Brother Beebe: - The third and last subject which has been proposed for me to give my views on is the Atonement. This is of itself a copious subject: it will, therefore, readily be expected that I shall be rather lengthy on it; and I may as well at once divide it into chapters to relieve in some measure its tediousness.
Atonement, what it is, and its inseparable connection with redemption, as taught in the Scriptures.
I would here premise that the atonement made by Christ is shorn of much of its glory by being represented as a provision entirely distinct from redemption, or if redemption is spoken of in connection with it, there is no more extended idea given to it than what is contained in atonement or forgiveness of sin. This is a convenient way of representing the subject for those who will have the redeemed still retained under the law, or subject to conditions as grounds of their acceptance with God. But it is rather a matter of surprise that persons who contend for the scriptural doctrine of redemption have so frequently suffered themselves to be dragged into an argument on the subject of atonement alone. It is true there is a distinction of idea conveyed by each term, and the two are mostly represented by distinct figures in the Old Testament; but that evidently arises from a deficiency in the types fully to represent the perfection of Christ's offering.
We will, in the first place, notice the distinct idea conveyed by each in their use in the Scriptures. First, Atonement: This word is found but once in our translation of the New Testament, though the same idea is abundantly taught therein. This instance is in Rom. 5:11. The word in the original is derived from the verb which in verse 10 is translated reconciled, and this word is in other passages rendered reconciliation, and such is evidently its import; that is, as representing a restoration of peace where wrath had before existed; of course, it has particular reference to God's wrath as manifested in the law. In the Old Testament, particularly in the law, we repeatedly find the word atonement. As in Lev.4, 5 and 16. It is there used to denote a covering over of sin by sacrifice, so that the sinner is freed from the penalty, or is forgiven of his sins, whilst the law in its penal requisition, is honored and hence there is reconciliation for his sins, and the sinner is reinstated in the favor of the law; so says the Psalmist: "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered" (32:1). But this, as by verse 2, is spoken more in reference to Christ's atonement; see Rom.4:6. Atonement, thus in type as under the law, falls far short of representing the redemption and atonement as accomplished by Christ's blood, for though it represented a clearing away or covering over transgressions as past, it left the Israelite still subject to the law, and liable to its curse, in case of future transgression. And so I cannot see how atonement or reconciliation alone, even by Christ's blood, if that was all that was accomplished, could have secured any from future condemnation as it would leave them still subject to the demands and bondage of the law, unless there were ability secured to those whose sins were forgiven, to obey fully the law in future. The apostle notices the insufficiency of the legal sacrifices to make the comers thereunto perfect Heb. 10:1. Hence, because typical expiation of sin could not represent the redemption accomplished by Christ's blood in the sacrifice He offered for sin, there were distinct types appointed representing His redemption. This leads us secondly to notice the idea embraced in the term redemption as used in the Scriptures. 1st, we find it declared that the Lord redeemed Israel out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh. &c. Deut.7:8, and in many other places this deliverance of Israel from Egypt is represented as a redemption. And this was clearly typical of the redemption of spiritual Israel. This was nothing less than an entire breaking of Pharaoh's yoke from off their necks and bringing them out of the house of bondage and into the promised land, and giving them a standing there as an independent nation, and as the people of God. Surely this is more than a mere expiation for sin; leaving His people still subject to the law. Again, God claimed specially all the first born of Israel being males, of man and of beast, as His, in consequence of His sparing Israel on the night He smote the first-born of Egypt. The first-born of man and of the ass He required to be redeemed Ex. 13:11-16, & 34:20. By this redemption they were freed forever from that special demand, and were placed in similar circumstances with other Israelites. Here, then, we have another figure of redemption by which complete deliverance is accomplished. In the case of the Israelite who had waxed poor, and his inheritance or himself had been sold for debt; we have another illustration of gospel redemption. The redeemer must be one of his kin; and being redeemed, he is completely released from bondage and from all claims of his old master; and so of the inheritance. See Lev.25:23-25, also from verse 47 to 55. It is true this Israelite might wax poor again and be again sold into servitude; the type could not prevent that. But the claim of the original creditor was in the redemption fully consulted, and this is what we contend is implied in redemption. I will now give one instance from the New Testament showing that the redemption by Christ fully meets these types, accomplishing a complete release from the bondage of the law Gal.4: 1-7. The expression in verse 5, "To redeem them that were under the law;" has been somewhat involved in obscurity by the different constructions put upon it. Some have supposed it had reference only to the Jewish disciples as having been under the law of Moses, and some one thing, and some another. This shows the necessity of attending to the connection, or the design of the apostle's argument. He was writing to the churches of Galatia, and, of course, to Gentiles, as is also evident in his warning them against being circumcised. His object appears to be to guard them against the errors of judaizing teachers, and of being involved in their minds in bondage under the law by being circumcised. In the 3rd chapter he shows