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THE idea that the Divinity of our Lord was a prerequisite to the atonement, because it made the endurance in time of infinite penal sufferings--sufferings therefore commensurate with the eternal sufferings which were the doom of sin--possible, has, as we have seen, been felt repulsive; and it has been thought a worthier conception to regard the personal dignity of Christ as giving infinite value to His sufferings, without relation at all to their amount. Yet the immeasurably great, if not infinite amount of Christ's sufferings is still dwelt upon; nor is any attempt made on the ground of the dignity of the sufferer to weaken the impression which the sacred narrative had hitherto been felt to give of what was endured by the man of sorrows, and more especially of the awful and mysterious agony in the garden and on the cross. Faithfulness to the inspired record is not alone the explanation of this. The awful conceptions of the Saviour's sufferings which have from the beginning entered into men's thoughts of the atonement, have been so manifestly at the foundation of the apprehensions of the divine wrath against sin, and the divine mercy towards sinners, which the faith of the atonement has quickened in men, that it could not but be felt, that to lower these conceptions would be to lessen the power of the atonement on human spirits. But the truth is, that however much it may be felt that the dignity of the sufferer gave infinite 114 value to any suffering to which He submitted, and how ever true it is--and it is most true--that infinitely less than we believe our Saviour to have suffered for us would, being believingly apprehended by us as expressing our preciousness to the heart of God, inspire in us hope towards God; and however much, on the other hand, we may feel repelled by that weighing in scales of the sufferings of the Son of God, and the sufferings of the damned, in which their conceptions of divine justice and of the atonement which it demanded, engaged the earlier Calvinists, the sufferings of Christ arose so naturally out of what He was, and the relation in which He stood to those for whose sins He suffered, that though His divine nature might be conceived of as giving them weight, however small in themselves, yet, to that very divine nature must we refer their awful intensity, and, to us, immeasurable amount. The necessity which has, as we have seen, been felt alike by earlier and later Calvinists, in attempting to specify the elements of the Saviour's sufferings, to keep within the limits indicated by who and what He was that suffered, has obliged them to recognise holiness and love as what in Christ made the sources of pain specified, sources of pain to Him; and if the sinfulness of sin, and the misery to which it exposed sinners, were painful to Christ because of His holiness and love, then must they have been painful in proportion to His holiness and love.

But there is a further and a still more important thought which these details, on which (in much reverence of spirit, I believe, and love to Him who was their hope) these men of God have ventured, seem to me fitted to suggest. What I have felt--and the more I consider it, feel the more--is, surprise that the atoning element in the sufferings pictured, has 115 been to their minds sufferings as sufferings, the pain and agony as pain and agony. It no doubt arose out of the conception that the sufferings endured was the punishment of our sin,--endured for us by our substitute,--that the pain present should as pain become the prominent object of attention. But my surprise is not that, believing the sufferings contemplated to be strictly penal--a punishment, the pain as pain should be the chief object of attention, being indeed that for which alone, on this view, a necessity existed; but my surprise is, that these sufferings being contemplated as an atonement for sin, the holiness and love seen taking the form of suffering should not be recognised as the atoning elements--the very essence and adequacy of the sacrifice for sin presented to our faith.

President Edwards seems to have put this question to himself, "Christ being what He was, how could God, when imputing the sins of the elect to Him, lay the weight of these sins upon Him and punish Him for them, subjecting Him to the infinite suffering which was their due?" And he has answered thus:--"Christ being infinitely holy, God was able to cause Him to feel the awful weight of the sins of the elect by revealing their sins to Him in the spirit--so bringing Him under a weight and pressure of these sins to be measured by His holiness;--thus God laid the sins of the elect on Christ:--and again, Christ loving the elect with a perfect love, God was able,--by bearing in upon Christ's spirit the perfect realisation of what these objects of His love were exposed to suffer,--to make, through His love to them, their conceived-of suffering, real, infinite suffering to Him." In this way God is represented, not only as punishing the innocent for the guilty, but as, in doing so, availing Himself of a capacity of enduring pain which consisted in the perfection of holiness and love,


--pain endured by holiness through being holiness, and by love through being love, being represented as the punishment inflicted.

Now, while it is easy to realise that the sin of those whom He came to save, and the misery to which through sin they were obnoxious, being present to the spirit of Christ, these would press upon Him with a weight and affect Him with an intensity of suffering, proportioned to His hatred to sin and love to sinners; and while in respect of the suffering thus arising, the sufferer is seen to be a sacrifice,--and a sacrifice in which if we meditate upon it, it seems to me that we may see atoning virtue;--yet it seems to me impossible to contemplate the agony of holiness and love in the realisation of the evil of sin and of the misery of sinners, as penal suffering. Let my reader endeavour to realise the thought:--The sufferer suffers what he suffers just through seeing sin and sinners with God's eyes, and feeling in reference to them with God's heart. Is such suffering a punishment? Is God, in causing such a divine experience in humanity, inflicting a punishment? There can be but one answer.

