Vicarious Atonement

W.G.T. Shedd
Atonement as Substitutionary
The atonement of Christ is represented in Scripture as vicarious. The satisfaction of justice intended and accomplished by it is for others, not for himself. This is abundantly taught in Scripture: “The Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for (anti)1 many” (Matt. 20:28); “this is my body which is given for (anti)2 you” (Mark 10:45). In these two passages the preposition anti3 indisputably denotes substitution. Passages like “Archelaus reigned in the room (anti)4 of his father Herod” (Matt. 2:22), “an eye for an eye” (5:38), and “will he for a fish give him a serpent?” (Luke 11:11) prove this.
In the majority of the passages, however, which speak of Christ’s sufferings and death, the preposition hyper5 is employed: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is shed for (hyper)6 you” (Luke 22:19–20); “the bread that I will give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51); “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (15:13); “Christ died for the ungodly; while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6–8); “he delivered him up for us all” (8:32); “if one died for all then all died” (2 Cor. 5:14–15); “he made him to be sin for us” (5:21); “being made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13); “Christ gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2, 25); “the man Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:5–6); Christ “tasted death for every man” (Heb. 2:9); Christ “suffered the just for the unjust” (1 Pet. 3:18).
The preposition hyper,7 like the English preposition for, has two significations. It may denote advantage or benefit, or it may mean substitution. The mother dies for her child, and Pythias dies for Damon. The sense of “for” in these two propositions must be determined by the context and the different circumstances in each instance. Christ lays down the proposition: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for (hyper)8 his friends” (John 15:13). The preposition hyper9 here may mean either “for the benefit of” or “instead of.” In either case, the laying down of life would be the highest proof of affection. The idea of substitution, therefore, cannot be excluded by the mere fact that the preposition hyper10 is employed, because it has two meanings. In 2 Cor. 5:20–21 hyper11 is indisputably put for anti:12 “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead (hyper christou),13 be reconciled to God. For he has made him who knew no sin to be sin for us (hyper hēmōn).”14 In Philem. 13 hyper15 is clearly equivalent to anti:16 “Whom I would have retained with me, that in your stead (hyper sou)17 he might have ministered unto me.” In 2 Cor. 5:14 it is said that “the love of Christ constrains us, because we thus judge that if one died for all (hyper pantōn),18 then all died (pantes apethanon).”19 Here, the notion of substitution is plain. If Christ died in the room and place of the “all,” then the “all” are reckoned to have died. The vicarious atonement of Christ is regarded as the personal atonement of the believer. It would be nonsense to say that “if one died for the benefit of all, then all died.”
There is also abundant proof from classical usage that hyper20 may be used in the sense of anti.21 Magee (Atonement, diss. 30) quotes the following: Xenophon (Anabasis 7.4) relates that the Thracian prince Seuthes asked Episthenes if he would be willing to die instead of the young lad who had been captured in war (ē kai ethelois an, hō episthenes, hyper toutou apothanein).22 The same use of hyper23 is seen in Xenophon’s Hellenica and On Hunting; Plato’s Symposium 180 and 207; Euripides’ Alcestis 446, 540, 732 compared with 155–56, 698, 706, 715–17. In the first three lines anti24 is employed, and in the remainder hyper25 in respect to the same subject, showing that classical usage allows their being interchanged. Demosthenes (Concerning the Crown) says, “Ask these things, and surely I shall do them for (hyper) you.”26 Winer (Grammar, 383 [ed. Thayer]) remarks that “hyper27 is sometimes nearly equivalent to anti”28 (see especially Euripides, Alcestis 700; Thucydides 1.141; Polybius 3.67; Philem. 13). De Wette on Rom. 5:7 says: “Hyper29 can signify ‘in place of’; 2 Cor. 5:20.” Baur (Paul the Apostle, 168) says: “Although in many passages the expression ‘to die for’ (apothanein hyper) means only ‘to die for the benefit of another,’ nevertheless, certainly in Rom. 4:25; Gal. 1:4; Rom. 8:3; 1 Cor. 15:3; 2 Cor. 5:14, the concept of substitution, at least in substance, ought not to be rejected.”30
The meaning, therefore, of hyper31 must be determined by the context. Since both classical and New Testament usage permit its being employed to signify either benefit or substitution, it is plain that it cannot be confined to either signification. It would be as erroneous to assert that it uniformly means “for the advantage of” as to assert that it uniformly means “in the place of.” The remark of Magee (Atonement, diss. 30) is just:
The word for or the Greek words anti,32 hyper,33 dia,34 peri,35 of which it is the translation, admitting different senses, may of course be differently applied, according to the nature of the subject, and yet the doctrine remain unchanged. Thus it might be proper to say that Christ suffered instead of us (anti hēmōn),36 although it would be absurd to say that he suffered instead of our offenses (anti tōn hamartēmatōn hēmōn).37 It is sufficient if the different applications of the word carry a consistent meaning. To die “instead of us” and to die “on account of our offenses” perfectly agree.38 But this change of the expression necessarily arises from the change of the subject. And, accordingly, the same difficulty will be found to attach to the exposition proposed by these writers (Sykes and H. Taylor): since the word for, interpreted “on account of,” i.e., “for the benefit of,” cannot be applied in the same sense in all the texts. For although dying “for our benefit” is perfectly intelligible, dying “for the benefit of our offenses” is no less absurd than dying “instead of our offenses.”
