light of love, contemplating the infant Jesus, and saying to himself, "This is God, thus does God come among men;"--and, while the whole life in the flesh of which that is the dawn, passes before him in thought, and he traces the Lord's path from the manger to the cross, and then on to glory, we can conceive of him as repeating to himself--"This is my God, in this God am I to put my trust;" and we can understand how, while contrasting what he is thus consciously learning of "the true God and eternal life" with all the results of men's "curious searching of God's majesty," with which he was not unacquainted, he would treasure up his own conscious experience,--to minister it to others for warning and guidance.

Now, what, in passing from the record of Luther's thoughts on the atonement to that of the thinking of Owen and Edwards, has come vividly home to my mind, is, that it would be well that they had proceeded more in harmony with the spirit of Luther's warning now 52 referred to. Not that I would presume to speak of their solemn weighing of the question "what is divine justice? and to what conclusions does it lead on the subject of the atonement?" as "curious searching;" but that it seems to me that it would have been well that they had used the life of Christ more as their light.

That I say not this self-confidently, or on slight grounds, will, I trust, be made clear to my readers as we proceed. I do not make little account of philosophy, nor would I be contented to see it sharing in the Apostle's condemnation of "philosophy falsely so called." I believe that a true philosophy has often done much service to religion;--neither can I understand how a philosophical mind can, without submitting to fetters which I believe are not of God, be contented to hold a religion which is not to it also a philosophy, and the highest philosophy. But no one will doubt that the beloved disciple John, who attained to such high apprehensions of God, and to whom we listen, telling us that "God is love," as to one speaking himself in the light of the eternal love, had his high--and the only adequate--training for this divine philosophy when following the footsteps of Jesus, listening to His words, seeing His deeds, and, from time to time, favoured to lean upon His breast. "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ."--I John 1:1-3


I am not going to analyse the reasoning on the Divine Attributes by Dr. Owen and President Edwards to which I refer, and as to which I feel as if the recorded work of Christ were contemplated in their system in the light of that reasoning,--rather than that reasoning engaged in after the due study of the life of Christ. It has been said that Calvinism is a philosophy in its essence; and I do not object to it on that account, but, because it is not to me a true philosophy. If what I have already said of the hope for sinful man that should be found in the righteousness and holiness of God, no less than in His love--contemplating these divine attributes, as much as may be, in their distinctness,--be present to the mind of my readers, it will be felt by those of them that are familiar with the theological writings of Owen and Edwards, that, however clear their reasonings are as reasonings, they must appear to me open to this fundamental objection, that they leave out of account certain important first principles. But not to engage in the analysis of what in the pages of Edwards especially I have read with so solemn and deep an interest as listening to a great and holy man, while, at the same time, feeling the axiomatic defect to which I have referred, it will be enough for my present purpose to notice the results arrived at.

I. The most palpable of these results, and that which first attracts attention, is the limitation of the atonement;--I mean the conceiving of it as having reference only to a certain elected portion of the human family.

His result arose naturally, and, it seems to me, most logically, from the first principles from which these clear and acute thinkers have reasoned. The divine justice is conceived of by them as, by a necessity of the divine nature, awarding eternal misery to sin, and 54 eternal blessedness to righteousness. That the sinner may be saved from this misery, and partake in this blessedness, he must, in the person of Christ, endure the misery thus due to sin, and fulfil the righteousness of which this blessedness is the due reward. But the co-relative position is, that, having thus, in the person of Christ, endured the punishment of sin, he cannot in justice be eventually punished himself; and that, having, in like manner, fulfilled all righteousness, he must in justice receive the reward of that righteousness. ''The sum of all is, the death and blood-shedding of Jesus Christ hath wrought, and doth efffectually procure for all those that are concerned in it, eternal redemption, consisting in grace here and glory hereafter." (Vol. X. 159). All that is of the nature of pain and suffering in the history of our Lord, from what the cries of feeble infancy tell, with what aggravation may have been in the circumstances of the manger and the stable, and the lowly lot of Mary and Joseph, on to the mysterious agony of Gethsemane, and that which seems to them indicated, if not revealed, in the cry on the cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"--all this is set down as penal suffering--the punishment of the sins of the elect. On the other hand, all that is of the nature of holiness, goodness, obedience, fulfilling of all righteousness, from the same dawn to the solemn close, and the submission of will uttered in the words, "the cup which my Father gives me to drink, shall I not drink it?"--''Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit"--all this is set down as accomplishing that perfect righteousness which is to endow the elect with a title to eternal blessedness.

