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authority of God, man violated, and exposed himself to the awful penalty. And in consequence of this single act of disobedience, his posterity became involved in the same state of wretchedness and guilt. What now could be done? It is easy to see that justice might be done without the least difficulty; for this had been done in a similar case. The fallen angels had been doomed to hopeless ruin, for their first offence. But how could pardoning grace be displayed? This none of the intelligent creation could tell. The angels of light could not tell; for they had seen those who kept not their first estate, excluded from heaven, and the door of mercy for ever shut against them. Man could not tell. He knew that the sentence of death was passed upon him, which might be justly and immediately executed. How then could grace be displayed consistently with justice? This question God alone was able to solve. He knew that he could be just to himself, if his justice were displayed by the sufferings of a proper substitute in the room of sinners. He knew that the sufferings of a substitute in the room of sinners, would both display his justice, and support the honor of his law and government. And as he saw ihat such a substitute was necessary, he appointed Christ to take the place of sinners, and to suffer and die the just for the unjust. Christ was the Son of his love, the second person in the sacred Trinity, and equal with himself in every divine perfection. He was the only substitute to be found in the universe, who was competent to the great work of making a complete atonement for sin. Him therefore the Father set forth to be a propitiation, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins. And though he was once "in ihe form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, yet he made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and becarne obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” that he might taste death for every man.
“ For it became him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” It was indispensably necessary that Christ should suffer, when he took the place of sinners to make atonement for their sins. For suffering is the penalty which God threatens to inflict upon transgressors of his law, to display his vindictive justice. It was only by causing Christ to suffer in the room of sinners, that God could display his vindictive justice towards them. Accordingly we read, " It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief;" and that “ 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.” By inflicting such sufferings upon Christ, when he took the place of a substitute in the room of sinners, God as clearly displayed his hatred of sin and his inflexible disposition to punish it, as if he had made all mankind personally miserable for ever.
It is agreeable to the common opinion and practice of mankind in war, to hold prisoners as hostages; so that in case the enemy violate the law of arms, by abusing or putting to death the captives taken, they may justly retaliate, by treating the hostages as the abused captives were treated. So General Washington proposed to act, when a British officer, contrary to the law of nations, killed Captain Huddy, an American officer, after he had surrendered. He determined to put Captain Asgill, a British officer whom he had in his hands, to death, in the room of the man who killed Captain Huddy. And had he actually done this, he would have displayed his just displeasure against the murderer and all who justified and protected him. Or in other words, he would have done justice to himself, by making it appear that he meant to maintain the dignity of his character as a commander-in-chief, and to support his authority in punishing all who should dare to violate the law of arms. He would not, indeed, have done distributive justice to the murderer, nor have prevented his being put to death, if he could have been found and apprehended.
Just so, God, by subjecting the Son of his love to death in the room of sinners, could display his immutable disposition to punish sin, in the most striking and awful manner. Accordingly, when Christ actually took the place of sinners, and poured out his soul unto death on the cross, his sufferings in their room as clearly displayed the vindictive justice of God to angels and men, and the whole intelligent creation, as if he had made them all personally miserable for ever. By subjecting Christ to sufferings and death on the cross, God has done justice to himself, and made a complete atonement for sin. He, not Christ, made the atonement. He bruised him, and put him to grief; his sword pierced his heart, and shed his blood on the cross. So the prophet' predicted: “ Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts; smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” This prediction Christ applied to himself just after he had insti. tuted a standing memorial of his death, and just before his sufferings began in the garden. « Then saith Jesus unto his disciples, all ye shall be offended because of me this night; for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad." Christ knew that it was absolutely necessary that the Father should put him to death, in order to display his justice in the forgiveness or remission of sins. And
it was on this ground solely, that he cordially submitted to die on the cross. This he expressly declared before he suffered: “ Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour; but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name.” It was the Father that made atonement for sin, by putting Christ to death on the cross by his own hand. By making his own Son a substitute for sinners, and putting him to death in their room, he declared his righteousness to the whole universe, so that he can now just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” was the great and important end to be answered by an atonement. And in order to answer this end, Christ's atonement was absolutely necessary.
1. If the atonement of Christ was necessary entirely on God's account, that he might be just in exercising pardoning mercy to penitent and believing sinners, then it was universal, and sufficient for the pardon and salvation of the non-elect, as well as for the pardon and salvation of the elect. Some believe and maintain the doctrine of a limited atonement. They suppose that Christ died to make atonement for the elect, exclusively of the non-elect. This opinion appears to be founded on a wrong notion of the nature and design of the atonement.