that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek; that if they were Christ's, then were they Abraham's seed. He then goes on in this chapter to show, that according to the Roman law which held minors in the same bondage to their fathers, and gave the father the same right to sell them as though they were children of slaves, it required the going through a form of redemption or emancipation to give them the standing of citizens. Both forms were before they could be acknowledged by adoption the successors to the rights and estate of other persons, that they when children. Previous to their manifestations as citizens, and as having right to the privileges of the gospel kingdom, they were in bondage under the elements of the world. And what were these elements but law as established in creation both upon matter and mind, varying according to the nature of each? Hence the necessity of being redeemed from under this bondage to the law before they could receive the adoption of sons. The extent and limitation of the redemption is found, not in being under the law, for according to the figure, the servants as contrasted with the heirs, were in the same bondage, that is, under the law; but in being predestinated sons or heirs. Now the redemption of the servant, though it would free him from bondage, would not of itself entitle him to be accounted a son and heir of his redeemer; as in this case, it was not their being redeemed that entitled them to the adoption of sons; but it was because they were sons, that the spirit of God's Son was communicated to them. But as shown, it was necessary that they should be redeemed from the bondage under the law; otherwise to bar them from the privileges and liberty of sons. The redemption, therefore, must be a complete and final redemption from the bondage of the law, and from its demands. So Paul says, verse 7th: "Wherefore thou art no more a servant but a son, &c." And this is the redemption represented as accomplished by Christ in being made of a woman and made under the law, and is therefore gospel redemption.
We pass to our second general head, which is to show the intimate connection there is between, or rather the oneness of redemption and atonement, as accomplished by our Lord. Both must go together in order to bring the children of God into the comfortable enjoyment of the relation of sons. Atonement or expiation for sins alone would, as showed, leave them in bondage under the law; and redemption, that is, complete deliverance from the law without expiation for their sins, never could satisfy those who have been truly convinced of the evil of sin, nor give them confidence in approaching a holy God.
The idea has long been entertained by many and advanced in books, &c., that redemption from the law, as requiring perfect obedience, was distinct from atonement in that the one was by Christ's obedience to the preceptive requisition of the law, and the other was by His death as enduring its penalty; the one has been called His active, and the other His passive obedience. So of justification in distinction from pardon, which are but the results of redemption and atonement. This has heretofore been my view of the subject, and which I am now convinced I derived from tradition, that is from my early religious intercourse with men and books; and having not been particularly led to doubt its correctness, and I have held on to it; and when I have been led particularly to notice texts which did not read in accordance with those views, I have had the awful presumption to suppose it necessary to add something explanatory of that which is divinely perfect, as the revelation of God. Being now convinced of my error in this thing, I think it proper to confess and abandon it. It may be proper to assign some reasons for my present different view of this subject. I will, therefore, try to present my proofs of the oneness of atonement and redemption, as considered in the work of Christ, so as to meet both cases. 1st, then, I will say, I have no doubt that Christ Jesus, in His manhood and life, was perfectly conformed to the law, loving God and his neighbor as it required. This was essential to His being holy, harmless and undefiled in His manhood and necessary to His being a suitable offering for sin. But I much doubt whether this could have been accepted by the law as a redemption price from the obligations His people were under to obey it. The original obligation man was under in his creation, to love God with all of his heart, &c., and to love his neighbor as himself, would have been perpetual had he continued in his state of uprightness, and one act in opposition would have incurred the penalty. Could the law have accepted any extra obedience as a redemption price for man's being released from his obligation thus to love God and his neighbor? I think not. At any rate, I have never seen any intimation in the Scriptures that man ever would or could have been redeemed from the obligation he was under to the law had he not first incurred the penalty. If preceptive obedience by another could not have been a redemption price for man, then I see not how it could enter into his redemption price now. 2nd. The penalty for transgression was death, and this eternal in its duration as borne by the creature. This being inflicted and borne, could the law demand anything more? Would not this, therefore, be an end to all its demands? If then the law looked to Christ as the Head, Husband and Surety of His people for satisfaction for their transgressions, and He could and did, in a limited period of time, bear the full weight of the curse or penalty thus due, would it not equally be an end to its demands on Him and them, and therefore a redemption from it? Paul certainly took this view of this subject, when (Rom.7:6) he compared the relation between man and the law, to the relation of husband and wife. Could a man love and cherish his wife so faithfully for a given period, or could anybody else for him, as to release him from any further obligation to her as his wife, both still living? No. But let death take place in reference to either party, and the relation and obligation is at once dissolved. It is then death, and not life, that dissolves the relation between man and the law, or redemption from it.