The grace of God according to this conception,--that is his grace to the elect, is,--properly speaking, manifested in the original gift of Christ; all the subsequent 55 history is the just and faithful acting out of the details of a covenant thus graciously entered into with Christ for the elect. But, of course, the original grace underlies all the subsequent history; so that, while, in one sense, the pardon of the sins of the elect is a matter of simple justice, Christ having borne the punishment of their sins; and the bestowal of eternal blessedness upon them is, also, a matter of simple justice, Christ's righteousness having endowed them with a right to that blessedness,--still the whole dispensation is one grace.

Adhering strictly to his conception of the fixed relation between sin and its due punishment, Owen anxiously insists upon the identity of that punishment which Christ endured for the elect, with what they would have endured themselves, and what the non-elect do eventually endure. ''Now from all this, thus much (to clear up the nature of the satisfaction made by Christ) appeareth, viz.--It was a full, valuable compensation made to the justice of God for all the sins of all those for whom He made satisfaction, by undergoing that same punishment which, by reason of the obligation that was upon them, they themselves were bound to undergo. When I say the same, I mean essentially the same in weight and pressure, though not in all accidents of duration and the like; for it was impossible that He should be detained by death." (p. 269.) His language everywhere is in harmony with this conception; as to which I do not feel that it is justly liable to the treatment which it has received when objected to as a mercenary, and so an unworthy view of the subject. The mere language of commerce, viz. "purchase, ransom," etc., is not Owen's, but that of the Scriptures; and as to the substance of his meaning it is simply, that the 56 justice of God punishes sin as it deserves, and that, having in the exercise of an unerring judgment once determined what is deserved, God cannot be conceived of as acting in any way that would imply a change of mind.

As to the difficulties that present themselves, the moment the attempt is made to form clear conceptions of what has thus been asserted,--that is to say, to conceive to ourselves, on the one hand, what the punishment was which the elect were bound to undergo; and, then, on the other hand, how Christ can have endured the punishment so conceived of--with these difficulties Owen does not really grapple. Edwards, indeed, approaches this solemn subject more nearly; and there is no passage in his exposition of "The Satisfaction for Sin" made by Christ of deeper interest than the one in which he does so. After premising that "Christ suffered the wrath of God for men's sins in such a way as He was capable of, being an infinitely holy person who knew that God was not angry with Him personally--knew that God did not hate Him, but infinitely loved Him," he goes on to specify two ways in which he conceives that Christ could endure the wrath of God. But the elements of suffering which he specifies, however connected with the sin of those for whom Christ died, cannot be recognised as the punishment which they themselves were bound to undergo,--if such sufferings can rightly be represented as punishment at all. But, not to enter here on the nature of the sufferings specified, when explanations are offered as to how Christ endured the punishment of the sins of those for whom He died, the important point is, that His sufferings are regarded as implying, that it would be unjust that those should 57 themselves eventually suffer punishment for whom He had suffered, as in the same way it was held, that it would be unjust that those should not eventually inherit eternal blessedness for whom Christ had merited eternal blessedness.

We are not to wonder that, having come to such conclusions as these from such axioms as that "God is just" and that "God is immutable," texts of Scripture such as those who believe that the atonement was for all men, quote in proof of that doctrine, were, however large their sound, urged with little effect. Some of these might seem difficult of explanation on their system--others might be more easily disposed of. No one ever took more ingenuity to such a task than Owen did; as no one ever urged more perplexingly the dilemmas in which those were involved, who, agreeing with him as to the nature of the atonement, differed from him as to its reference. "To which I may add this dilemma to our universalists" (i.e., those who held that Christ had died for all), "God imposed His wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved; for if God enter into judgment with us, though it were with all mankind for one sin, no flesh should be justified in His sight. "If the Lord should mark iniquities who should stand?" . . . If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. If the first, why then are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say "Because of their unbelief; they will not believe." But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished 58 for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died from partaking of the fruit of His death? If He did not, then did He not die for all their sins. Let them choose which part they will." (p. 173). I add his winding up of a striking argument on Mark x. 45: "I shall add no more but this, that to affirm Christ to die for all men is the readiest way to prove that He died for no man in the sense Christians have hitherto understood." (p. 290.)--As addressed to those who agreed with him as to the nature of the atonement, while differing with him as to the extent of its reference, this seems unanswerable.

