CONFIRMATION OF THESE VIEWS OF THE NATURE OF THE ATONEMENT FROM THE BIBLE
THE essential points to be established from the Scriptures, as confirming the views which have been taken of the atonement in the previous chapters, are the following.
I. That it is through Christ that reconciliation is effected between God an man.
II. That in accomplishing this he suffered and died as a substitute in the place of sinners.
III. That not only was he himself a substitute, but that his sufferings were substituted sufferings, and not the literal penalty of the law.
IV. That this substitution consisted essentially in his blood; that is, in the sacrifice of his life.
V. That the avails of his sufferings may become ours in such a sense that they may be a proper ground of our salvation; that is, a public and sufficient reason why God should treat sinners as if they were righteous.
If these points are made out from the Scriptures, then it is clear that that has been accomplished which it was necessary should be accomplished in the salvation of man, and that the difficulties are met which so much embarrass human governments on the subject of pardon.
I. The first point is that it is through Christ that reconciliation is effected between God and man.
A few passages of the New Testament will put this point beyond dispute.
Romans v. 10, 11: "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. And not only so, but we also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." (Marg. reconciliation.) The same Greek word occurs in various forms in each of these passages. The verb (verse 10)--__________--means, properly, "to change against any thing; to exchange for, e.g. money." Then to change a person towards another, from enmity to friendship; to reconcile to any one. (--Rob. Lex.) The noun (verse ll)--_________--corresponds, of course, with this signification, and denotes a change from enmity to friendship. The verb occurs only in the following places in the New Testament: Rom. v. 10, 'we were reconciled to God;' 'being reconciled;' I Cor. vii. 11, 'Let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to [her] husband;' II Cor. v. 18, 'Of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ;' II Cor. v. 19, 'reconciling the world unto himself;' II Cor. v. 20, 'Be ye reconciled to God.' The noun occurs only in the following places: Rom. v. 11, 'by whom we have received the atonement;' Rom. xi. 15, 'the reconciling of the world;' II Cor. v. 18, 'the ministry of reconciliation;' II Cor. v. 18, the word of reconciliation.'
In I Cor. vii. 11, 'let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband,' which is the only instance where the word occurs in the New Testament except as connected with the atonement, and which may therefore be used to illustrate the meaning of the word when applied to the atonement, there can be no doubt as to its meaning. It refers to a case where a woman had 'departed' from her husband; that is, where there had been a separation. That separation had been wholly her act. The change, therefore, was to be on her part; and the effect was to be reunion, or reconciliation, with her husband. The existing state was one of separation; the thing to be effected was reunion: the means in the case was to be a change in herself. The point reached was a reunion where there had been an alienation or estrangement. The proper use of the word in reference to man is to express the same idea in his relation to God. The point supposed is that of alienation or estrangement. The point to be effected is a reunion with God. The change, so far as indicated by the word, is to be in one of the parties, in this case in man,thus differing from another Greek word,--________,--which properly implies mutual change. (Tittm. de Syn. N. T., p. 101, seq., as quoted by Robinson, Lex.) The means, or medium, of the reconciliation or the reunion of God and man is expressly declared to be the Lord Jesus Christ, 'by whom we have now received the reconciliation,' (Rom. v. ll,) which is the very point to be made out.
The same idea occurs in the passages in II Corinthians v. Thus, in verse 18 of that chapter, it is said, "All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ." The statement here is explicit as to the point now under consideration,that a reconciliation is effected between God and man, and that this is accomplished by Jesus Christ. The same idea is repeated in verse 19 of the same chapter: "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself." That is, God, by the agency of Christ, was reconciling the world unto himself. And the same idea is implied in verse 20 of the same chapter: "As though God did beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." That is, as ambassadors of Christ, they (the apostles) plead with men that they would be reconciled to God. They came in his name. They occupied, by appointment, his place. They did what he would do if he were personally addressing them. In other words, God was the great agent by whom this reconciliation was to be effected, and the apostles were merely his ambassadors in carrying out the great work intrusted to them.
The meaning of these passages cannot be mistaken. In all of them it is implied (a) that there was an alienation between man and God; (b) that there were obstacles to be overcome before a reconciliation could be secured; and (c) that these obstacles were in fact overcome, and the reconciliation secured, by the intervention and work of the Redeemer. As it is impossible to convey the idea that it is by means of Christ that reconciliation is effected between God and man, in any plainer language than that which occurs in these passages, the point may be regarded as demonstrated.
II. The second point is, that, in securing this reconciliation, Christ was properly a substitute in the place of sinners. A 'substitute' is "one person put in the place of another to answer the same purpose."-- Webster. The idea is, that the person substituted is to do or suffer the same thing which the person for whom he is substituted would have done. An agent, an attorney, or a representative, is to act for the person for whom he is substituted as the person himself would have done in the case. A nation is threatened with invasion. The inhabitants of a certain district are assembled, and a 'draft' is made of a certain proportion to constitute a military force to repel the invader. When one is drawn to serve in the army, instead of going himself, he is permitted to employ, at his own expense, another, who shall be equally able-bodied and equally skilled in the 'art of war.' He who is thus voluntarily substituted in the place of him that was drafted to perform the service goes forth in his stead, to do what he was to do, to suffer what he would have suffered, to encounter the danger which he would have encountered. If he experiences cold and hunger in the service, it is in the place of what he on whom the lot fell would have suffered; if he dies on the field of battle, it is in his stead; if he renders any service in repelling the foe or in establishing the liberties of his country, it is in his place; if he is crowned with the rewards due to a victor, he wears the garland which the man in whose place he was substituted would have worn.
So, in the plan of atonement, it is supposed that the Lord Jesus Christ took the place of sinners. He died that they might not die. He placed himself between them and the sword of justice; he received in his own person, as far as could be done, what was due to them; and he thus saved them from experiencing in the world of despair what was due to their sins. He effected so much by his voluntary sufferings that it was not necessary, by any demands of justice, to inflict the penalty of the law on those for whom he died.