3rd. The Scriptures no where ascribe the redemption of Christ's people to His life or obedience to the precepts of the law; but repeatedly and directly do they ascribe it to His blood or death. See Eph. 1:7 & Col. 1:14: "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Here, not only is redemption spoken of as through His blood, but forgiveness of sins, or atonement is represented as one and the same with it. Thus also justification is spoken of as being through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Rom.3:24), and is said to be by His blood (Rom.5:9). Peter also ascribes redemption to the blood of Christ, as of a lamb, &c. I Peter 1:18,19. So the elders, Rev.5:9, in their song to the Lamb, sing, "For Thou wast slain and has redeemed us unto God by Thy blood, &c."
4th. Not Christ living under the law, but Christ crucified, is the theme of gospel preaching. "We preach Christ crucified," &c. I Cor. 1:23. "I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified" I Cor.2:2.
5th. But some may object to this view, on account of Christ's being revealed as our righteousness, &c., supposing that this must be by His conformity to the law in living under it. But, I would ask, is there not as much righteousness in the penal as in the preceptive requisitions of God's perfect law? I think there is. How is it that we were made the righteousness of God in Christ, but by His being made sin or a sin offering for us? See II Cor. 5:21. And how was He raised for our justification, but by being first delivered for our offenses? See Rom.4:25. Examine also Rom. 3:21-26, and see if the righteousness of God, there spoken of, is not declared through Christ's being set forth to be a propitiation , &c. If these things be so, the redemption accomplished by Christ for His people is nothing other than the perfection of His atonement. As is said, Heb. 10:14, as contrasted with the deficiency of the atoning sacrifices under the law, that "by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." And; "We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all." See verse 10, same chapter. If then we are perfected by the one offering by which we are sanctified or cleansed from sin, I think the atonement and redemption in the work of Christ, and in reference to the price of redemption, is one; and that perfecting us, we need nothing further on that score. As to the carrying out of this redemption in the complete salvation or deliverance of His people, that is by His life at the right hand of God. See Rom.5:10.
There is one objection more I ought to meet: that is, an objection to publishing this in the Signs . For I shall probably be considered, by some of the readers, as treading on their toes. I can only say, in obviation of it, that I will promise not to reply to anything it may draw forth, leaving what I have written to stand by itself, unless the remarks may be written in that candor which shall evince a simple regard to truth, and shall call for something from me in the same spirit. Here I close chapter 1st.
The particularity of the Atonement, as shown by the Old Testament Types.
As Atonement and Redemption are set forth in the Scriptures, as so intimately connected, and one in substance, in the offering of Christ, one would think that no reflecting person could entertain the idea that atonement was any other than for particular designated persons. It is absurdity itself to talk of a redemption price being paid, and that for no specific object; no designated persons, or persons not designed to be redeemed. Yet the ideas of indefinite atonement, or atonement for sin, general atonement, and universal atonement, are so prevalent, and that among the learned and wise of the world, that even the minds of honest enquirers after truth are frequently so difficultied therewith, that there is propriety in presenting for their consideration the testimony of Scripture on this head.
I propose, in this chapter, to bring forward some of the types of the Old Testament in proof of particular atonement.