To those who approach the subject of the atonement with the conviction that Christ died for all men, and who see this to be clearly revealed in the Scriptures, it must be an insuperable objection to any view taken of the nature of the atonement that it is inconsistent with this faith; and I have already alluded to the fact, that the force felt to be in such reasonings as those just quoted, assuming the truth of that conception of the atonement on which they proceed, has latterly led those who contend that Christ died for all to reconsider the nature of the atonement. I am thankful for this result. That cannot be the true conception of the nature of the atonement which implies that Christ died only for an election from among men.

But, besides the scripture argument against the limitation of the atonement, on which I do not enter, I would notice two important further conclusions which that limitation involves, and which are very weighty objections to the doctrine to which they are ultimately traceable.

1. The limitation of the atonement, and therefore the conception of the nature of the atonement which 59 implies that limitation, abstracts from the faith of the gospel that element on which Luther lays so much stress in what he says of the use of the pronoun "our." This it does because it takes away the warrant which the universality of the atonement gives to every man that hears the gospel to contemplate Christ with the personal appropriation of the words of the apostle, "who loved me, and gave himself for me."

This Owen fully admits, but he denies that any man is asked to believe, as the first act of faith, that Christ died for him in particular, or to believe anything but what he recognises as actually revealed. He then proceeds to state successive acts or steps of faith; in each one of which the believer has a clear scripture warrant for his faith; but the taking each successive step of which narrows the circle of those who come to be dealt with; some taking the first step who will not take the second; some taking both who will not take the third; some taking the first three who will not take the fourth:--while, as to those who take the whole four, their having taken them has become a ground for that personal appropriation of Christ, as their own Saviour in particular, which was not afforded by the revelation made in the gospel message, but which has thus been added by that work of grace which has proceeded so far in them, and has individualised them as persons for whom Christ died; "for certainly Christ died for every one in whose heart the Lord by His almighty power works effectually faith to lay hold on Him, and assent unto Him according to that orderly proposal that is held forth in the gospel." (p. 315.)

But the difficulty of dealing with awakened sinners on this system has been practically felt to be very great. And the importance, with reference to all fruit of that faith whose nature it is to work by love, of 60 being able to realise that relation to Christ which the words "who loved me, and gave himself for me," express, has pressed so upon such men as Boston and others, in the days of our fathers, that, in order to facilitate that "appropriating act of faith" on which so much depended, they introduced that doctrine of ''a deed of gift of Christ to all men," which they combined with the faith, still adhered to, that He died only for the elect:--shewing what a response Luther's teaching as to the use of the pronoun "our" has had, even when that broad basis of an atonement for all on which Luther stood has not been seen to be the truth of God.

Another indication of the same response is presented in Dr. Chalmers' Institutes, in the chapter on "the universality of the gospel." I refer to the tone of the whole chapter, but quote only these words:--"The particular redemption of all who are saved, is made good by their right entertainment of those texts which are alleged in behalf of universal redemption; and it is the very entertainment which the advocates of this doctrine would have all men to bestow upon them. And so I am sure would we. We should like each individual of the world's population to assume specially for himself every passage in the Bible where Christ is held forth generally to men or generally to sinners, and would assure him that, did he only proceed upon these, he would infallibly be saved." I am not sure to what the concession that seems to be made in the words which I have marked by italics really amounts, and am fearful of even seeming to strain his words. I know indeed that "that entertainment which the advocates of universal redemption would have all men to bestow" upon "the texts which they allege in behalf of that doctrine" includes this, that each man should assume, on the authority of these texts, 61 that Christ died for him,--that Christ is made of God unto him, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. How far Dr. Chalmers means that any man assuming this, and trusting Christ accordingly, is justified in so doing, and is saved by so doing, I am not quite certain, considering that he insists so much on the word "offer;" but this much is, I think, abundantly clear, that he recognises the importance of the appropriating act of faith, while adhering to the doctrine of a limited atonement.