Two passages of Scripture will illustrate what is meant by substitution, though they are not here adduced as proof that Christ died in the place of sinners. One occurs in John xi. 49, 50: "And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high-priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people and that the whole nation perish not." The idea of Caiaphas is not that Jesus would die as a sacrifice for sin, but that his death would avert the ruin of the nation; that, unless he was thus put to death, the Romans would come and take away their place and nation. In what way be supposed that this would avert such a calamity, it is not necessary now to inquire. The idea is simply that his death would in some way be instead of the ruin of the nation. Perhaps he meant that by thus giving him up to death they would show their zeal for the suppression of every thing that seemed to endanger the Roman power, and that, if this was not shown in a case like this, the Romans would suppose that they were disposed to encourage a spirit of insubordination and revolt, and would come and inflict summary vengeance on them. The other passage occurs in Isaiah xliii. 3, 4: "I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore I will give men for thee, and people for thy life." The idea here is, that the Egyptians were regarded as having been given up to destruction instead of the Hebrews. Either the Jewish or the Egyptian people must perish; and God chose that Egypt, though so much more mighty, should be reduced to desolation in order to deliver the Hebrew people. They were destroyed instead of the Hebrews, and in order that they might be delivered from bondage. On the same principle it is said, in verse 4, that God would continue to do this. His people were so precious in his sight that he says, 'I will,' if necessary, 'give men,' that is, the men of other nations, 'for thee, and people,' that is, the people of other lands, 'for thy life.' He would not see his own people ruined; and if the case should occur that one or the other must perish, he would deliver up the people of other lands to ruin rather than his own people. This is referred to now, not as having any reference to the atonement, but as an illustration of it. The regular course of things would have been that the Hebrews would have been crushed and destroyed. But God chose that it should be otherwise, and preferred that the calamity should come upon the Egyptians. In the case of redemption, ruin was coming upon the race of man. It was certain that unless there was some substitution the race would perish. Sufferings indescribable and awful--sufferings that would express the Divine sense of the value of law and of the evil of a violation of that law--must come either upon the offenders themselves, or upon some one who should take their place; and God chose that those sufferings should come upon the Redeemer rather than upon the guilty. Thus they might be saved, and at the same time there might be an expression of the Divine sense of the value of law and of the evil of a violation of that law, as clear and as impressive as though the guilty had themselves borne the full penalty of the law.
That this is the doctrine of the Scriptures will be apparent from the passages now to be quoted.
One of the words which properly denote in place of, or instead of, in the sense of substitution, is the Greek ____, (anti.) That this word denotes substitution, or in the place of, is apparent from these passages: Matt. ii. 22: "In the room [____] of his father Herod." Matt. v. 38: "An eye for [____] an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." Luke xi. 11: "If he ask a fish, will he for [____] a fish give him a serpent?" James iv. 15: "For [____] that," that is, instead of that, "ye ought to say." Yet this word is used by the Redeemer in explaining the object for which he came into the world: Matt. xx. 28: "Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for [____] many;" that is, his life was a ransom--______--in the place of the many. There is no word in the Greek language which would more naturally convey the idea of a substitution than this. There is none which a writer intending to express the thought that one did any thing in the place of another, would more naturally employ. It may be added that, if it was not the purpose of the Saviour to convey this idea, it is difficult to account for the fact that a word should have been used which would be so likely to deceive the world as to the true intent and object of his coming. Beyond all doubt, he used a word in the language which he employed (probably the Syro-Chaldaic) whose natural and proper signification would be expressed by the Greek word ____, (anti,) instead of, in the place of.
Another Greek word which conveys the same idea of substitution is ____, (hyper.) The word conveys the general idea of protection, care, benefit, favour, for, in behalf of, for the sake of; properly, as if bending over (____) a person or thing, and thus warding off what might fall upon it and harm it. (Rob. Lex.) Hence it comes to be used after words which imply the suffering of evil or death for, or in behalf of, any one; and it is in this sense that it is employed in reference to the death of Christ. The general sense of doing any thing in behalf of, for the sake of, may be seen in the following passages: John xvii. 19; Acts xxi. 26; II Cor. iii. 8; Col. i. 7, iv. 12; Heb. vi. 20, xiii. 17. The particular idea as applicable to the work of the Redeemer, in the sense that his death was in behalf of or for us, that is, was so substituted as to avert the curse that was descending on us,_may be seen in the following passages: Luke xxii. 19: "This is my body which is given for (____) you." Luke xxii. 20: "This cup is the new testament in my blood which is shed for(____) you." John vi. 51: "The bread which I will give is my flesh, which I will give for [____] the life of the world." John x. 11: "The good shepherd giveth his life for [____] the sheep." John x. 15: "I lay down my life for [____] the sheep." John xv. 13: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for [____] his friends." Still more explicitly the idea occurs in the following language:"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for [____] the ungodly." Rom. v. 6. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for [____] us." Rom. v. 8. "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for [____] us all." Rom. viii. 32. "Destroy not him with thy meat for [____] whom Christ died." Rom. xiv. 15. So also in I Cor. i. 13: "Was Paul crucified for [____] you?" I Cor. v. 7: "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for [____] us." I Cor. xv. 3: "I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for [____] our sins." II Cor. v. 14, 15: "We thus judge that if one died for [____] all, then were all dead; and that he died for [____] all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again." II Cor. v. 21: "He hath made him to be sin for [____] us, who knew no sin." Gal. i. 4: "Who gave himself for [____] our sins." Gal. ii. 20: "Who gave himself for [____] me." Gal. iii. 13: "Being made a curse for [____] us." Eph. v. 2: "Christ hath loved us, and given himself for [____] us." Eph. v. 25: "Christ loved the church, and gave himself for [____] it." I Thess. v. 10: "Who died for [____] us." I Tim. ii. 6: "Who gave himself a ransom for [____] all." Titus ii. 14: "Who gave himself for [____] us." Heb. ii. 9: "That he by the grace of God should taste death for [____] every man." I Peter ii. 21: "Because Christ also suffered for [____] us." I Peter iii. 18: "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for [____] the unjust." I Peter iv. 1: "Forasmuch, then, as Christ hath suffered for [____] us in the flesh." I John iii. 16: "Because be laid down his life for [____] us."