In the light of these facts, it is easy to see why the New Testament writers employ hyper39 so often, rather than anti,40 to denote the relation of Christ’s death to man’s salvation. The latter preposition excludes the idea of benefit or advantage and specifies only the idea of substitution. The former may include both ideas. Whenever, therefore, the sacred writer would express both together and at once, he selects the preposition hyper.41 In so doing, he teaches both that Christ died in the sinner’s place and for the sinner’s benefit.
Vicariousness implies substitution. A vicar is a person deputized to perform the function of another. In the case under consideration, the particular function to be performed is that of atoning for sin by suffering. Man the transgressor is the party who owes the atonement and who ought to discharge the office of an atoner; but Jesus Christ is the party who actually discharges the office and makes the atonement in his stead. The idea of vicariousness or substitution is, therefore, vital to a correct theory of Christ’s priestly office. Man the transgressor would make his own atonement, if he should suffer the penalty affixed to transgression. So far as the penalty is concerned, retributive justice would be satisfied if the whole human race were punished forever.42 And if God had no attribute but retributive justice, this would have been the course that he would have taken. A deity strictly and simply just, but destitute of compassion for the guilty, would have inflicted the penalty of the violated law upon the actual transgressor. He would not have allowed a substituted satisfaction of justice, and still less would he have provided one. It is important to notice this fact, because it shows the senselessness of a common objection to the doctrine of vicarious atonement, namely, that it is incompatible with mercy. If God, it is asked, insists upon satisfying justice by allowing his Son to suffer in the place of sinners, where is his mercy? The ready answer is that it is mercy to the criminal to permit the substitution of penalty and still more to provide the substitute after the permission. If God had no compassionate feeling toward the sinner, he would compel the sinner himself to satisfy the demands of the law which he has transgressed. But in permitting and still more in providing a substitute to make that satisfaction which man is under obligation to make for himself, God manifests the greatest and strangest mercy that can be conceived of, for the vicarious atonement of Christ is the sovereign and the judge putting himself in the place of the criminal. (See supplement 6.2.1.)
It is important, at this point, to mark the difference between personal and vicarious atonement. (a) Personal atonement is made by the offending party; vicarious atonement is made by the offended party. The former is made by the sinner; the latter is made by God: “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13 Revised Version). If a citizen pays the fine appointed by the civil law, he satisfies justice for his own civil transgression. If the murderer is executed, he atones for his own crime before the human law, though not before the divine. And when a sinner suffers endless punishment, he personally satisfies eternal justice for his sin. (b) Personal atonement is given by the criminal, not received by him; but vicarious atonement is received by the criminal, not given by him. This is indicated in the scriptural phraseology. In Rom. 5:11 it is said that the believer “receives the atonement” vicariously made for him by Christ. If he had made an atonement for himself, he would have given to justice the atonement, not received it. (c) Personal atonement is incompatible with mercy, but vicarious atonement is the highest form of mercy. When the sinner satisfies the law by his own eternal death, he experiences justice without mercy; but when God satisfies the law for him, he experiences mercy in the wonderful form of God’s self-sacrifice. (d) Personal atonement is incompatible with the eternal life of the sinner, but vicarious atonement obtains eternal life for him. When the sinner suffers the penalty due to his transgression, he is lost forever, but when God incarnate suffers the penalty for him, he is saved forever.
Vicarious atonement in the Christian system is made by the offended party. God is the party against whom sin is committed, and he is the party who atones for its commission. Vicarious atonement, consequently, is the highest conceivable exhibition of the attribute of mercy: “Herein is love, that God sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). For God to remit penalty without inflicting suffering upon God incarnate would be infinitely less compassion than to remit it through such infliction. In one case, there is no self-sacrifice in the Godhead; in the other there is. The pardon in one case is inexpensive and cheap; in the other, costly and difficult of execution.