But thus to use the expressions of Scripture in a vague largeness in connexion with the faith of an atonement for the elect only, affords no real basis for that personal appropriation of Christ which is recognised as so needful to the practical working of Christianity. And those who see clearly that the Apostle could not have said, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me," unless he had first known that Christ "had loved him, and given Himself for him," must see that such previous knowledge in the Apostle implied that the gospel in which he had believed had imparted that knowledge. However much Owen's four steps of faith without this personal appropriation, followed by a fifth, in which, through the help of these previous four, that appropriation is attained, must repel us as a departure from the simplicity of faith, his teaching is consistent with the doctrine of a limited atonement; but how, without the element of an indication in the inner man of the individual that he is of the elect, the certainty of a personal interest in Christ can be reached by one believing that Christ died for the elect only, I cannot conceive.

2. But a more solemn result of limiting the atonement remains to be noticed, viz., that, as appears to me, it makes the work of Christ to be no longer a 62 revelation of the name of God, no longer a work revealing that God is love.

The conception of the nature of the atonement on which the system of Owen and Edwards proceeds, and the reasonings in relation to the Divine Attributes by which they attempt to lay a deep foundation for it in the verity of what God is, present this,--I may surely say--startling--result, that, while they set forth justice as a necessary attribute of the divine nature, so that God must deal with all men according to its requirements, they represent mercy and love as not necessary, but arbitrary, and what, therefore, may find their expression in the history of only some men. For according to their system justice alone is expressed in the history of all men, that is to say, in the history of the non-elect, in their endurance of punishment; in the history of the elect, in Christ's enduring it for them. Mercy and love are expressed in the history of the elect alone. Surely, not to enter into the question of the absolute distinctness of the Divine Attributes, or their central and essential unity, if any one attribute might be expected to shine full orbed in a revelation which testifies that "God is love," that attribute is love; and, feeling this strongly, I have ventured to say, that it would be well that these deep reasoners had " used the life of Christ more as their light."

But, not only do I object that in this system the illustration of the divine love by the atonement is presented in the history of the election alone; what I feel is, that so presented the atonement ceases to reveal that God is love.

However little the thought may have received the consideration which its importance deserves, nothing can be clearer to me than that an arbitrary act cannot reveal character. We may be reconciled to an act of which 63 we see not the reasons, by what we know otherwise of the character of him whose act it is: but an act which is strictly arbitrary, or, at least, so far as we are informed arbitrary,--an act of which he that performs it gives us no other account than that he wills it because he wills it,--can never, by any light in it, make the character of him whose act it is known to us. Now the doctrine that the work of Christ has had reference only to the elect, and that the grace which it embodies was only grace to them, and that they were elected, and the non-elect passed over arbitrarily, or at the least on no principle of choice that can be made known to us, or at all events, that is made known to us,--this doctrine makes the work of Christ as presented to the faith of human beings strictly an arbitrary act. To say that God does not authorise us to expect an explanation of the reasons of His acting--that He gives not account of His matters,--is not to the point. Be it so. But if it be so, it does not the less follow, that what He has done has left us ignorant of Himself--that so far as the acting of which He gives us no account is concerned, He is to us the unknown God.

That the transaction has such an aspect of grace to those to whom it has reference,--that to the elect it is free unmerited kindness,--yea kindness to enemies,--this is not to the purpose, our inquiry being as to the name and character of God. For, if we allow our minds due freedom in the contemplation of this high and solemn subject, it is impossible for us not to feel, that however great the personal obligations conferred upon the elect, and however the sense of these may attach them to God, even they cannot intelligently venture to say that their experience of God--the way in which God has dealt with them, proves what God is--in Himself is,--essentially is,--when the way in which He has dealt 64 with others--the experience of others related to Him exactly as they were, and whose position was, by assumption of the system itself in every point identically the same as theirs,--has been so different. That other treatment is assumed to be God's acting as much as this. By which are we to judge of Him? From which are we to conclude what God is? I am unable to see any way out here, or any escape from the conclusion, that the doctrine of an atonement for the elect only, destroys the claim of the work of Christ to be that which fully reveals and illustrates that great foundation of all religion, that God is love. I may still cling to that spiritual instinct in me which responds to the assertion that God is love, apart from all revealed justification of that assertion. But, instead of being helped by God's gift of Christ to the elect to cherish this instinctive faith, all deep consideration of that gift can only embarrass me; so that, if I believe in it, I must be contented to receive it as a mystery,--not a revelation of God;--a mystery, the explanation of which I must endeavour, in the strength of my instinctive faith that God is love, patiently to wait for.