These passages undoubtedly express the idea of substitution. The language is such as a Greek would use if he wished to convey that idea. He could find no better terms in his own copious language to express that thought; and if this language does not convey the idea, then it is impossible to express so plain a thought in human language. Those who believe the doctrine of substitution, or the doctrine that Christ died in the place of sinners, have no plainer words by which to express their belief than those which are employed in these passages of the New Testament; and why should it not be supposed that language in the Bible equally explicit and apparently unambiguous--language which men now themselves employ as best adapted to convey their meaning--should express, as it seems to, the same idea? Is it impossible for God to convey so plain a thought to mankind as that He whom he sent into the world died as a substitute for sinners, or that his death was in their stead? And, if he meant to do this, could even he find human language which would convey the doctrine more clearly? And would he employ language commonly used to denote the idea of substitution, unless that was the true doctrine? Would he use language which would deceive the great mass of those for whom the Bible was given? Could we honour a God who would do this? and could we have faith in a book claiming to be a revelation where language was thus employed?
III. The third point necessary to be established is, that the sufferings of the Redeemer were substituted sufferings, or that they were not the real and literal penalty of the law. This differs from the point which has just been considered. That was, that he himself was a substitute, or that he took the place of sinners and died in their stead; that is, it was not the person who had violated the law who suffered, but another in his place. The point now to be established is, that the sufferings themselves were substituted sufferings, or that they were not the real and literal penalty of the law, but were in the place of that penalty and were designed to answer the same end.
In a previous chapter I have endeavoured to show that it does not enter into a just view of the atonement that he who made it should endure the same sufferings as the guilty for whom he died, or that he should bear the same amount of suffering; or, in other words, that he should endure the literal penalty of the law. The question was then argued on general grounds, without any particular reference to the Scriptures. The inquiry now is, whether the Bible teaches that Christ endured the real and literal penalty of the law, or whether the doctrine of the Bible is that his sufferings were substituted sufferings, as well as that he himself was a substituted person.
This question I shall endeavour to answer by showing, first, that in the treatment of the Redeemer, God regarded him as righteous and declared him to be righteous; second, that the statements in the Bible do not imply that he endured the penalty of the law; and, third, that the doctrine of the Bible is that his sufferings were substituted sufferings.
(1.) In the Divine treatment of the Redeemer, God regarded him as righteous and declared him to be righteous. There is no intimation that he was in any sense, either personally or by implication, regarded as undeserving or sinful; that, on any account, he deserved the sufferings which came upon him; that any affliction came upon him which, by a fair interpretation, could be construed as implying that he was not at that very moment the object in the highest degree of the Divine favour. In other words, he is never spoken of as in any sense of the term guilty; nor was there any act of God towards him which was not susceptible of an explanation on the supposition that he was perfectly holy and was at that moment the object of God's highest love.
This point is so plain in the New Testament that it is scarcely necessary to attempt to demonstrate it; but it is important to remark how carefully it is stated, and how constantly the idea is held up to the mind, as if it was supposed that at some time in the future history of the Church, a view of the atonement would be held which would be based on the idea that the Redeemer so took the sins of men upon him that it would be right to speak of him as guilty, or that such views of the imputation of sin would be held that the fair interpretation of those views would be that there was a transfer of guilt to him, and that it would be proper to speak of him as a sinner, as suffering 'justly', as so exactly in the place of sinners that he could properly be spoken of in the same language which would be applied to them. Such language has been used, and such views have been entertained; and it was apparently in anticipation of the fact that such views would be held and such language employed that so much care was taken so to state the fact of his perfect innocence that the best security should be provided against such an abuse of the doctrine of the atonement. As an illustration of the views which it was foreseen would be held, and is showing the propriety of the Divine caution on the subject, the following language of the great Reformer, Luther, may be referred to. Nothing but the importance of the point now before us will justify me even in placing this language before the eyes of my readers. "And this," says Luther, "no doubt all the prophets did foresee in spirit, that Christ should become the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, rebel, blasphemer, THAT EVER WAS OR COULD BE IN THE WORLD. For he, being made a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, is not now an innocent person and without sins; is not now the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary; but a sinner which hath and carrieth the sin of Paul, who was a blasphemer, an oppressor, and a persecutor; of Peter, which denied Christ; of David, which was an adulterer, a murderer, and caused the Gentiles to blaspheme the name of the Lord; and, briefly, which hath and beareth all the sins of all men in his body: not that he himself committed them, but for that he received them, being committed or done of us, and laid them upon his own body, that he might make satisfaction for them with his own blood. Therefore, this general sentence of Moses comprehendeth him also, (albeit in his own person he was innocent,) because it found him amongst sinners and transgressors; like as the magistrate taketh him for a thief, and punisheth him, whom he findeth among other thieves and transgressors, though he never committed any thing worthy of death. When the law, therefore, found him among thieves, it condemned and killed him as a thief." "If thou wilt deny him to be a sinner and accursed, deny also that he was crucified and was dead." "But if it be not absurd to confess and believe that Christ was crucified between two thieves, then it is not absurd to say that he was ACCURSED, AND OF ALL SINNERS THE GREATEST." "God, our most merciful Father, sent his only Son into the world, and laid upon him all the sins of all men, saying, Be thou Peter, that denier; Paul, that persecutor, blasphemer, and cruel oppressor; David, that adulterer; that sinner which did eat the apple in Paradise; that thief which hanged upon the cross; and, briefly, be thou the person which hath committed all the sins of all men. See, therefore, that thou pay and satisfy for them."