It was designed to maintain and display the justice of God in the remission of sins. And if it has rendered it consistent with the justice of God to exercise pardoning mercy to one sinner, it has rendered it equally consistent with his justice to exercise pardoning mercy to all sinners. The atonement of Christ has the same favorable aspect upon the non-elect as upon the elect. It opens as wide a door of mercy to the one as to the other. It removes all natural obstacles out of the way of the salvation of either, because it renders it consistent with the justice of God to pardon and save a part, or the whole of mankind, according to his sovereign pleasure and eternal purpose. The atonement of Christ has laid God under no obligation to save one of mankind, but left him at full liberty to save a part, or the whole of the human race. It is generally allowed that God does in the gospel offer salvation to all; but how can he consistently offer salvation to all, if Christ has not made atonement for all ? If Christ has not made atonement for the non-elect, it is no more consistent for God to offer salvation to the non-elect, than to offer salvation to the fallen angels, for whom, all will allow, he has made no atonement. Besides, the scripture not only represents God as inviting all men to accept of pardon and salvation through the blood of Christ, but represents him as threatening to punish all eternally, who refuse to accept the offers of pardon in Christ's name. This looks perfectly inconsistent with the retributive justice of God, unless the atonement be universal. What can be more unjust than to punish sinners for not accepting a salvation which was never provided for them? And it never was provided for them, if Christ did not, by his sufferings and death, make atonement for them. But Christ commands his ministers to say to all, without exception, “ He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.” This, as well as many other passages of scripture, clearly proves that the atonement of Christ is not limited, but extends to all the children of men. “ God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And the apostle John says, “ He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
2. If the atonement of Christ was necessary entirely on God's account, to satisfy his justice towards himself in exercising pardoning mercy to the guilty, then it did not satisfy justice towards sinners themselves. Justice, as it respects them, stands in full force against them. Nothing which Christ did or suffered, altered their characters, obligations, or deserts. His obedience did not free them from their obligation to obey the divine law, nor. did his sufferings free them from their desert of suffering the pen. alty of the divine law. Both the precept and penalty of the divine law are founded in the nature of things; and Christ did not come to destroy these, nor could he destroy them, by obedience or sufferings. The atonement which Christ has made, hás left sinners in the same state that they were in before. Its whole efficacy respects God's character. It has completely satisfied his justice in exercising mercy to all penitent, believing sinners. This is what the assembly of divines evidently mean in reply to the question, “ How does Christ execute the office of a priest ?" They answer, “ By his once offering up himself a sacrifice, 10 satisfy divine justice.” This was all that he meant to do, or could do, or that needed to be done, in order to make a complete atonernent for sin. But many suppose that Christ, by his obedience and death, did a great deal more for sinners, than for God. They suppose that he suffered in the room of the elect, and bore the penalty of the law in their stead, so that he paid the full debt of suffering which they owed to God. And on this account, they suppose that God cannot in justice punish them for any of their past
, present, or future sins. They likewise suppose that Christ obeyed the law perfectly in their room, and by his perfect obedience paid the full debt of obedience which they owed to God; so that they are no longer bound to obey the precepts, nor
exposed to suffer the penalty of the law. Hence they suppose that there are no terms or conditions of salvation to be performed, in order to pardon and justification. Christ has done all in their stead, and they have nothing to do but to believe that he has done all, and that they are completely safe. This is true Antinomianism, which is believed and propagated at this day by various sectarians. But all these notions are groundless and absurd, if the atonement was necessary entirely on God's account, and not on the account of sinners; and if all that Christ did and suffered, he did and suffered to render it consistent with the justice of God to forgive and save penitent believers.
3. If the atonement of Christ was necessary entirely on God's account, that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth, then he did not merit any thing at the hand of God for himself, or for mankind. There is no phrase more common and familiar than that of the merits of Christ; but it is generally misunderstood and misapplied. Though Christ suffered the just for the unjust, though he made his soul an offering for sin, and though he suffered most excruciating pains in the garden and on the cross, yet he did not lay God under the least obligation, in point of justice, to pardon and save a single sinner. His sufferings could not lay God under any obligations to do any thing for him, and much less for any of the human race. God is above being bound by any being in the universe; and he cannot bind himself, otherwise than by a free, voluntary, gratuitous promise. Though God promises to pardon every true believer, yet he promises to do it as an act of grace, and not as an act of justice. For the atonement of Christ did not lay him under the least obligation, in point of justice, to pardon even true penitents. Accordingly, the apostle says that believers are “justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” And as Christ did not merit pardon for believers by his sufferings, so he did not merit a reward for them by his obedience. It is true, God has promised to reward him for his obedience unto death, but his promise is a promise of grace, and not of justice. So he has promised to reward every man for the least good he does, even for giving a cup of cold water in sincerity. But though he promises to reward all good men according to their works, or for their works, yet his promise to them is a promise of grace, not of justice, and without the least regard to Christ's obedience as the ground of it. The truth is, Christ never merited any thing at the hand of God, for himself, or for sinners, by his obedience and sufferings. By obeying and suffering in the room of sinners, he only rendered it consistent for God to renew or not to renew, to pardon or not to pardon, to reward or not to reward, sinners; but did not lay him under VOL. v.