For by one offering he hath perfected them that are sanctified. Hebrews x, 14
Since our article in February issue upon the spiritual birth we have felt impressed to make some reference to the atonement of Christ, especially as we have recalled that the charge was frequently made during the contests of former years upon this subject, that to maintain the testimony, "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit," is to deny the salvation of the sinner.
In any consideration of this subject it must be borne in mind that the eternal salvation of the sinner is not predicated upon a birth, but upon the blood and righteousness of Christ.
The birth does not change the sinner's nature or condition so far as he being involved in; and under the curse of the law of sin and death, is concerned. Before the civil war a child born of parents who were slaves, resulted in the child being a slave; if the parents were free the child was free. During the Johnstown flood a woman on a raft upon the rushing waters gave birth to a child; the dangerous character of the surroundings imperilled the child after the birth as before. It is written that we are conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity, Psalms Li, 5: and so far as our birth in nature is concerned, that we "are estranged from the womb" speaking lies. Psalms Lviii, 3. All of this clearly shows that the birth of the flesh simply develops the pre-existing life without in any sense changing its nature; if conceived in sin, such a sinful life is in no way changed by its development in a birth.
It must be remembered also that there is a Divine order in the gospel system of salvation. It is called TRUTH from the fact that one part is true to another; the working of a perfect system. During the Beebe and Clark contest on this subject one of the preachers on the Clark side claimed that the birth, generation, and regeneration were terms used interchangeably to express the same thing: very erroneous indeed this position; for, each of these gospel terms have their gospel meaning. We can not place the birth where there is no generation; if there were no generation there could be no birth. Durand in his article upon this subject termed two questions considered: "1, The man who cannot see the kingdom of God except he be born again, is a sinner. 2. That the elect are sinners of Adam's race" showing his failure to understand his subject by putting the birth before the election (life). Life must certainly precede a birth.
Suppose in passing by a. field our reader should see a man plowing over the field helter-skelter fashion; first on one side then on the other; now in the middle, then crosswise, would not the desire come to inquire why this man could not lay off his field in regular rows, and plow it in order: so in the gospel system there is an order in the salvation of the sinner; and we desire, if the LORD will, to discuss this under the doctrine of the ATONEMENT.
This term occurs but once in the New, but frequently in the Old Testament; and can readily from its Scripture meaning be divided into three syllables: At-ONE-ment: For by ONE OFFERING." The common idea of salvation is that God beholding the sad plight into which the human family had brought themselves by sinning, sent his son, who volunteered to leave the mansions of bliss for the love he bore to dying sinners, and his desire to help fallen humanity, and die to make a way possible whereby through Christ's help the sinner might save himself.
First we wish distinctly to repudiate the notion of Christ as a volunteer in this atonement. Did it look like a volunteer when in anguish of soul in Gethsemane he cried; "O my father, if it he possible, let this cup pass from me;" and when after the resurrection he told his disciples; "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory." Do we find a volunteer in the typical offerings of this atonement, for instance the two goats (Leviticus xvi, 7-10) taken as the sin-offering of the congregations of Israel, one offered upon the holy altar or yet the "ram caught in a thicket" that Abraham offered instead of Isaac; it is acknowledged that Christ died to save sinners we inquire "how does this salvation become effectual?" It is not universal for "the wicked shall be turned into hell;" it cannot be based upon the work of the sinner for it is declared to be by grace. 2 Timothy 1, 9. hence as this salvation is not universal upon what principle does it reach some sinners and not others? We are told that Justice and Judgment are the habitation of his throne. Psa. Lxxxix 14. There would be no Justice in condemning an innocent man as a volunteer to die in the place of a guilty man condemned to die. There must be such a relationship existing between Christ and the sinner for whom he died, that his (Christ's) death paid the penalty of death demanded of the sinner; and this relationship or union must be not merely in name but actual and vital, as it is written; "For both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified are all of one." Hebrews ii, 11. Nor is this union based upon Christ partaking of the Adamic nature of his people for the testimony is that he partook of their nature (flesh and blood) because of the eternal life oneness between him and them. Hebrew ii, 14. Upon no other assumption could their redemption from the curse of the law be maintained, but from the fact: that because of this relationship Christ stood in their law place fulfilling its demands, not as a volunteer or substitute, but as "the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all."