On this point, however, the teachings of the New Testament are plain and unequivocal. I Peter ii. 22: "Who did no sin; neither was guile found in his mouth." Heb. iv. 15: "But was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Heb. vii. 26: "Who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." I Peter iii. 18: "For Christ also hath once suffered for sin, the just for the unjust." Isa. liii. 9: "Because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth." Isa. liii. 11: "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many." Matt. ii. 17: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,"--________,--where the form of the word (the aorist) shows that the affirmation that God was 'well pleased' with him had no reference to any particular time, but pertained to all times. He was always well pleased with him.
In the nature of the case, also, it cannot be doubted that the character of Christ was always well pleasing to God. In his undertaking the work of redemption; in his manifested character on earth; in his teachings; in the spirit with which he bore his trials; in his readiness to meet death, and in the manner in which he actually met it; in the offers of salvation which he made to mankind on the ground of the sacrifice which he made for human guilt, no one who believes in the Saviour at all can doubt that he was in all respects pleasing to God. Whatever were the sufferings which were brought upon him, they were not of the nature of punishment for his own offenses; whatever was the reason why he was left to darkness and gloom on the cross, it was not because he had incurred for himself the wrath of God. In the very midst of those sufferings he was performing a work which, of all the works ever performed on the earth, was most acceptable to a pure and holy God.
(2.) The fair teachings of the Bible do not imply that he endured the penalty of the law.
If an attempt were made to show that he did endure the literal penalty of the law, reliance would be placed on such texts as the following: Isa. liii: "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." II Cor. v. 21: "For be hath made him to be sin for us." Gal. iii. 13: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law. being made a curse for us." I Peter ii. 24: "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." Isa. liii. 12: "He bare the sin of many."
These passages are so far similar that the same general remarks may be made in regard to them all. That they prove that Christ died for the sins of men; that he took the place of sinners; that his death was a sacrifice; that he made a true atonement for human guilt, are points fully established by them: at least, between those who hold the doctrine defended in this treatise, and those who maintain that Christ endured the literal penalty of the law, there will be, in these respects, no difference of opinion.
In respect, however, to the question whether they teach that he endured the literal penalty of the law, the following observations may be made.
(a) They are fairly susceptible of an interpretation in accordance with the belief that he did not endure the literal penalty of the law. It is incumbent on those who hold that he did endure the literal penalty of the law to show, not merely that these passages might be so construed as to teach that doctrine, but that they are susceptible of no other interpretation. If they taught that there was a transfer of moral character or of guilt in the proper sense of the term, or if that doctrine was fairly proved by any other passages of the Bible, then it would be necessary to admit that this would be the fair interpretation of these passages. The question is, whether they necessarily imply this. A few remarks on these passages will show that this interpretation is not required, but that they are susceptible of another explanation.
The passage in II Cor. v. 21--"He hath made him to be sin for us"--cannot be intended to be literally true. Even those who maintain that he endured the penalty of the law cannot hold, and do not profess to hold, that it was literally true that he was made to be sin. In no proper sense can it be true that he was made to be a sinner; for this would be contrary to the teaching of the passages just quoted, that he 'knew no sin,' that he was 'holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners,' and that he 'died the just for the unjust.' We must therefore look for some other interpretation than the literal one; and that is found in the doctrine that the word here rendered sin, in accordance with Hebrew usage, is employed in the sense of sin-offering. Compare Hos. iv. 8; Ezek. xliii. 22, 25, xliv. 29, xlv. 22, 23, 25; Lev. vi. 18, 23.
A similar passage occurs in Galatians iii. 13: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." The word here used, and rendered curse,--______,--means properly, as with us, cursing, malediction, execration, a devoting or dooming to destruction. It occurs in the New Testament in the following places: Col. iii. 10, 13, rendered curse; Heb. vi. 8, James iii. 10, rendered cursing; and II Peter ii. 14, rendered cursed. It conveys the idea of being given over to destruction or left without those influences which would protect and save, as a land that is given over to the curse of sterility or barrenness. Applied to a lost sinner, it would mean that all saving influences were withdrawn and that he was given over to the malediction of God. But what is its meaning as applied to the Redeemer in the passage now before us? (a.) It cannot mean that he was made a curse in the sense that his work and character were displeasing to God; for, as we have seen, just the contrary doctrine is everywhere taught in the New Testament. (b.) It cannot mean that he was the object of the Divine displeasure, and was therefore abandoned by him to deserved destruction. (c.) It cannot be employed as denoting that he was in any sense ill deserving or blameworthy; for this is equally contrary to the teachings of the Bible. (d.) It cannot mean that he was guilty in the usual and proper meaning of the word, and that therefore he was punished; for this would not be true. (e.) It cannot mean that he bore the literal penalty of the law; for, as we have seen, there are parts of that penalty--remorse of conscience, and eternity of suffering--which he did not, and could not, bear. (f.) It cannot mean that he was sinful, or a sinner, in any sense; for this is equally contrary to all the teachings of the Bible in regard to his character. (g.) There is but one other conceivable meaning that can be attached to the passage, and that is that, though innocent, he was treated in his death AS IF he had been guilty; that is, he was put to death AS IF he had personally deserved it. That this is the meaning is implied in the explanation which the apostle himself gives of his own language: "being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." He was suspended on a cross, as if he had been a malefactor. He was numbered with malefactors; he was crucified between them; he was given up by God and man to death as if he had himself been such a malefactor. In other words, he was put to death in the same manner as he would have been if he had been personally guilty of the violation of the law. Had he been a thief or murderer, had he committed the grossest and blackest crimes, this would have been the punishment to which he would have been subjected. He consented to die in the same manner as the vilest malefactor, in order that by his substituted sorrows he might save those who were personally guilty. The idea which makes the atonement so wonderful--the idea which makes it an atonement at all--is, that innocence was treated as if it were guilt; that the most pure and holy and benevolent being on earth was treated AS IF he had been the most vile and ill deserving. As the ideas above referred to exhaust all the conceivable meanings of the passage before us, the demonstration seems to be complete that it cannot mean that the Redeemer was made a literal curse, or that he endured the literal penalty of the law.