I know that when the doctrine of free grace as meaning absolute unconditional election, is presented to those who have not yet come under the power of God's love, it is usual to treat the repulsion they feel as a manifestation of carnal pride, and their objections as the suggestions of a self-sufficient reason, which refuses to submit itself to the authority of revelation. But is it fair to ask men to put their trust in that God of whom we cannot tell them whether He loves them or does not? in that Saviour of whom we cannot tell them whether He died for them or did not? And when they find their difficulties so treated by those who not only are, as it will naturally appear to them, reconciled 65 to an unconditional election by having come to believe that that election has included themselves, but who have this strong inducement to limit the atonement, that they believe that to assert that Christ died for all men, is, in effect, to assert that He died for no man in the sense in which His death for themselves is their hope towards God,--is it strange that some degree of irritation, and even indignation, should be manifested? May not the appearance of such a special interest in limiting the atonement excusably recall the words--"A bribe blinds the eyes of a judge"?

What practically goes far to neutralise all this, and to disarm the feeling of irritation which it awakens, even appearing an argument in reply, is, the loving spirit often manifested by those who urge such views as these,--a spirit the very opposite of what we should expect in the holders of a system which veils the love that is in God to every man.

The fact that much of this seeming contradiction meets us is certain. How does it arise? Although, as I have said, their personal experience of God cannot warrant those, who, living in the faith of God's love in Christ as love to themselves, cherish that faith in connexion with the faith of an arbitrary election and limited atonement, in concluding as to what God is--that He is love; yet they may so conclude,--they may think of God exclusively as He appears in His acting towards themselves; leaving out of view the different history of others: or, if they think of it, regarding it rather as a mystery, with which they may not meddle, and which, with their convictions, they would feel it irreverent to trace out to logical conclusions. Thus they will be found extolling the love which is the plain meaning of what they are experiencing at the hand of God, viewed simply in itself; and, feeling it as 66 love, they will respond to it with love, and living in an atmosphere of love, their spiritual state will have its character determined accordingly. And so dealing with God as a living God, and receiving from Him day by day forgiving love,--alive to God, and drawing daily for their own need out of the fulness that is in Christ, it comes to pass, that the living love quickened in their hearts is, if I may so speak, glad to find in the darkness that veils the subject of election an excuse for going forth freely to men, even while it is not doctrinally held that God's love itself, the fountain love, goes thus freely forth. And thus a contradiction is allowed to exist between the faith of the head and the love of the heart; and, in spite of their theology, the men "who love God much because much is forgiven them" love men much also, and are thankful to devote themselves, under the power of that love, to bringing others into the fellowship of that love. In all this conscience, testifying that love is the fulfilling of the law, helps them greatly; and also the bearing and general impression of the Scriptures, which even the misunderstanding of many important texts does not neutralise: and thus a Brainerd, holding as his creed that Christ died only for an unknown few, is seen yearning over every human being he meets, desiring that individual human being's salvation with an intenseness of love that we feel would be content to die for him that he should: for no man ever laboured for the salvation of others, the record of whose labours impresses us more deeply with this conviction.

In Brainerd's case, indeed, as also in the case of his master Edwards, this contradiction between the faith of the head and the love of the heart, is the more remarkable, in that, that faith was not taken up blindly, or without much reasoning and weighing of all that it 67 involved. How marvellous it appears that such reasoners did not give to their understandings the help that they might have found in their own spiritual consciousness, and make, so to speak, an axiom of the love to man that was in their own hearts, and reason from it, as a simple uneducated man did, who, when the doctrine of the universality of the atonement was first introduced to the attention of a prayer and fellowship meeting of which he was a member, when others were arguing against it, said, "I cannot refuse it, for I feel that when I have most of the spirit of Christ in me I feel most love to all men; and I cannot believe that the spirit of Christ would move me to love all men if Christ did not love all men Himself."

II. The limitation of the reference of the atonement to an election from among men, and the consequences involved in that limitation, must be regarded as bringing into question that conception of the nature of the atonement, which, being consistently followed out, has such results. Another result of that conception of the nature of the atonement, not less conclusive as an argument against it, is the substitution of a legal standing for a filial standing as the gift of God to men in Christ.