Adam, "is the figure of him that was to come," and that Eve was "bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh," thus it is evident when she fell under the law there was that much of Adam under the law; and when these children; and if you inquire "What children?" we readily answer; "Behold," says the Redeemer, "I and the children which God hath given me;" carefully read Heb. ii, 14, and connections; and it will be seen that these are the children that partake of flesh and blood; not made up out of flesh and blood by being born again, but Partake as Christ himself partook of flesh and blood; and it is there shown that Christ did not thus partake of the flesh of his people by being born first of the flesh and then of the Spirit, but a body was prepared him; as it is for his children. Hebrews x, 5.
Consequently it follows as effect follows cause, that when these members of the body of Christ partook of flesh and blood there was that much of the body of Christ under the law; and this testimony from Hebrews informs us that he partook of their fleshly nature that "through death he (Christ) might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." Hebrews ii, 13-16. This brings us to our text;
"Far by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." In the daily offerings made under the Jewish law, there was but a continual remembrance of sin. It was not possible we are told "the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin." The blood of the offerings that daily streamed off those legal altars like the offering of Abel pointed to the atoning blood of Christ. It was essential that the atonement for sin should be of a higher character than the offerings under the law; that it should be a sinless offering; hence we find Christ the high priest of gospel grace brought forward "not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life;" "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." Hebrews vii, 16, 26.
Unlike the priest under the Aaronical priesthood whose offerings were "for the people, so also for himself to offer for sins," Christ comes free from sin, and by the shedding of his own blood forever cancels the debt against his people: he comes in their flesh (1. John iv, 4,) partakers of their nature: the law demands death as the wages of sin (Romans vi, 23,) he lays down his life; and because of this vital union they are one with him in death, as it is written, "For the love of Christ constraineth us: because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead." 2 Corinthians v, 14. And just as certain as they in eternal, vital union died with him and in him on the cross so sure did and shall they in vital oneness rise with him from the dead; his atoning blood forever canceling their sins.
"With him his members, on the tree,
Fulfilled the law's demands:
'Tis 'I in them, and they in me,'
For so the union stands.
"Since Jesus slept among the dead,
His saints have naught to fear;
For with their glorious, suffering head,
His members sojourn'd there."
"For by one offering he hath Perfected forever them that are sanctified." As the offerings under the law were but "a shadow of good things to come," and could never "make the corners there-unto perfect," Hebrews x, 1; they were but a continual remembrance of sin; and pointed to a more perfect offering. When the high priest under the law went into the holy place "to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year," Leviticus xvi, 34, he bore an ephod upon each shoulder upon which was engraven in ouches of gold the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; also a breast-plate over his heart similarly engraven in gold (Exodus xxviii, 6-43;) thus typifying him who was to come (Hebrews ix, 7, 8, 24,) who should bear the sins of his people, loved with an everlasting love (typified by the breast-plate over his heart) though involved in sin in their Adamic standing. Aarons offering failed to perfectly cancel but was simply a reminder of the trangressions of Israel, but the offering of Christ who his own sinless body received the stroke (Zechariah xiii,) 7, from the flaming sword of Divine Justice raised against his people forever frees them from the penalty of sin; and presents them perfect in his own spotless purity.
"For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." As before noticed the high priest made the atonement for Israel, the name of the twelve tribes were engraven upon his shoulders, and over his heart: this was an atonement for a certain class of people, so also was the atonement of Christ made for a certain class, "them that are sanctified," "sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called." Jude 1. We presume that no one with any conception of Scripture teaching will question the fact that the term sanctified in this connection has reference to the election or setting apart of the saints in Christ, as "chosen in him before the foundation of the world," Ephesians i, 4: "Sanctified in Christ Jesus," 1 Corinthians i, 2; "For both he that santifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one," Hebrews ii, 11: "That they all may he one; as thou, Father, art in me, and 1 in thee, that they also may be one in us:" John xvii, 21; "So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." Romans xii, 5.
This last clause of our text clearly expresses the characters for whom the atonement of Christ was made; it was for those who were chosen in him; "members of his body." Ephesians v, 30. it is folly to talk of a prospective choice; the choice or election was of an actually existing seed substance; sanctified or set apart to be developed by a birth; partake of flesh and blood, and thus in their Adamic life to come under the law; under the bondage of sin. As before stated when these members of his body were in their Adamic standing under the law, there was already that much of the body of Christ involved, hence he, Christ the head, followed them, by partaking of their nature. "For verily he took not on him the nature of angels: but he took on him the seed of Abraham," Hebrews ii, 16: was made "a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death," Hebrews ii, 9, that through death he might deliver "his people" (Matthew i, 21,) from the bondage of death. Christ was sanctified by the Father, "and sent into the world," John x, 36, evidently as "the first-born among many brethren," Romans ix, 29, and we are told that for this cause; because of this eternal, vital oneness, "he is not ashamed to call them brethren," as they partake of the same life that he has. Hebrews ii, 11. The elect were chosen (sanctified) in Christ not in Adam: and the election runs through the life in Christ: and absolutely not through the life which they receive from Adam, and the atonement of Christ was made for them in this dual character; and because of their standing in Adam; and in that condition they were involved in sin, "For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us; in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
"Much more then, being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 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." Romans v, 7-11.