The Socinian objection that vicarious atonement is unmerciful because it involves the full and strict satisfaction of justice has no force from a trinitarian point of view. It is valid only from a Unitarian position. If the Son of God who suffers in the sinner’s stead is not God but a creature, then of course God makes no self-sacrifice in saving man through vicarious atonement. In this case, it is not God the offended party who makes the atonement. The trinitarian holds that the Son of God is true and very God and that when he voluntarily becomes the sinner’s substitute for atoning purposes, it is very God himself who satisfies God’s justice. The penalty is not inflicted upon a mere creature whom God made from nothing and who is one of countless millions; but it is inflicted upon the incarnate Creator himself. The following extract from Channing (Unitarian Christianity) illustrates this misconception: “Unitarianism will not listen for a moment to the common errors by which this bright attribute of mercy is obscured. It will not hear of a vindictive wrath in God which must be quenched by blood or of a justice which binds his mercy with an iron chain, until its demands are satisfied to the full. It will not hear that God needs any foreign influence to awaken his mercy.” The finger must be placed upon this word foreign. The trinitarian does not concede that the influence of Jesus Christ upon God’s justice is an influence “foreign” to God. The propitiating and reconciling influence of Jesus Christ, according to the trinitarian, emanates from the depths of the Godhead; this suffering is the suffering of one of the divine persons incarnate. God is not propitiated (1 John 2:2; 4:10) by another being, when he is propitiated by the only begotten Son. The term foreign in the above extract is properly applicable only upon the Unitarian theory, that the Son of God is not God, but a being like man or angel alien to the divine essence.
This fallacy is still more apparent in the following illustration from the same writer: “Suppose that a creditor, through compassion to certain debtors, should persuade a benevolent and opulent man to pay in their stead? Would not the debtors see a greater mercy and feel a weightier obligation, if they were to receive a free gratuitous release?” (Unitarian Christianity). Here, the creditor and the debtors’ substitute are entirely different parties. The creditor himself makes not the slightest self-sacrifice in the transaction, because he and the substitute are not one being, but two. Consequently, the sacrifice involved in the payment of the debt is confined wholly to the substitute. The creditor has no share in it. But if the creditor and the substitute were one and the same being, then the pecuniary loss incurred by the vicarious payment of the debt would be a common loss. Upon the Unitarian theory, God the Father and Jesus Christ are two beings as different from each other as two individual men. If this be the fact, then indeed vicarious atonement implies no mercy in God the Father. The mercy would lie wholly in Jesus Christ, because the self-sacrifice would be wholly in him. But if the trinitarian theory is the truth, and God the Father and Jesus Christ are two persons of one substance, being, and glory, then, the self-sacrifice that is made by Jesus Christ is not confined to him alone, but is a real self-sacrifice both on the part of God the Father and also of the entire Trinity. This is taught in Scripture: “God [the Father] so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16); “he spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32); “[the triune] God commends his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8).43
Though it was God the Son and not God the Father who became incarnate and suffered and died, it by no means follows that the first person of the Trinity made no self-sacrifice in this humiliation and crucifixion of the incarnate second person. He gave up to agony and death, his “dear” and “beloved” son. He passed the sword, as Zech. 13:7 says, through “the man who was his fellow.” Such Scriptures imply that the redemption of sinful man caused God the Father a species of sorrow: the sorrow of “bruising and putting to grief” (Isa. 53:10) the Son of his love; the Son who is “in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18). The self-sacrifice, therefore, that is made by the Son in giving himself to die for sinners involves a self-sacrifice made by the Father in surrendering the Son for this purpose. No person of the Godhead, even when he works officially, works exclusively of the others. The unity of being and nature between Father and Son makes the act of self-sacrifice in the salvation of man common to both: “He that has seen me has seen the Father. I and my Father are one” (John 14:9; 10:30). “The mediator,” says Augustine (On the Trinity 4.19), “was both the offerer and the offering; and he was also one with him to whom the offering was made” (see South, sermon 30).
And this does not conflict with the doctrine that the divine essence is incapable of suffering. Divine impassability means that the divine nature cannot be caused to suffer from any external cause. Nothing in the created universe can make God feel pain or misery.44 But it does not follow that God cannot himself do an act which he feels to be a sacrifice of feeling and affection and insofar an inward suffering. When God gave up to humiliation and death his only begotten Son, he was not utterly indifferent and unaffected by the act. It was as truly a sacrifice for the Father to surrender the beloved Son as it was for the Son to surrender himself. The Scriptures so represent the matter: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son”; “God spared not his own Son, but freely gave him up.” When the Father, in the phrase of the prophet, “awoke the sword against the man who was his fellow,” he likewise pierced himself.