"When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, "that we might receive the adoption of sons." Gal. iv. 4, 5. Therefore, when we contemplate the Son of God, in our nature, dealing on our behalf with the condemnation of sin, and the demand for righteousness, which are in the law, we are to understand that He is not thus honouring in humanity the law of God for the purpose of giving us a perfect legal standing as under the law, but for the purpose of taking us from under the law, 68 and placing us under grace,--redeeming us that we may receive the adoption of sons. So that not a legal standing, however high or perfect, but a filial standing, is that which is given to us in Christ. But the purpose of giving a title to a legal confidence, and that of quickening with a, filial confidence, are manifestly different; and, the latter being recognised as that in the contemplation of which the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world, we must conclude that that conception of the nature of the atonement which has led to the substitution of the former in men's thoughts, cannot be the true conception.

President Edwards represents the righteousness of Christ as a perfect obedience,--yet not perfected until rendered as obedience unto death; and he enters into a full detail of all the forms or aspects of law under which Christ came, and the demand of which He fully met; and God's acceptance of this perfect obedience he calls, the Father's justification of Christ; and this he says was in the Father's raising Him from the dead; and in this justification is it that the elect are interested, and into the communion of which they enter by faith; and this perfect obedience it is that is imputed to them, and to the reward of which they are entitled. In all this attention is fixed upon the obedience of Christ as the fulfilling of a law, and the life of sonship in which this fulfilment has taken place, is left out of view. But that life of sonship is, in reality, what ought to be prominent; and the proper value of that fulfilment of the law, besides the honour which it accords to the law, is, that it is a demonstration of the virtue and power which is in sonship. For the prospective relation of men to that fulfilment, is, not that they are to receive eternal blessedness as the reward due to it, but that God's acceptance of it as a perfect righteousness 69 in humanity is a justification of humanity in the person of Christ, on the ground of which that life of sonship, in which this glory has been given to God in humanity, may be given to men in the Son of God.

A work of infinite excellence performed by Christ as the representative of men, and men invested with its excellence, and clothed with its worthiness in God's eyes, and rewarded accordingly, is a thought that has had much acceptance. Surely to bestow on us in Christ the life that has taken outward form in that work, is at once a more natural, and a far higher result of that work;--a far higher reward to Christ, and a far higher gift to us: as it is also a higher glory to God in us, and so a higher glory to God in Christ, through whom there is that glory to God in us. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and as a sacrifice 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,"--that is, the spirit of the Son, for the root idea here is that conveyed by the word " Son." "For the law of the spirit of the life that is in Christ Jesus;" viz. sonship--makes us "free from the law of sin and death."

Dr. Chalmers dwells much on the legal standing given in Christ, as meeting, by its retrospective and prospective bearing, all the need of the awakened sinner; and, in connexion with this, has some very striking remarks on what he calls "natural legalism," as a source of difficulty to men in receiving the Gospel, in addition to natural pride, and one which he thinks ministers of the Gospel have not sufficiently considered, or recognised, in dealing with the consciences of men. These remarks are, I believe, just. I believe that difficulties have often their root in conscience, which are 70 ignorantly and rashly referred to pride; and I also believe that Dr. Chalmers is historically justified in saying, that such a standing as he conceives we are called to take, in virtue of the imputation of our sins to Christ, and of His righteousness to us, will meet the demands of conscience to a certain extent awakened; yet of conscience but to a certain extent awakened only; not of conscience fully awakened. This is true, inasmuch as conscience fully awakened may be expected to demand, in relation to the righteousness of the law, that which God has contemplated; which we have just seen has been "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us:"--but I say this rather in reference to that other aspect of the fulfilment of God's purpose; viz. "that we should receive the adoption of sons;"--in relation to which I believe there is such a response in conscience that one is justified in saying, that conscience is not fully awakened in us who are God's offspring, until the orphan condition to which sin has reduced us is revealed in us, and the cry arises in spirit, if not in form of words, "Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.''