I will commence with the Passover lambs (Ex. 12). That these lambs were typical of Christ is evident from what is said, I Cor.5:7, "For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us," as well as from the direction, "Neither shall ye break a bone thereof" (Ex. 12:46), being quoted and applied to Christ John 19:36. This appointment presupposed that the Israelites, in themselves considered, were equally obnoxious to the plagues about to be inflicted, as were the Egyptians, and therefore that both were equally sinners before God, and equally subject to the curse of the law. The sacrifice, therefore, of the paschal lamb more fully represented both atonement, or a covering over of sin, and redemption (for it was a redemption from the plague), than perhaps any other type of the Old Testament. So Peter seems to have understood it when he said, "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold, &c. But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world" I Peter 1:18-20.
Here he evidently refers to this and applies it to Christ, in speaking of Him as a lamb without blemish, as the paschal lamb was required to be; and as being foreordained before the foundation of the world, showing the design of the type in requiring that the lambs should be taken out on the tenth day of the month, and kept up until the fourteenth day Ex. 12:3-6. These five days seem very clearly to prefigure the period of Christ's offering. The tenth pointing to His foreordination or being set up before the foundation of the world; the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth, to the four thousand years before the coming of Christ, and the being slain in the evening of the fourteenth, to His being sacrificed at the close of that period. In this important type there was nothing like indefinite atonement or general provision. It was as particular in its provision as in its application. It was appointed alone for the families of Israel, and to be according to their eating. If one family were too small, two must join in one lamb; while the Egyptians were left exposed to the plague. It must be special in its application to each family. The blood of each lamb must be by the family who ate it, put upon the lintel and sideposts of the door of the house in which they were, as a covering from the plague. Could this type in any way have more fully shadowed forth a particular and definite atonement? Was there anything in it like a common or general stock for everybody?
We pass to the redemption of the first born, being males. Ex. 13:12-15 & 34:19. This type is full of instruction on the subject of redemption.
1st. The special claim which God made upon these first born, being males, on account of having spared them when He slew the first born of Egypt, shows the claim He made upon His elect in common with others, through the law, as His creatures.
2nd. The firstling of clean animals might not be redeemed: showing there was no redemption for his son from the curse; and that there could have been no redemption for the elect had they not become unclean by transgression.
3rd. The firstling of the ass must be redeemed with a lamb. This relates to the natural stupidity and uncleanness of the elect; and nothing but the sacrifice of the spotless Lamb of God could redeem them. Or, as asses are in some other Scriptures made to prefigure ministers of the gospel, it may show the necessity of their being redeemed, as well as the heirs of promise to whom they minister. The injunction that if they would not redeem the ass, they should break its neck, that is, kill it without shedding its blood, shows that, as without shedding of blood is no remission (Heb.9:22), so without redemption there is no remission of sins, or atonement.
4th. The first born of man, being a son, must be redeemed. There is a particular discrimination as to who were the subjects of redemption. The first born son, according to the usage and law of Israel, was the special heir, entitled to peculiar privileges. See, among other texts: Gen.25:31-34, 27:29-37 & Deut.21:15-17. We have then here a particular correspondence of this type to the redemption of Christ; those redeemed by Him being heirs, as shown (chapter first) in our remarks on Gal.4: 1-6. The heirs redeemed by Christ are made such by the predestinating purpose of God Eph. 1:5, Rom.8:29. These predestinated heirs, according to this type, and according to Gal.4: 1-6, were those whom God specially sent His Son to redeem. So particular is redemption, and of course atonement, according to this type, that, as this law concerning their redeeming their first born was not to go into effect until they came into the land of the Canaanites (see Ex. 13:11), the Lord designing to take the Levites instead of those already born, thus showing redemption by substitution; He had the Levites and the first born each numbered, and there being an excess of two hundred three score and thirteen of the first born over the Levites, He required these to be redeemed at five shekels apiece by the poll Num.3: 12,13, 39-51. Does not this show that everything like an indefinite or general provision transaction is excluded from the work of redemption?
