PERHAPS among all the rich displays of the adorable God-head which shine forth with refulgent brightness in the works of creation, providence and grace, none can be found to outshine in splendor, or outweigh in importance, that which develops the purpose and grace of God in causing his sword to awake against the Man that is his Fellow, and which sets forth the atonement made by our Lord Jesus Christ for his people. No human talent can express, nor human wisdom comprehend, the fulness of this delightful doctrine; in the contemplation of which, the rich association of considerations. flowing into the mind of the saints, are such as to absorb the mind in wondor and admiration. In our feeble efforts to declare what we have been taught by the word and Spirit of God on this subject, we know not where to begin, how to pursue, or where to leave off. The atonement has God for its author, Jesus Christ for its victim, or sacrifice, the salvation of the elect of God for its object, eternal truth for its security, and almighty power for its execution. In the atonement all the attributes of Deity are displayed glowing with. inexpressible beauty and grandeur.
In the eleventh number of this volume, we gave a summary view of the doctrine of the total depravity and just condemnation of fallen man, in which we traced his history from his. primeval rectitude and innocency, through his unhappy fall, and by an application of divine truth showed that he, in his fallen state, is “dead in trespasses and sins,” justly condemned by the righteous and inflexible law of God, and under its tremendous curse; without an eye to pity, or an arm to administer relief. There we left him, promising that in the present article we would treat upon the only possible way of salvation, brought to light through the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ, which we promised to prove by the scriptures to be special and particular.
Notwithstanding the frequent occurrence of the word atonement in the Old Testament, we find it used but once in the New Testament, viz: Romans v., where it is brought forward by the apostle as the ground of the justification of the church of God, and of reconciliation to God. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if while 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.” In the light of this scripture we clearly discover that the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ was definite. Definite first, in reference to the purpose of God. The specific objects ascribed to God by the apostle are the commendation of his love toward those who are with himself included in the pronoun us, and in connection with this divine exhibition, their justification by his blood, and ultimate salvation through him. Second, the characters for whom the atonement was made are definitely pointed out, viz: they are those who do eventually rejoice in God, through Christ Jesus, and by him receive the atonement.
Third, the vicarious nature of the atonement is definitely expressed in the connection, “Who was delivered for our offences, (agreeing with the prophet Daniel, that Messiah should be cut off, but not for himself,) and raised again for our justification.” For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commended his love, &c, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Here we discover that the people for whom Christ was made an offering were sinners, without strength, &c., and as sinners they were condemned and under sentence of death by the law. “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” The irrevokable decree has passed! Heaven and earth should pass away, but not one jot or tittle of the law should fail until it should be completely fulfilled. But while this was our deplorable situation, “in due time Christ died for us.” But how for us? Most certainly in our room. For if he had not borne the curse for us, we certainly must have borne it, and sunk down forever under its weight. We cannot conceive how this substitution can destroy the relation which Christ as a spiritual Head bears to his church, but rather, in Gin’ view of the subject, it opens the way to make a fair display of that unity and oneness which has ever existed between them in a spiritual sense. “And he is the head of the body, the church, &c.,. and having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven.” “And you, that were some time alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.” - Col. i. 18-21.
When in the contemplation of the atonement and redemption of our Lord Jesus Christ, the “man in Christ” is caught up to the third heaven, and is there made acquainted with those divine mysteries which cannot be expressed by human tongues; and amidst the glorious scenery of that bright world, his eye is fixed on one who was as “A Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” he is led to inquire,. “Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth the wine-fat?” “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; 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. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” - Isaiah liii.
The design of the atonement was that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself “a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” — Titus ii. 14.
The extent of the atonement is to all the elect. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth - who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died,” &c. - Rom. viii. 33, 34. “I am the good Shepherd. The good shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep.” - John x. 11. To all the seed of our Lord. “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied. By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” - Isaiah liii. 10-12.
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself,” &c. - Eph. v. 24-27.
“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins should live unto righteousness.” - 1 Peter ii. 24. “This is my blood in the New Testament, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins.” - Matt. xxvi. 28. “I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” - Gal. ii. 20. By the above, together with many other portions of the word of God, it is evident that God had a specific object in view in the pouring out or the soul of his Son unto death, which special object was the redemption and ultimate salvation of his elect.
The efficacy of the atonement. “By one offering lie has forever perfected them that are sanctified.” Heb. x. 14. - “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall (not may) return, and come with singing unto Zion, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” - Isaiah li. 11; xxxv. 10. “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their head; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” And the voice of the Father is heard in Zion proclaiming, “As for thee, also, by the blood of thy covenant, I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.” - Zech. ix. 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.” - Rom. v. 10. “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquity.” - Isa. liii. 11. “By his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” - Heb. ix. 12. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” - Col. 1. 14. “Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” - Acts xx. 28. “Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” - Rev. v. 9.
We have not room here to meet and rebut the arguments generally adduced in favor of a general or universal atonement; we shall however resume the subject at our earliest leisure. We intend in our next number to present our views on the doctrine embraced in the sixth item of our prospectus,. viz: the sovereign, irresistible, and in all cases effectual work of the Holy Ghost, in quickening the elect of God.
New Vernon, N. Y.,
August 28, 1833.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 87 - 91