In the chapter of Dr. Chalmers' Institutes, to which I am now referring, that "on the satisfaction that had to be rendered to the truth and justice of God, ere that sinners could be readmitted into favour," there is much important elucidation of the fact, that it is not as a Father, but as a Judge, that God is thought of by awakened sinners;--from which he justly argues, that there is both a departure from the truth of things, and an embarrassing result to the awakened sinner in not duly acknowledging that voice of conscience which causes so much terror, and in, as he says, "keeping the divine jurisprudence out of sight," and "contemplating 71 the relation between God and man simply as a family relation." Those who do so, he designates as "the advocates of a meagre and sentimental piety." When any thus sink the Lawgiver in the Father, they surely err. But, on the other hand, if any think the idea of the Lawgiver the higher and more root idea, they also err. Let us take the warning given, not "to keep the divine jurisprudence out of sight;" but let us guard also against awakenings which do not reach to the depths of man's being; neither prepare for that Gospel which comes from the depths of the heart of the Father. It must ever be remembered, that, while the Gospel recognises the law, and honours the law, it raises us above the law; while, as to the very point of these two characters of God, viz. the Lawgiver and the Father, we know that it is only by the revelation of the Father that God succeeds in realising the will of the Lawgiver in men. How much more can He thus alone realise the longings of the Father's heart!

And let us weigh well this question, "How much more could God thus alone realise in us the longings of His heart as our Father?" for that the atonement really contemplated the realising of these longings, and should be seen by us in its relation to these longings, this is what is not understood when the legal perfection of Christ's righteousness is thus abstracted from the law of the spirit of the life of sonship in Christ Jesus, which took outward form in that righteousness, and from the revelation of the Father, which, in being perfect sonship, it presents to faith. If that obedience were not, in its inner aspect, and in its nature, sonship,--if it were not a revelation of the Father, its legal perfection, had such perfection been in that case possible, would have availed little to us, who were to be redeemed from under the law that we might receive the adoption of sons.


Therefore was our Lord ever careful to keep before the minds of the disciples, that, in that perfect obedience to the will of God which they saw in Him, they were contemplating the doing of the will of the Father by the Son. For in His Father's name was He come to them. Had it been otherwise, Christ could not have said, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." A servant may make us acquainted with his master; a subject may make us to know the lawgiver and king to whom he owes allegiance; the Son alone could reveal the Father. "No man knoweth the Father save the Son, and he to whom the Son revealeth Him."

I have urged above, that the limitation of the atonement, renders the grace of God in the gift of Christ no longer a revelation of the name of God,--that He is love. I say now, that the righteousness of Christ being contemplated as what was intended to give us a legal standing as righteous through its imputation to us, has, if not as a necessary consequence, at all events as a matter of fact, marred the efficiency of the work of Christ as in itself a, revelation of the Father by the Son. I mean, that those who, in looking at Christ as fulfilling
all righteousness, have contemplated Him as employed in providing a legal righteousness for us, have not been in the way of receiving that knowledge of God which they would have received, if their contemplation of Christ had been determined by the faith of that word, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." Thus it has come to pass, that our Lord has been contemplated by them as fulfilling the law of love towards all men, and yet that they have not recognised His doing so as the revelation of God's love to all men. Edwards, in his enumeration of the elements of Christ's righteousness, mentions those virtues which more immediately respect other men, and these under the two heads of 73 meekness and love; and, in illustration of the love to men which he manifested, he says, "Christ's love to men that He shewed when upon earth, and especially in going through His last sufferings, and offering up His life and soul under these sufferings, which was His greatest act of love, was far beyond all parallel." This, as a part of Christ's righteousness, is clearly here love to men as men; not love to the elect as the elect. The specifying, as illustrating His love to men, those sufferings of Christ, and that offering up of His life and soul, which the system assumes had reference to the elect only, is indeed a manifest contradiction; but it seems to have arisen from his looking at the righteousness of Christ as the meeting of the demand for righteousness which the law makes on man, and not as the revelation of the heart of the Father by the Son. For Edwards did not doubt that the righteousness which Christ fulfilled, and with which, by imputation, believers are clothed, included love to all men;--any more than that the example which He left for the guidance of His followers, was that of love to all men. But the legal reference to man in which alone the atonement has been viewed, has caused that neither Christ's sufferings for our sins, nor His own righteousness, reveal anything of God by what they are in themselves beyond what the law testifies;--being, simply, the meeting of the demands of the law; the former an awful, the latter a glorious seal put to the law by the Son of God, and no more.

Justification by faith is so closely related to that work of Christ which the faith that justifies apprehends, that an error in regard to the nature of the atonement must affect that doctrine. But there will be some advantage in postponing the consideration of the teaching of the earlier Calvinists on this subject, so 74 far as the object of this volume calls for the consideration of it, until I have first directed attention to the great modification which Calvinism, as taught by the theological school to which I have referred above, has recently undergone.

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