(b.) Those passages are not only susceptible of another interpretation than that Christ endured the penalty of the law, but they must have such an interpretation.
1. If this were not so, then it would be proper to speak of Christ, as Luther did, as a 'sinner' and as the 'greatest of sinners.' If the passages teach that he was made literally 'sin,' that he was made literally a 'curse,' that he literally bore the 'iniquity' of men, then the language of Luther was proper language, for the views which he expressed are but the fair application of such an interpretation. For if he was 'sin,' and a 'curse,' and 'bore iniquity' in a literal sense, then no reason can be given why the language which properly denotes those who are sinners should not be applied to him as was done by Luther. In fact, Luther, from his boldness and consistency, did what others holding the same views are afraid to do. He, shrank from nothing: nothing in danger; nothing in regard to his own reputation; nothing in the terms which he applied to others who differed from him; and nothing in the words to be employed in expressing what he believed to be the true teaching of the word of God. That men holding the views of a literal imputation of sin to the Redeemer, and the doctrine that he endured the literal penalty of the law, do not now use that language, is to be traced to the heart, and not to the head, to their feelings, and not to their logic. Their piety revolts at the conclusions to which they would fairly be conducted by their premises. Luther's did not.
2. It would follow, if these passages were not susceptible of such an interpretation as that above suggested, that there was a real transfer of sin to the Redeemer. If it was literally true that he was made 'sin,' that he was a 'curse' for us, that he bore 'iniquity,' then it would follow that there was a transfer of criminality to him, that he became so identified with sinners for whom he died that he was properly and justly regarded as a sinner. It would follow that he was not treated as if he had been a sinner, but that to all intents and purposes he was regarded and treated As a sinner, or as deserving all that came upon him. It is not easy to see how this conclusion could be avoided, or how we could escape the absurdity of holding in words--what no man can really believe in fact--that a transfer of moral character actually took place.
3. It would follow, further, that those for whom he died could not themselves be held and regarded as guilty. If there has been a transfer of their guilt, it is no longer their own, and they cannot be responsible. Two persons cannot be held responsible for the same offence. If a debt has been paid by a friend, it cannot be demanded of him who originally contracted it. If one could be substituted in the place of another in a penitentiary, and serve out the term of punishment assigned to the original offender, the offender could not be again imprisoned for the crime. If a man who is 'drafted' for military service procures a substitute who is accepted, he cannot be made to serve if the substitute dies of disease or is killed in battle. And so, if Christ was literally made 'sin' and a 'curse;' if he took literally upon himself the sins of men and paid the penalty of the law; if there was a real transfer of the whole matter to him, then it would follow that those whose place he took could no longer be held to be guilty.
4. With equal clearness it would follow that they could not be required to repent of the sin which they had committed. If the whole matter is transferred and cancelled, then it is clear that there can be no reason why they should repent, or, indeed, why there should be any repentance in the case. Repentance is not a thing required by law, for no law makes provision for it; and if all the penalty due to the sin has been borne, then there is no occasion for it and there would be no propriety in it. At all events, if there was a necessity for repentance in any view of the matter, the demand would be on the substitute, since he has undertaken to meet all the demands of justice in the case.
5. It would follow that he who became the substitute for the sins of men must be conscious of guilt himself and feel the remorse that springs from crime. Remorse and consciousness of guilt go with guilt itself, and are indissolubly connected with it; and if there has been a transfer of guilt, then there must also be a transfer of the consciousness of guilt and of the feeling of remorse, for these are parts of the penalty of the law.
6. On the whole, therefore, according to this view, there would be utter confusion in all our notions of justice and of right. Every thing would be unsettled. All that has been regarded as fixed and determined in the minds of men in respect to the impossibility of transferring moral character; to the language properly applicable to guilt and innocence; to the connection between a personal offence and repentance, between guilt and the consciousness of guilt, and between guilt and remorse, would be utterly confounded. All the lines which God, in our very nature, has drawn between guilt and innocence, and which are so essential in the administration of justice, would be obliterated; and, if these principles were universally adopted, all government in a family, in a state, or in the universe at large, would come to an end; for a just government cannot be administered except it be an admitted principle that moral character cannot be transferred; that ill desert cannot be made over to another; that repentance can be properly required only of the offender himself; and that an appeal may be made to the consciousness of guilt and to the inflictions of remorse, in recovering offenders and inducing them to obey law.
IV. This substitution consisted essentially in the blood of the Redeemer; that is, in the sacrifice of his life.
(1.) The doctrine of the New Testament on this point is unequivocal. Luke xxii. 20: "This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you." Col. i. 20: "Having made peace through the blood of his cross." Heb. ix. 12: "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." Heb. x. 19: "Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus." I Peter i. 2: "Elect . . . unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." I John i. 7: "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." Rev. v. 9: "Thou hast redeemed us unto God by thy blood." Rev. vii. 14: "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white [pure] in the blood of the Lamb." Eph. ii. 13: "Ye, who sometime were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ." I Peter i. 18, 19: "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ." Acts xx. 28: "Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." Rom. iii. 25: "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood." Eph. i. 7: "We have redemption through his blood." See also Col. i. 14; Heb. ix. 12, xiii. 12; Matt. xiv. 24.