Reflecting on this answer, and seeing it to be impossible to regard suffering, of which such is the nature, as penal, I find myself forced to distinguish between an atoning sacrifice for sin and the enduring as a substitute the punishment due to sin,--being shut up to the conclusion, that while Christ suffered for our sins as an atoning sacrifice, what He suffered was not--because from its nature it could not be--a punishment. I say, I find myself shut up to this conclusion, and that I am obliged to recognise a distinction between an atonement for sin and substituted punishment--a distinction, the necessity of which might have been expected to force itself upon the attention of those who, in endeavouring 117 to conceive of Christ's sufferings, have found themselves constrained to seek for these in the region of holiness and love--divine holiness and divine love,--feeling in humanity towards man and man's sin and man's misery through sin what in God they eternally feel.

Reader, permit me to ask you to pause here and consider what the question is to which I have led your mind. It is not a question as to the fact of an atonement for sin. It is not a question as to the amount of the sufferings of Christ in making atonement. It is not a question as to the elements of these sufferings. It is not so even between me and those who believe in the imputation of our sin to Christ in the strictest sense. Even they introduce no element into His consciousness which amounted to His being in His own apprehension the personal object of divine wrath. The question to which I have led you is this: The sufferings of Christ in making His soul an offering for sin being what they were, was it the pain as pain, and as a penal infliction, or was it the pain as a condition and form of holiness and love under the pressure of our sin and its consequent misery, that is presented to our faith as the essence of the sacrifice and its atoning virtue?

The distinction on which this question turns appears to me all-important in our inquiry into the nature of the atonement, and we shall be greatly helped by keeping it steadily in view; for my conviction is, that the larger and the more comprehensive of all its bearings our thoughts of the atonement become, the more clear will it appear to us, that it was the spiritual essence and nature of the sufferings of Christ, and not that these sufferings were penal, which constituted their value as entering into the atonement made by the Son of God when He put away sin by 118 the sacrifice of Himself--making His soul a sacrifice for sin--through the eternal Spirit offering Himself without spot to God.

It has been in the free consideration of the actual elements of the sufferings of Christ as these have been represented by men who had themselves quite another conception of the subject, that the important distinction between an atonement for sin, and substituted punishment, has now been arrived at; and so, it is in the way of studying the atonement by its own light, and meditation of what it is revealed to have been, that I propose to proceed in seeking positive conclusions as to its nature, its expiatory virtue, and its adequacy to all the ends contemplated. And surely this is the right course in order that untested preconceptions may not mislead us; for even as to the abstract question--"What is an atonement for sin?'' it is surely wise to seek its answer in the study of the atonement for sin actually made, and revealed to our faith as accepted by God.

But before proceeding thus to consider the atonement made by Christ for the sins of men by the light that shines in itself, there is a ray of light on the nature of atonement for sin afforded to us by an incident in the history of the children of Israel, which claims our attention because of the marked way in which it is recorded, viz. the staying of the plague by Phinehas.

As compared with any other light that the old testament Scriptures shed on the subject of atonement, this incident has the special importance of not being a mere instituted type, but a reality in itself Phinehas had no command to authorise what he did, or promise to proceed upon. That which he did was a spontaneous expression of feeling. But that feeling was so in accordance with the mind of God, that God acknowledged it 119 by receiving what he did as an atonement. "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake (margin, with my zeal) among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel." Numbers xxv. 10-13. Here we see a man turning away the wrath of God, and staying the plague which was the manifestation of that wrath, by an act of which the essence was, condemnation of sin and zeal for the glory of God. This act, done in the sight of all Israel, ("zealous for my sake among them") was immediately accepted by the God of Israel--may we not say, in mercy taken hold of by the God of Israel?--as a justification of Himself in turning away His wrath from the children of Israel--an atonement for the children of Israel. There can be no uncertainty as to the atoning element here. It was not the mere death of the subjects of the act of Phinehas. Had they died by the plague, their death would have been no atonement,--the death of the twenty-four thousand who so died was none. But the moral element in the transaction--the mind of Phinehas--his zeal for God--his sympathy in God's judgment on sin, this was the atonement, this its essence. Surely we have here a ray of light shed on the distinction between making an atonement for sin and bearing the punishment of sin;--nor can we rightly weigh the words in which God has put His seal upon the atonement made by Phinehas, "Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: and he shall have it, and his seed 120 after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood," without feeling, that the contemplation of this incident is intended to be a help toward our understanding of the foundation laid in atonement for the covenant of peace, the covenant of the everlasting priesthood,--a help which prepares us to find in the moral and spiritual elements in the sufferings of Christ, the atoning power that was in them; and to see how, though there is nothing of an atoning nature in death, the wages of sin--not in the death of all who have died since death entered the world, nor in all death that may yet be endured--yet was the death of Christ, who tasted death for every man, because of the condemnation of sin in His spirit, an atonement for the sin of the whole world.