Vicarious atonement, unlike personal atonement, cannot be made by a creature: “None of them can by any means redeem his brother nor give to God a ransom for him” (Ps. 49:7); “shall I give my firstborn for my transgression?” (Mic. 6:7); “what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). This is acknowledged in the province of human law. No provision is made in human legislation for the substitution of penalty. In the case of capital punishment, one citizen may not be substituted for another; in the case of civil penalty such as fine or imprisonment, the state cannot seize an innocent person and compel him to suffer for the guilty. And even if there should be a willingness upon the part of the innocent to suffer for the guilty, legislation makes no provision for the substitution. The state would refuse to hang an innocent man, however willing and urgent he might be to take the place of the murderer. The state will not fine or imprison any but the real culprit.
The reason for this is twofold. First, each citizen owes duties toward man that could not be performed if he should assume the obligations of another citizen. There are debts to the family, to society, and to the commonwealth, of which these would be defrauded, if the life or property of one person should be substituted for that of another. Second, each individual owes duties toward God which would be interfered with by the substitution of one man for another within the sphere of human relations. And the state has no right to legislate in a manner that interferes with God’s claims upon his creatures.
The instances in pagan or Christian communities in which there seems to be substitution of penalty are exceptional and irregular. They are not recognized as legitimate by pagan authorities and still less by Christian jurists. When, as in the early Roman history, an individual citizen was allowed to devote himself to death for the welfare of the state, this was an impulse of the popular feeling. It was not regularly provided for and legitimated by the national legislature. It was no part of the legal code. And human sacrifices among savage nations cannot be regarded as parts of the common law of nations.
That vicarious atonement cannot be made by a created being within the province of divine law will be made evident when we come to consider the nature of Christ’s substituted work. At this point, it is sufficient to observe that if within the lower sphere of human crimes and penalties one man cannot suffer for another it would be still more impossible in the higher sphere of man’s relations to God. No crime against man is of so deep a guilt as is sin against God; and if the former cannot be expiated by a human substitute, still less can the latter be.
It should be remembered, however, that the reason why a creature cannot be substituted for a creature for purposes of atonement is not that substitution of penalty is inadmissible, but that the creature is not a proper subject to be substituted, for the reasons above mentioned. Substitution is sometimes allowed within the province of commercial law. One man may pay the pecuniary debt of another, if this can be done without infraction of any rights of other parties. If, however, it cannot be, then vicarious payment is inadmissible. A man would not be permitted to take money due to one person to pay the debt of another. A man is not allowed in the State of New York to leave all his property to benevolent purposes if he has a family dependent upon him.
Atonement as Suffering and Forgiveness as Its Result
The priestly office of Christ cannot be understood without a clear and accurate conception of the nature of atonement.
The idea and meaning of atonement is conveyed in the following statements in Lev. 6:2–7 and 4:13–20:45 “If a soul sin and commit a trespass against the Lord, he shall bring his trespass offering unto the Lord, a ram without blemish, and the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord, and it shall be forgiven him.” This is individual atonement for individual transgression. “If the whole congregation of Israel sin and are guilty, then the congregation shall offer a young bullock for the sin, and the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock, and the bullock shall be killed, and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them.” This is national atonement for national transgression. Two particulars are to be noticed in this account. (a) The essence of the atonement is in the suffering. The atoning bullock or ram must bleed, agonize, and die. And he who offers it must not get any enjoyment out of it. It must be a loss to him, and so far forth a suffering for him. He must not eat any of the trespass offering. The sin offering must be wholly burned: “skin, flesh, and dung” (Lev. 16:27). In harmony with this, our Lord lays stress upon his own suffering as the essential element in his atonement: “The Son of Man must suffer many things” (Luke 9:22; Matt. 16:21); “that Christ would suffer” (Acts 3:18; Luke 24:26). Christ refused the anodyne of “wine mingled with gall” that would have deadened his pain (Matt. 27:34).46 (b) The forgiveness is the noninfliction of suffering upon the transgressor. If the substituted victim suffers, then the criminal shall be released from suffering. In these and similar passages, Hebrew kāppar,47 which in the Piel48 is translated “to make an atonement,” literally signifies “to cover over” so as not to be seen. And Hebrew ṣmlaḥ,49 translated “to forgive,” has for its primary idea that of “lightness, lifting up,” perhaps “to be at rest or peace” (Gesenius in voce). (See supplement 6.2.2.)