(2.) The doctrine of the Hebrews was, that the blood is the seat of life, or that the life is in the blood; and hence to shed blood became synonymous with taking life. Gen. ix. 6: "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." Lev. xvii. 11: "The life of the flesh is in the blood." Gen. ix. 4: "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat." Compare also Lev. xix. 26; Deut. xii. 23; I Sam. xiv. 34. This was also the opinion of the ancient Parsees and Hindoos. Homer also often speaks of blood as the seat of life, as in the expression _________ _______, or purple death. And Virgil thus speaks of purple life:
"Purpuream vomit ille animam."--Æneid, ix. 349.
Empedocles and Critias, among the Greek philosophers, also embraced this opinion. Not a few, also, among the most eminent modern physiologists have embraced the same doctrine. Harvey, to whom we are indebted for a knowledge of the true doctrine of the circulation of the blood, fully believed it. Hoffman and Huxham believed it. Dr. John Hunter fully adopted the belief, and sustained it by a great variety of considerations. (See Good's Book of Nature, pp. 102-108, ed. New York, 1828.) This was undoubtedly the doctrine of the Hebrews; and hence with them "to shed blood" was a phrase signifying to kill. Hence the efficacy of sacrifices was supposed to consist in the blood--that is, in the life--of the victim.
(3.) It followed from this view, that the Hebrews spoke indifferently of shedding blood or taking life. Hence in the New Testament our redemption is indifferently said to be by the blood of the Redeemer shed for us, or by his life given for us. I John iii. 16: "Hereby perceive we the love [of God], because he laid down his life for us." John x. 15: "I lay down my life for the sheep." Matt. xx. 28: "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." John x. 11: "The good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep."
The plain doctrine of the New Testament, therefore, is, that the blood of Christ--that is, that the giving of his life--was the means of making the atonement, or of securing reconciliation between man and his Maker. In other words, his life was regarded as a sacrifice in the place of sinners, by means of which the penalty of the law which man had incurred might be averted from him. The voluntary death of the Redeemer in the place of man had such an efficacy that man, on account of that, might be saved from the punishment which he had deserved, and treated as if he had not sinned. This is the doctrine of the atonement.
V. The other point to be illustrated, in order to the completeness of the argument, is, that the avails of the suffering and death of the Redeemer may become ours, or may be the proper ground of our salvation; that is, they may constitute a public and sufficient reason why God should treat a sinner as if he were righteous.
In illustration and proof of this, the following remarks may be made.
(I.) Nothing is more common than that one may so avail himself of what another has suffered or done as to secure the same result as if he had himself done or suffered it. That is, on account of the merit of another, or the claim to public confidence or gratitude of another, he may be treated as if that merit and that claim were his own. By natural or constituted relationship, or by express permission, or by the regular course of events under the laws of Divine Providence, we are placed on an elevation as favourable as if we had ourselves been the actors or sufferers, or as if the claim to confidence and gratitude were the fruit of our own virtues or public services. There is, indeed, in such a case no transfer of moral character. There is no confounding of identity. There is no annihilation of individuality. There is no actual detaching the real merit, the real credit, from one, and attributing it to another. There is no mistake in supposing for a moment that the merit is ours, and there is no injustice in so confounding persons and facts as to withhold the real praise from him to whom it is due. There is merely a position gained, an advantage realized, a treatment secured, as if the merit were ours, or as if the service had been rendered by us.
A young man commences business. He has, as yet, no capital of his own, no public character, no credit. But he has a father or a friend who has a name, and who has the deserved confidence of the community. As an eminent merchant, he has secured that confidence by a long life of integrity. He is known to be a sufficient security for any amount of capital that the young man may need, and the young man is permitted to use his name in procuring that capital from a bank; and, in addition to this, he enters on life with the warm and full commendation of his father or friend. In this case, the reputation, the character, the standing, of him whose name he is permitted to use, become available to him in the outset of life in the same manner and to the same extent as if they were his own. It is true that he may forfeit this confidence by misconduct, and just as true is it that he might do this if it were founded on his own character; but until such an act occurs he may avail himself of the name of another as if this claim to confidence were his own.
From this well-understood law society derives many advantages. The arrangement binds a community together. It aids those who are starting on life. It gives increased value to a character for integrity that it may thus be made available for the good of others. It multiplies and diffuses the benefits of a well-earned reputation, and furnishes a stimulus for securing such a reputation. But for this, it would be difficult to start on life; but for this it would be impossible to conduct the affairs of business with safety. The principle lies at the foundation of all the commercial transactions of the world, and is one that would be found to enter into nearly all the arrangements of life.
And this is as true of the effect of suffering as it is of integrity and virtue. We avail ourselves of the benefit of the sufferings of others as if those sufferings had been our own. At every moment of our lives we are enjoying the avails of the sacrifices and self--denials of those who have gone before, as really, and, so far as appears, to the same extent, as if they had been our own.
This is true in regard to the privations, perils, and toils of patriots. We enjoy the avails of those privations, perils, and toils as really as if they had been our own, and as really as the patriots who bled would have done had their lives been lengthened out to our times. Except in the honour of the achievements, in the fame which is the result of their personal valour, in the grateful remembrance which they now receive for their services to their country, it does not appear that they would have enjoyed any more advantages from their valour and their triumphs than we do. Their deeds are not) indeed, imputed to us. They are never reckoned as in any sense ours. There is no transfer of character or of honour. There is no confounding of identity. There is no confusion in the estimate which is formed in regard to meritorious services. But in respect to the results we are regarded and treated as if all that valour, self-sacrifice, peril, and skill in battle had been ours.