To avoid tediousness on these types, as far as I can, I will notice but one more: that of the great day of atonement Lev. 16. By the contrast which is drawn (Heb.9 & 10) between the order observed on this day of atonement and Christ's entering into heaven with His own blood, now to appear in the presence of God for us, there can be no doubt but the atonement made yearly for Israel on this appointed day was typical, or, as there said, a figure of that eternal redemption which Christ obtained for us. It is true, as is shown (Heb.7), Christ is a High Priest of a far higher order than that of the Aaronic priesthood, He being after the order of Melchisedec; yet it is, I think, equally evident from what is said of Christ's offering and blood, &c., as contrasted with the offerings of the high priests under the law, that they were typical of His priesthood; for there is no account of Melchisedec's offering sacrifices, &c. Thinking this will not be disputed, I will not stop to argue the point, but will in proof thereof simply refer to Heb.5:1-5; 8:1-6; 9:1-14& 10:1-23. In the first place, it was only the high priest that might enter into the most holy place, that is, within the veil; and that but once every year on this day of atonement, and not without blood, Lev. 16:1,2; Heb.9: 1-7. In order to his lawfully officiating as the high priest, Aaron, and after him his son, must be consecrated. See Ex.28 & 29. Lev.8: 1-12. To be consecrated he had to wear the holy garments, among which was the ephod having two precious stones engraven with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, six on each stone, fastened in the two shoulder pieces thereof, so that he should bear their names upon his two shoulders for a memorial. Also, there was the breast plate containing twelve precious stones, engraven with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, that Aaron should bear their names in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth into the holy place for a memorial before the Lord continually. Thus showing that in officiating as the high priest, in going into the holy place to make atonement, he represented the twelve tribes of Israel, as a designated people, and none other. And thus typifying Christ as officiating in making atonement in behalf of a designated people known by name (for He calls His own sheep by name, John 10:3), whom He bears upon His heart as the objects of His love Rom.5:8 & John 13:1. And also whom He bore with Him as upon His shoulders, when He entered into heaven, there to appear in the presence of God for us, not for anybody, everybody, and nobody; but for us a present and known people. (See Eph.2:4-7.) As well also as showing that they were a people whom He bore and carried all the days of old; and in all their afflictions He was afflicted (Isa.63:9). So on the day of atonement the high priest, in making atonement for Israel, was to take two kids of the goats, one for a sin offering and the other for a scapegoat, in order to show the perfection of Christ's one offering of Himself, which He should make, that in bearing the sins of His people in His own body on the tree, and in suffering the penalty due thereunto, He should conquer death, finish transgression, make an end of sin, and accomplish a complete redemption. The one for a sin offering could not have shown this; being burned to ashes it could only show the wrath of God against sin. But the scapegoat, in bearing the sins, after the sacrifice of the other, away to a land uninhabited, showed the perfection of Christ's atonement that He buried the sins He bore in the depths of the sea. In sending the scapegoat away, to carry out the type, Aaron must lay his hands on its head and confess over all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat. And it was said, the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities to a land uninhabited Lev. 16:21 & 22. Aaron, in thus officiating as a type of Christ, did not lay upon the head of the goat sin in general, nor the sins of all nations, but specially and only the sins and iniquities of Israel. Thus whilst there is a full and perfect atonement prefigured for all the iniquities and transgressions of God's Israel, a peculiar and special people; there is no representation of an atonement and redemption for any that God did not design should be redeemed and delivered thereby. I here close chapter 2.
A brief view of New Testament testimony relative to Particular Atonement, with a notice of certain texts relied on as standing in opposition to it.
In turning to the New Testament we find, no less than in the types of the Old, a specific purpose declared in the birth and death of Christ in the flesh. Thus, in the declaration of the angel to Joseph (Mt. 1:21), "Thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins. Here is a special purpose declared in reference to Christ's coming into the world, namely: that He should be manifested as a Saviour; for He "shall save His people from their sins." Here is, therefore, a special people, the antitype of national Israel, a people whom He already knew as His, that are to be saved, and a special salvation with which they are to be saved. Hence here is nothing to warrant the idea of a general salvation, which is no salvation unless persons make it such by delivering themselves from their sins. On the contrary, everything is positive. He shall save His people, and shall save them from their sins; and He has His name Jesus, or Saviour, because He shall save this special people with this special salvation. Hence any one that says that Christ's being Jesus or a Saviour warrants the conclusion that any one may be saved by hitching himself to His atonement, sets aside the purpose of God, as declared in this text. The idea is entertained by some learned men that there was sufficient value in the blood or atonement of Christ, as they speak, to save the whole world, if applied, and therefore, though only the elect will be saved, yet others might be saved if they would make an application of His blood to themselves, by believing. But, learned as they may be in other things, they manifest great ignorance in this, in supposing that atonement consists merely in blood being shed, without any reference to the object for which that blood was shed, as an expiatory sacrifice or otherwise. According to this, there was as much virtue in the blood daily shed by the Israelites in killing animals for food as in that shed on the day of atonement.