When I speak of the light of the atonement itself, I mean, the atonement as accomplished; I do not mean the atonement as foretold merely and typically prefigured. For, however the typical sacrifices of the Mosaic institutions intimated the necessity for an atonement--and in some sense its form, they did not, for they could not, reveal its nature. After we have traced and recognised the points in which the types prefigured the antitype, we have still to inquire and to learn by the study of the antitype itself, what the reality is of which such and such things were the shadow. In the type all was arbitrary and of mere institution. The perfection required in the victim--a perfection according to its own physical nature--had no relation whatever to sin, but as the type of that moral and spiritual perfection in the antitype, of which sin is the negation and the opposite. In no real sense did the confession of the sins of the people over the victim, thus selected as physically perfect, connect these sins with it, or lay them upon it; for in no real sense could it bear them. Therefore, while that confession indicated 121 and foretold the laying of men's sins on Christ, it shed no light upon that which these words express,--no light either on the capacity for bearing our sins which was in Christ because of His moral and His spiritual perfection, or on that reality of coming under their weight which was to be in His consciousness in making His soul an offering for sin. The shedding of the blood of the victim, declared that, without shedding of blood was no remission of sins; but the blood of bulls and of goats could not take away sins, and therefore, how through the shedding of blood remission of sins would be, remained to be learned from the knowledge of that blood which really has this virtue.

It may seem superfluous to insist upon this inadequacy in the type to reveal that which, from the nature of things, can only be learned from the antitype. But how often have the points of agreement between the type and antitype been dwelt upon, as if to see that agreement was to understand the atonement, although the fullest recognition of that agreement leaves the questions still to be answered,--Why must He who is to be the atoning sacrifice for sin, be Himself the Holy One of God? How does His being so qualify Him for bearing our sins? In what sense could they be, and have they been laid upon Him? Being laid upon Him, how is the shedding of His blood an atonement for them? How is His moral and spiritual perfection so connected with, and present in His bearing of men's sins, and in His tasting death for every man, as that "we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins," because He, "through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God"?

These questions are not answered by tracing the points of agreement between the type and the antitype, and therefore the seeming progress made in the 122 understanding of the atonement by such tracing is altogether illusory;--and if we are contented to remain in the darkness in which it leaves us, we are refusing to pass on from the type to the antitype, from the shadow to the reality. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, it is not upon the coincidence between the type and the antitype, but upon that in which they differ, that the Apostle insists;--and the antitype is recognised by him as indeed the antitype contemplated, because it is seen to have in it that reality of atoning efficacy which was not in the type. This comparing and contrasting of course implies, that he who engages in it is in a light in which he can say what is atoning efficacy. In such light he claims to be, equally in judging that the blood of Christ can take away sin, as in judging that the blood of bulls and of goats could not. Not that the Apostle knew beforehand what would be an adequate atonement, and so was qualified to judge of the claims of the sacrifice of Christ to that character;--but that, apprehending the atonement made by Christ as it was revealed to him, he, in the light of the atonement itself, had clear discernment of its adequacy.

That light of the atonement itself, in which the Apostle wrote, pervades the whole argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews. But the first principle and essence of his reasoning is contained in these verses of the tenth chapter, 4 to 10. ''For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin. Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when He said. Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering 123 for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein, which are offered by the law; then said He, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first that He may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." The will of God which the Son of God came to do and did, this was the essence and substance of the atonement, being that in the offering of the body of Christ once for all which both made it acceptable to Him who in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin had had no pleasure, and made it fit to "sanctify" those whose sin the blood of bulls and of goats could not take away.

Let us then receive these words, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God," as the great key-word on the subject of the atonement. The passage in full, as it is in the 40th Psalm, is, "I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. I have preached righteousness in the great congregation. Lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation," 7-11; and I quote the context of the psalm because it brings out so clearly, that the will of God contemplated is that will which immediately connects itself in our thoughts with what God is, that will, the nature and character of which we express when we say, "God is good,"--or, explaining what we mean by good, say, "God is holy, God is true, God is just, God is love." This expression of the purpose of the Son of God in coming into this world, is therefore coincident with His own statement of His work when in the world--the way, that is, in which He fulfilled that purpose,--viz., "I have declared thy name, and will declare it."