The same thing is also true in respect to the sufferings of martyrs. We enjoy the avails of all those sufferings as though they had been our own. It is true that we have not been laid on the rack; that we have not been imprisoned, scourged, stoned; that we have not been bound to a stake or stretched on a cross; that we have not been thrown to wild beasts in the amphitheatre; and it is true also that in the estimate of moral character and real worth there is no confusion of character, no transfer of moral worth; but in regard to all that is valuable in the religion for which they suffered, we enjoy the avails of their sufferings as really as they would themselves have done had their lives been prolonged to the present hour. It is impossible to conceive how the martyrs themselves could have enjoyed it more in this respect than we are permitted to do; or how, if we had been ourselves the sufferers, we could have been more benefited than we are now.
The principle, therefore, that we may avail ourselves of the sufferings and trials of others for our own benefit, or may be treated as if those sufferings and trials were our own, enters into the very structure of all social life. It is difficult to see why, under a law that is so universal in reference to our fellowmen, it may not also be a principle in the Divine administration in reference to the toils and sufferings of the Redeemer.
(2.) The principle of 'supererogation,' or of doing more than is required by the exact demands of law, and, therefore, of doing that which may be made available to others, is one that undoubtedly enters into all just notions of the atonement; and it is proper to inquire whether this is a principle that is found anywhere in human society or in the arrangements of Providence. It cannot be doubted that it is an elementary idea in the work of Christ that his whole work was voluntary; that what he did was done wholly on the account of others; that he was not himself bound, by any claims of law or justice, to undertake the work which He performed, or to endure the sorrows connected with it; and that, therefore, the avails of his work may become the ground of acceptance of those who have no merit of their own, and who are unable to repair the evils of a violated law. It is implied in the work of the atonement that the Redeemer could do, and did do, more than was demanded of him by any claim of law or justice; and that the avails of what he did may and do become ours.
The inquiry now is, whether this principle is one that is admissible, and whether the Scriptures teach that this is a recognised principle in the work of redemption.
(a.) The principle is recognised among men. It exists in the case of service rendered to another. Even in the worst form of service among men--that of slavery--this occurs. Nothing is more common than to assign a task to a slave, a task which may fall far short of the entire occupancy of his time; and it is very conceivable that a slave may perform more than the assigned task, or may accomplish more for his master than was demanded of him. Though from the conditions of slavery, in which a slave is always regarded as not his own, but as the property of his master, as having no right to his own time, to the avails of his own labour, to his own services, or to property of any kind, he could claim nothing as his own, yet, in fact, it may occur that he may have a portion of time not demanded in the service of his master, and that the avails of that may be appropriated as his own. This is strictly a work of supererogation; and the avails of that work may be appropriated, at his pleasure, to the benefit of any other whom he chooses to designate. It may go to relieve a fellow-servant not favoured as he is; or to purchase the freedom of his own wife and children, or the freedom of a friend, or his own freedom. Beyond all the actual demands on himself, it may be set over to such an account as he shall designate, and may be appropriated to the good of others.
The same is true of one who is employed as a day-labourer, or by the month, or on a yearly salary. There may be a service in each case which can be rendered to his employer beyond any thing expressly demanded in the contract, and for which he may properly expect a reward. Beyond his immediate occupation, he may have skill in some other department that his employer may avail himself of, and for which he has a right to expect an additional reward. A day-labourer may be a good accountant, and his service in that respect might be of great value to his employer, though that employer, from the terms of the contract which binds him only to labour on his farm, in his machine-shop, or his tannery, has no claim on this; or, in his unoccupied moments, he may do much to embellish a farm, or to strike out some improvement in the art or handicraft--work of his employer that shall be of great advantage to him. As this did not enter into the terms of the contract, express or implied, the avails of it may properly be regarded as his own, and he will have a right to appropriate those avails, if he pleases, to any one whom he chooses. He may make use of all of those avails to instruct the ignorant; to feed the hungry; to clothe the naked; to ransom the captive, or to send the gospel to a perishing world.
(b.) We may suppose a case in advance of this, where there is no obligation of any kind, and where all the avails of a service may be appropriated to the benefit of others. A man who has ample means of support, and on whom, in that particular case, there may rest no obligation to serve his country as a soldier, may be willing to take the place of a poor man, with a large family dependent on him, who has been 'drafted' into the service. In this case he may not only relieve the poor man and suffer him to remain with his family, but he may appropriate all that shall result from the 'pay' and 'rations' of the soldier, as well as the whole of his portion of the spoils of victory, to that family, or to any other, as he shall choose. Though bound to serve his country when called on, yet in this particular case the whole work is voluntary, and is in the strictest sense a work of supererogation; that is, it is beyond what is demanded of him by any claim of justice or of law. In the position which he occupied, he was, indeed, bound to serve his country; but he has assumed a voluntary position, to which he was not bound, and the entire fruit of that substitution of himself and his service for another may go to the benefit of any whom he may choose.
The principle of supererogation, therefore, is one that is universally recognised in the world. The error in the Roman Catholic communion in regard to the merits of the saints, and the work of supererogation, is not in the abstract principle: it is in supposing that man may render more to God than is demanded of him; that in the service which he renders to his Maker he can go beyond the demands of the law; that he can himself originate a service to which he was not bound by any prior obligation; and that this may be garnered up, and placed in the hands of a priesthood, to be disbursed at their pleasure for the benefit of others. The idea is, that there may be some service of religion which is not demanded on the part of God; some self-sacrifice, some merit of fasting, of prayer, of pilgrimage, of seclusion from the world, of asceticism, which is covered by no command of God, and which may, therefore, be an accumulated treasure in the Church for the good of others. The doctrine supposes that there is a limited amount of service required by God, like that in a contract with a hired servant,and that all beyond that may go to the benefit of him who 'merits' it, or may be a part of a grand treasure to be placed in the hands of a priesthood, and to be appropriated, for a price, to those who are cursed with the consciousness of guilt, or who have a deficiency of merit of their own. The law of God, however, requires that a man shall love his Maker with 'all his heart, and all his soul, and all his mind, and all his strength;' that all his time and influence shall be given to God. The Divine requirement covers all that it is possible for man to do; and consequently there can be nothing of a voluntary nature on the part of man, or that is originated by him, which can be regarded as a work of 'supererogation.' If a thing is right and proper in religion, it is that which has been prescribed by God, and which, consequently, cannot be of the nature of superabundant merit capable of being transferred to another. If that which is supposed to constitute such abundant merit be uncommanded, or be of man's originating, it call be no part of true religion, and call constitute no ground of merit.