The apostle uses the pronouns us, and we here referring to himself, and those at Rome, "beloved of God" (Romans i, 7,) assuredly confining his testimony to those who were loved in Christ "that the purpose of God according to election might stand." Romans ix, 11-13; and he makes it plain in this the only connection in the New Testament where the term atonement, is used, that this atonement was made for his elect people, the new creature in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians v, 17;) of which creation Christ is the first-born (Colossians i, 15,) to deliver them "from the bondage of corruption," (their bondage under the law of sin and death in their Adamic standing) "into the glorious liberty of the children of God." Romans viii, 21.
Now if inquiry is made under what particular point of doctrine the Adam sinner comes in the order of this Gospel system we readily have the answer in the connection of this last quotation from Romans; "we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." verse 23. The word body here evidently refers to all that comes from Adam in the complex and dual character of the children of the regeneration; and this outward man is the subject of adoption; not of birth; the man born of the flesh was the purchased possession; for which the redemption was made. Ephesians i, 14. .These children were sinners in their Adamic relation, and it was the life he received from Adam that Christ laid down; this was the life required to pay the penalty of their transgression. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John xv, 13. He had power, he tells us, to lay down his life, and to take it up again, and hence in this (his) ascension from the dead, Christ has abolished death in the behalf of his people, "and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel," 2 Timothy i, 10: and they in eternal, vital union or oneness with and in him are "made alive from the dead," Romans vi, 13, and are admonished; "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God." Colossians iii, 1.
We cannot separate the inward man (born of the Spirit) from the body (born of the flesh) in which he dwells. Paul says "I" (the I he describes in Romans vii, 22.) "Keep under my body, (the body of sin and death referred to in Romans vii, 24,) and bring it in subjection (the power of its indwelling life accomplishes this, Philippians ii, 13,) lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away," (like many others in this and in former days.) 1 Corinthians ix, 27.
These children in their Adamic relation have received "the adoption of sons," Galatians iv, 5, have received "the Spirit of adoption," and dwelling in this mortal tabernacle are "waiting for the adoption" as previously quoted, "to wit, the redemption of our body."
In the contest of 1836-89, it was frequently quoted by our opponents that the Adam sinner through the Spirit cried "Abba, Father," but the testimony is that The Spirit itself cries "Abba, Father." Galatians iv, 6. This spirit which is born of the Spirit is the same spirit that seals these children, Ephesians i, 13; 2 Corinthians i, 22: "unto the day of redemption," (of the purchased possession,) Ephesians iv, 30; and is the Divine warrant of the salvation of the sinner.
Thus the Atonement of Christ is the antitypical substance of all the offerings that have gone before. This At-one-ment, one offering forever cancelled the sins of "his people," and brought in everlasting righteousness to them that are sanctified; each and every one of whom in all ages, conditions, and climates, whether they were under the devouring flames of that law that clothed Sinai with "blackness, darkness, and tempest," before which terrible sight, the trembling, awe-stricken tribes of Israel stood, and even "Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake," or upon the favored summits of the delectable mountains (visible churches, Psalms Cxxxiii, 3:) whether in the icebound regions of the north or the vine-clad fields of the sunny south; it is written, "I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; even every one that is called by my name." Isaiah xliii, 6, 7; "Sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called." Jude 1.
His people are chosen in the furnace of affliction. They do business in deep waters. The All-Seeing Eye is upon them, he bottles all them, he bottles all their tears and all their wanderings are in his book. Psalms Lvi, 8. They cannot wander beyond his sight; they cannot get from over his everlasting arms. They are borne in his chariot covered with purple, Song of Solomon iii, 9: this purple covering representing the blood of the Atonement shields them from all harm; and this chariot or church bears them onward and upward to brighter scenes where faith gives way to endless sight and hope dies in glorious fruition.