Let us look back to the Passover. Suppose a spirit of sympathy and universal charity had got hold on the Israelites at that time, such as pervades the religious world at this day, and they had sent out their missionaries among the Egyptians to say to them: "That the Lord is about to pass through the land of Egypt; and He has given us directions to kill certain lambs this evening, and to sprinkle the blood upon the side posts and upper door posts of our houses, and to eat the flesh roast with fire, and He will pass by us and not suffer the destroyer to enter our houses. Now it is true you Egyptians have no sheep, as the keeping of sheep, or shepherds, are an abomination unto you (Gen.46:34), but we shall have a great deal more blood than we shall need to sprinkle the door posts of our houses, and if you will come and get for yourselves and sprinkle the posts of your doors, you will be saved. It is true that if Moses was here he would say that something more is necessary than a mere self application of blood, but he is one of those stiff old fellows that will not allow the human mind to have any scope in religion, but holds that everything must be limited and bounded by a Thus saith the Lord. Now, our life for yours, if you will try it, the blood will protect you, for here it is, in Moses' own words, 'For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians, and when He seeth the blood upon the lintel and two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.' Now here we have a general declaration on that when He seeth the blood, &c., without any specification of one man's house more than another's. It is true, when we notice the expressions your houses and you, and the general connection, we must admit that something might be made out of it to seem to confine it to the Israelites; but we do not think God to be any such partial being as not to give everyone a chance, and therefore we do not stop to enquire about connections, but catch a text where we can find it." Now if some of the Egyptians had been persuaded to try the experiment, is there a candid reflecting person, even among those who are at this day practicing the very chicanery above described in reference to the blood of Christ, that will venture the supposition that they would have been spared, and God's declaration concerning their destruction have been falsified? No; and why? Because, they would say, God had never directed it and He is not to be deceived in that way, and that the protection was not in the simple sprinkling of blood, but in the purpose of God, made known and carried out in the type, in the obedience of the Israelites. As typical of Christ as a redemption price, those lambs were appointed as a redemption price of Israel from the destroyer. So specific was the appointment, as heretofore shown, that each family must have its selected lamb to be slain and eaten by the family. Here was the redemption of the family in the lamb being made to represent the family: the blood on the door posts was but a token to them, (Ex. 12:13), a token of what? Why, that a substitute had been beforehand appointed and slain for the first born of the family, and that they were living by its death as expressed in their eating its flesh. Here were the appointment, the promise, and the direction of God, all uniting in reference to the Passover. These, and these alone, gave efficiency to the blood of those lambs. So of Christ's death; it was of God's appointment. If so, it must have been for a certain object. God would not have made the appointment without an object. We believe in the infinite value of Christ's blood, and of course, we believe that, being of such value, it could not fail to accomplish the object for which it was shed. It was shed for the expiation of sins. Whose sins? He had none of His own. It would be absurd to talk of His dying as an expiatory sacrifice or satisfaction for sins, when no sins were charged to Him, and He made accountable for them. His being thus accountable could only be by His representing sinners as a Surety. So says Paul, "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" II Tim. 1:9. So Gal. 1:4: "Who gave Himself for our sins, &c. according to the will of God and our Father." And so I Peter 2:24: "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree," &c.
Thus examine the New Testament through and we find that it was a particular people whom Christ died for, a people given Him of the Father, whom He represented, and that according to the will and purpose of God. Just so far then as the purpose of God in the promises extended, so far the atonement extended; and as we shown by the types of the Old Testament, and now by the New, it can be made to extend no further. All for whom Christ's blood was shed are redeemed and, of course, cannot suffer under the penalty of the law, but shall be saved. Can men or angels make any person a redeemed one, whom Christ has not redeemed?