An atonement made by man, therefore, would be impossible; for no man could do more in the cause of religion than he is required to do by the law of God. No man has any time that is not covered by the law; any talent, skill, or wisdom, that is not demanded in the service of God; any influence that God does not require should be devoted to his service. If man performs any thing that is uncommanded and unrequired, it must be by the neglect of some duty that is demanded, or by the consumption of time that God does require to be devoted to himself, and therefore, whatever appearance of merit there may be in the case, it is in fact of the nature of sin. Man cannot substitute any thing in the place of that which his Creator has commanded; he cannot originate any thing of his own which will have higher merit than that which God requires.
(c.) These remarks, however, do not apply to the work of the Redeemer. His is the only case which has ever occurred, or which could occur, where a service could be rendered which was not required by a fair application of the law of God, and where, therefore, there could be such an accumulation of merit, or such a work performed, that it could be made available to others as if it were their own. This whole work lay beyond the proper range and the proper demands of the law; and the avails of the work, therefore, could become the foundation of pardon and hope to others.
1. God was not bound to provide a Saviour. The whole work, on his part, was a work of benevolence. No claim of justice entered into it. By no fair construction of the work of redemption could it be inferred that God regarded the previous arrangements in regard to man as unjust, harsh, or severe; and by no consideration of justice or of law could he be brought under obligation to provide a Saviour for men. It is impossible to conceive that God would perform an act the fair interpretation of which would be that he could properly be regarded by his creatures as in the wrong, or as bound to make amends for the errors of the past. Man could at no time have approached the throne of his Maker and urged a plea of justice that he should repair the evils of the system under which the race was originally made, or by which he could have urged that the primitive arrangement was so defective in wisdom or benevolence that he was under obligation to repair it. An atonement could never have been based, directly or by implication, on an acknowledgment on the part of the Deity that the arrangement which made it necessary was unwise or unjust.
2. It is equally true that the Son of God was bound by no law to become incarnate and to undertake the work of redemption. We cannot conceive that God would require an innocent being to suffer in the place of the guilty; and if the Son of God was equal with the Father, or was in the true and proper sense of the term Divine, then there was no law which could bind him to undertake the work of the atonement, or to place himself in a position where he would be under law, either to obey it, or to suffer its penalties. There are laws of the Divine nature which will, of course, be obeyed by God himself; there are principles of eternal justice to which the Divine arrangements will be conformed; but none of those laws or principles go to the extent of a demand that God should place himself in a position where he would be under those laws of his own enacting which were designed for his creatures, or where he could be under obligation to meet the consequences which must result from the violation of those laws. The Son of God, therefore, could never be bound by justice to assume the form of man, to place himself under law, to endure any of the sufferings connected with the violation of law, or to perform the work which the law properly requires of man. Whatever he did in that respect was beyond the range of any requirements, and must have been a pure work of benevolence.
3. The work of the Saviour was in the place of others, and was for others. It was in no respect on his own account. As a Divine being, it was not necessary for him to undertake this work. He was perfect in glory and blessedness in the bosom of the Father. There was not an act which he performed as a man to which he was bound by any original obligation; there was not a pang which he endured which could have been inflicted as an act of justice; there was not a trial or temptation to which he was exposed from which he might not have been exempt. Though when a man, and as a man, it was true that every consideration bound him to be holy, to be obedient to the law of God, and to be patient in his trials, yet the whole arrangement on his part was voluntary, and was designed for the benefit of others. He who should voluntarily assume a position by which he could render a service in behalf of others would indeed be bound to perform all the duties usually incident to that condition; but every thing that he did or suffered, however it might illustrate his own character, would be properly regarded as done or suffered for the benefit of others. Thus it was with the Son of God. His was properly a work which could not have been claimed as a matter of justice, and might all be considered as a work of supererogation.
4. It follows, therefore, that the avails of that work may become ours. We have seen that it was in our stead, or on our account; and it may, therefore, be ours. Incapable, indeed, of transfer, as all moral character must be; true as it is and will always be that the work of the atonement was made by him and not by us; and certain as it is that his merit can never be reckoned as really our own, for God will always 'reckon' or estimate things as they are, yet it is also true that we may be treated as if that merit were our own, and that we may avail ourselves of all that Christ has done in honouring the law, and meeting its claims, and enduring such sorrows as would be a proper expression of the Divine estimate of the value of the law and the evils of disobedience, as though all this had been done and suffered by ourselves. This is, if I understand it, the true doctrine of 'imputation;' not that there is any transfer of moral character from us to the Redeemer, or from him to us, and not that God literally reckons or imputes our sins to him as his, or his righteousness to us as ours, but that his work may be estimated as performed in the place and on the account of sinful men, and that in virtue of that we may be regarded and treated as if it had been performed by ourselves. On that account we may be justified and saved; for he has done more to honour the law than we should have done by our own obedience; he has done more to show the evil of a violation of law by his voluntary sufferings than we should have done if the penalty had been inflicted on us; and he has become the 'surety' for us, the public pledge that no evil shall result to the universe if we are treated forever as if we had not sinned. This is the meaning of the Scriptures where it is said, "He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." Isaiah liii. 5.
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