John xvii. 26. Some have understood the will of God here to mean the plan of redemption, and so the purpose expressed would be the purpose to execute that plan. So understood, of course, the words would throw no light on the nature of the atonement, being only the declaration of the intention of making it. But the mind of the Apostle is manifestly occupied with that in the work of Christ which caused the shedding of His blood to have a virtue which was not in that of bulls and goats, which he represents as being the will of God done, the mind of God manifested, the name of the Father declared by the Son.

We have therefore to trace out the fulfilment of this purpose, Lo, I come to do thy will. In what relation to God and to man did it place the Lord as partaking in humanity?--especially, in what relation to men's sins and the evils consequent upon sin to which they were subject? How did it imply His having all men's sins laid upon Him,--His bearing them as an atoning sacrifice,--His being an accepted sacrifice,--His obtaining everlasting redemption?

It will make our task simpler--in considering Christ's doing of the will of God,--if we remember the relation of the second commandment to the first, as being "like it;" that is to say, that the spirit of sonship in which is the perfect fulfilment of the first commandment, is one with the spirit of brotherhood which is the fulfilment of the second. Loving the Father with all His heart and mind and soul and strength, the Saviour loved His brethren as Himself. He, the perfect elder brother, unlike the elder brother in the parable, sympathised in all the yearnings of the Father's heart over His prodigal brethren; and the love which in the Father desired to be able to say of each of them. My son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found; in


Him equally desired to be able to say, My brother was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. President Edwards, in tracing out the fitness and suitableness of the mediation of our Lord, dwells upon His interest in the glory of God with whom He was to intercede, and because of which He could propose nothing derogatory to it; and His love to those for whom He was to intercede, because of which He felt so identified with them that what touched them touched Him. There is something which surely commends itself to us in this recognition of love as that which identifies the Saviour with those to whom He is a Saviour, and this, as Edwards traces it out, both in His own consciouness and in the Father's thoughts of Him as the mediator. May we not go further and say, that as love was thus a fitness for the office, so it necessitated the undertaking of the office, moving to the exercise of this high function, as well as qualifying for it? And seeing love to all men as that law of love under which Christ was, must we not both wonder and regret, that his deeply interesting thoughts in this region did not lead Edwards to see, that by the very law of the spirit of the life that was in Christ Jesus He must needs come under the burden of the sins of all men--become the Saviour of all men, and, loving them as He loved Himself, seek for them that they should partake in His own life in the Father's favour,--that eternal life which He had with the Father before the world was?

When God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to accomplish our redemption, the Apostle says He sent Him as "'a sacrifice for sin." (Romans viii. 3.) To send Him in the likeness of sinful flesh was to make Him a sacrifice for sin, for it was to lay the burden of our sins upon Him. Thus related to us, 126 while by love identified with us, the Son of God necessarily came under all our burdens, and especially our great burden--sin, and this not merely as President Edwards represents our sins as being laid upon Christ, in that a vivid sense of their evil oppressed His Holy Spirit, nor even in that through love to us (as he speaks with reference to the elect) the realisation of the misery to which we were exposed would give Him pain; but that living the life of love in humanity He must needs care for all humanity, for all partaking in humanity even as for Himself: so being affected by the evil of the life of self and enmity in humanity according to His own consciousness of the life of love,--and at once condemning that life of self, desiring its destruction, and feeling Himself by love devoted to the work of delivering man from it, at whatever cost to Himself. Thus moved by love, and in the strength of love, must we conceive of the Saviour as taking upon Him all our burden, undertaking our cause to do and suffer all that was implied in obtaining for us redemption. The love that came into humanity had manifested its own nature even in coming into humanity--its self-sacrificing nature--though this we can less understand or measure. Being in humanity, it acts according to its own nature, and must needs bear our burden and work and suffer for our salvation, and this in ways which we who are human may understand, and shall understand in the measure in which the life of love becomes our life.

The active outgoing of the self-sacrificing love in which the Son of God wrought out our redemption presents these two aspects,--first, His dealing with men on the part of God--and, secondly, His dealing with God on behalf of men. These together constitute the atonement equally in its retrospective and prospective bearing. Therefore it will be necessary to 127 contemplate them not only severally--but also, first, in reference to our condition as sinners under the condemnation of a broken law, and then in reference to the purpose of God to bestow on us the adoption of sons. The unity of the life that was in Christ as love to God and love to men,--the unity of the ends contemplated in His sacrifice of Himself, viz. the glory of God and the salvation of men,--the unity also of the intermediate results, in that the same work which was an adequate ground on which to rest our being taken from under the law, making that consistent with the honour of the law and the character of the law-giver, was also the adequate preparation for our receiving the adoption of sons; this pervading unity, which is "the simplicity that is in Christ," will not be veiled by this orderly consideration of the different aspects of the works of Christ, while it will prepare us for the closer consideration of the details of the sacred history, at once shedding light on these details and being confirmed by them.

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