As we have extended our remarks so largely on this point, it seems not necessary to quote other texts proving the particularity of the atonement, only as we may name a few. But in passing we will notice John 10:15, where Christ says: "I lay down my life for the sheep." In the connection He shuts every avenue for a general provision to come in. 1st. He contrasts Himself with, as distinct from, the hireling whose own the sheep are not. Hence He was not hired to make an atonement for sin by the promise of a certain portion being given Him. They were His already, given to Him of His Father, and because they were His, He laid down His life to protect them Jn. 10:14,16, 29. But that which I wish particularly to call attention to is the striking personification there is in this hireling shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, of the saviour of the general atonement holders of the present day. They will not admit that their Christ has any claim to any part of the human family as His while in a state of nature, though they perhaps admit that believers are His, in a special manner, when they believe and give themselves up to Him. So that the hireling is the saviour of the day. As to his fleeing, this is much like their representation of Christ as standing back and not interfering to save any, according to their notions of salvation, that is, to convert, lest He should destroy free agency and make machines of men. No: he fleeth; and if any choose to follow him and give themselves up to him, he will save them. Is not this the religion of the day? And if so, is not the hireling shepherd the saviour of the day?
Again, as a further proof that everything relative to the atonement is according to the fixed purpose of God, as Jesus says, He came down from heaven to do the will of Him that sent Him (John 6:38,39), we are assured that He was raised again for the justification of those for whose offences He was delivered (Rom.4:25.). And Paul is very confident that those who were reconciled to God by the death of His Son will be saved by His life Rom.5:10. If then all those for whom Christ was delivered, and who were reconciled to God by His death, shall be assuredly justified and saved, if any others could be saved it must be independent of Christ's suffering for them, or of their being reconciled by His death. They must then abandon their hopes built simply on the infinite value of Christ's blood, and seek some other subterfuge.
It appears to be proper to notice one or two classes of texts touching this subject. I will first notice this class: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" John 3:14,15. Again, verse 16, John 6:40, and others. A special purpose of God in Christ's death is no less positively declared in these texts than in those we have been noticing, showing a sure salvation. But here is a difference; salvation, or eternal life, is not here predicated as of the elect, but of whomsoever believeth in Christ. Hence those who know of no faith but that which is the act of the natural mind lay hold with avidity of those texts to support the idea that faith is a condition of salvation, and, of course, that the atonement is general, subject to this condition, losing sight of all those texts which declare a specific object in the death of Christ. But, what is more, they appear to be ignorant of the testimony of God concerning faith, that it is spiritual and not a natural act, that "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God," and that It is not of the flesh, but of the Spirit. it is not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man; but of God John 3:3,6 & 1:13. What advantage then can Free Will derive from these texts, when it is thus testified that there can be no spiritual discernment without a spiritual birth; and this not of man's will, but of God? In accordance with this view, faith is declared to be a fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22), to be the gift of God (Eph.2:8 & Phil. 1:29), and to be of the operation of God (Col.2:12 & I Pet.1:21).
Hence, those who have in experience been taught the spirituality of the religion of Christ would as soon be persuaded that they could atone for their own sins as that they could believe in Christ of their own power; that their faith must be as special an operation of God as is the atonement. While to those without, all these things are done in parables, &c.
It may be asked why this mode of expression was used in the texts above referred to, if it was not to countenance conditional salvation. That it could not have been designed to countenance such an idea is evident. 1st, from the testimony the New Testament bears of faith, or believing, as being of God, and not of the creature, as we have shown: 2nd, there is nothing in the expressions to countenance in the least the idea that conditions are thereby proposed. It is not that whosoever will believe, &c., nor anything like it; but, as before noticed, the declarations are positive and absolute. But the reason is obvious why these texts are so absolutely free in their declarations, to the characters designated and those characteristics drawn from christian experience. If there had been no declarations given but such as that: "He gave Himself for the church"; "laid down His life for the sheep," or "gave Himself for us," as it is frequently expressed, what would the poor lambs of Christ do with all their doubts, and their deep sense of their own unworthiness? They could not pry into the counsel of God's will, to see whether their names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. While Satan would have emboldened thousands to claim to be the elect and the favorites of heaven, the child of grace would be the last to make any such claims, or to feel worthy to make them. How good and how kind then the provision which has brought down the test of individual salvation to one single point, and that an infallible test. Whosoever believeth in Him, without any exception, or any other limitation. Wherever it has been given it will show itself, and will produce hope. The individual may not know, nor be willing to acknowledge that he has true faith; but he knows that he believes in Christ as once he did not; that he once had no conception of that fullness and suitableness of Christ as a Saviour for lost sinners, as he now believes Him to be. In a word, he knows Him to be full and sufficient and the only Saviour, or the only Way in which a sinner can be saved. Knowing this, hope springs up in his breast that he may be saved, and sticks there in spite of all his efforts at times to shake it off. Thus we see the peculiar use and suitableness of this class of texts, to the children of God, though others may wrest them as they do other Scriptures to their own destruction.
There is another class of texts which, according to the construction which the advocates of a general atonement put upon the letter of them, must involve universal salvation. It will not answer to intrude upon the readers of the Signs to notice more than one of them; but I have selected the one they think the most direct in their favor, namely: I John 2:2, "And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." While the Arminians of every grade make so much reliance on this text to support their system, merely from the expression "the whole world," there is not another text in the Bible whose instruction they so completely turn their backs upon, and whose direction and authority they so completely trample under foot, as they do those of this text. Its declaration is that, He is the propitiation for our sins , &c., and for the sins of the whole world, and if He is the propitiation, He is the only one for the whole world and for every part of it. What is the import of the word? Its import appears to be that which pacifies or makes peace, or, rather, through which the sinner can approach God in peace. The text informs us that Christ Jesus is that propitiation provided of God, or the way in which the sinner may approach in peace; not for a part of the world only, but for the whole world. That is, there is no other propitiation; no other way in which any individual of the human family can approach in peace; and the way in which any individual who feels the weight of his sins, as separating between him and God, so that he cannot approach in dependence on any effort or offering of his own, and has faith given him so to enable him to behold Christ as having by the one offering of Himself so removed sin and taken the curse of the law out of the way, in behalf of guilty, helpless sinners, that he can with confidence rely on the work of Christ for acceptance, I say, any such sinner, whoever or whatever he may have been, may approach thus and find peace. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." As certain as that the religion of Christ is a spiritual and experimental religion, and a religion of faith, so certain is it that spiritual experience and faith have as much to do with this very point as with any other point. But persons are apt, when their minds become confused by the wiles of men in handling such texts as these, to lose sight of that important fact. Does the text say that the whole world rely on the blood of Christ as their propitiation? No. Do we find the whole world thus relying on it? No. Look around you. The Catholic, if he sins to wound his conscience, goes to confession; has his penalty or penance prescribed; pays it, and that is his propitiation. The Protestant, of the stricter and more legal class, if he thus sins, resorts to fasting and to increasing his tasks of praying and reading; and that is his propitiation. Those of the looser classes, when they thus sin, go to the next protracted meeting and get converted over; and that is their propitiation. Those who make no profession, instead of being pointed to Christ as the propitiation, are told that they must make their peace with God. So they trample under foot the declaration and authority of this text. But still perhaps some one is ready to say, there must be something more general in this text than you have admitted, as it speaks of the sins of the whole world. It is true it speaks particularly of the sins, for that is what propitiation has to do with. But here is the mistake: you do not distinguish between the import of the noun, as here used, and what would have been that of the corresponding verb, had it been used. Had it been written, He has propitiated for our sins, and not our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world, there would have been at once a positive declaration of universal salvation, and of a salvation of that kind that would have excluded from it all idea of the necessity of faith or spiritual experience. But it is not so written, at all. Christ is the one propitiation, as He is the one way; but no man will come to the Father by Him, nor trust in His blood as that which alone can be his peace with God, till faith is given him so to apprehend and trust in Christ.
But I must close this lengthy chapter and subject. If I have written anything that will be profitable to the honest inquirer, or any whose minds may have been puzzled with the cavils of men on the subject, I shall be satisfied, not having any expectation, or aiming to convince the opposers of this doctrine.
Centreville, Fairfax County, Virginia,
March 4, 1848.
From: SIGNS of the TIMES: Vol.16 (1848)