The connection of ideas in the Hebrew text appears, then, to be this: The suffering of the substituted bullock or ram has the effect to cover over the guilt of the real criminal and make it invisible to the eye of God the holy. This same thought is conveyed in the following: “Blot out my transgressions. Hide your face from my sins” (Ps. 51:19); “you have cast all my sins behind your back” (Isa. 38:17); “you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:19). When this covering over is done, the conscience of the transgressor is at rest.
These Hebrew words, however, are translated in the Septuagint by Greek words which introduce different ideas from “covering” and “resting.” The word kāppar50 is rendered by exilaskomai51 (to propitiate or appease), and the word ṣmlaḥ52 is translated by aphiēmi53 (to release or let go). The connection of ideas in the Greek translation appears, therefore, to be this: By the suffering of the sinner’s atoning substitute, divine wrath at sin is propitiated, and as a consequence of this propitiation the punishment due to sin is released or not inflicted upon the transgressor. This release or noninfliction of penalty is “forgiveness” in the biblical representation. This is conceded by the opponents of the evangelical system. Says Wegscheider (Institutes §140): “Forgiveness or pardon of sins, in the common and biblical usage, is the abolition of the penalty contracted for sins and the restoration of divine benevolence toward the sinner.”54 In the Lord’s prayer, the petition for forgiveness is aphes hēmin ta opheilēmata hēmōn55 (Matt. 6:12). Christ assures the paralytic that his sins are forgiven, in the words apheōntai soi hai hamartiai sou56 (9:2). The preaching of the gospel is the preaching of the “release of sins” (aphesis hamartiōn;57 Acts 13:38).
It is highly important to notice that in the biblical representation “forgiveness” is inseparably connected with “atonement,” and “remission” with “propitiation.” The former stands to the latter in the relation of effect to cause. The Scriptures know nothing of forgiveness or remission of penalty in isolation. It always has a foregoing cause or reason. It is because the priest has offered the ram that the individual transgression is “forgiven,” that is, not punished in the person of the individual. It is because the priest has offered the bullock upon whose head the elders have laid their hands that the national sin is “forgiven,” that is, not visited upon the nation. Without this vicarious shedding of blood, there would be no remission or release of penalty (Heb. 9:22). Not until the transgression has been “covered over” by a sacrifice can there be “peace” in the conscience of the transgressor. Not until the Holy One has been “propitiated” by an atonement can the penalty be “released.” Neither of these effects can exist without the antecedent cause. The Bible knows nothing of the remission of punishment arbitrarily, that is, without a ground or reason. Penal suffering in Scripture is released or not inflicted upon the guilty because it has been endured by a substitute. If penalty were remitted by sovereignty merely without any judicial ground or reason whatever, if it were inflicted neither upon the sinner nor his substitute, this would be the abolition of penalty, not the remission of it.
According to the biblical view, divine mercy is seen more in the cause than in the effect, more in the “atonement” for sin than in the “remission” of sin, more in “expiation” than in “forgiveness,” more in the vicarious infliction than in the personal noninfliction. After the foundation has been laid for the release of penalty, it is easy to release it. When a sufficient reason has been established why sin should be pardoned, it is easy to pardon. It is the first step that costs. This is taught by St. Paul in Rom. 5:10: “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.” The greater includes the less. If God’s mercy is great enough to move him to make a vicarious atonement for man’s sin, it is certainly great enough to move him to secure the consequences of such an act. If God’s compassion is great enough to induce him to lay man’s punishment upon his own Son, it is surely great enough to induce him not to lay it upon the believer. If God so loves the world as to atone vicariously for its sin, he certainly so loves it as to remit its sin.
In looking, therefore, for the inmost seat and center of divine compassion, we should seek it rather in the work of atonement than in the act of forgiveness, rather in the cause than in the effect. That covenant transaction in the depths of the Trinity, in which God the Father commissioned and gave up the only begotten as a piacular oblation for man’s sin and in which the only begotten voluntarily accepted the commission, is a greater proof and manifestation of divine pity than that other and subsequent transaction in the depths of a believer’s soul in which God says, “Son, be of good cheer, your sin is forgiven you.” The latter transaction is easy enough, after the former has occurred. But the former transaction cost the infinite and adorable Trinity an effort and a sacrifice that is inconceivable and unutterable. This is the mystery which the angels desire to look into. That a just God should release from penalty after an ample atonement has been made is easy to understand and believe. But that he should himself make the atonement is the wonder and the mystery: “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16).
Atonement as Objective
It follows from this discussion that atonement is objective in its essential nature. An atonement makes its primary impression upon the party to whom it is made, not upon the party by whom it is made. When a man does a wrong to a fellow man and renders satisfaction for the wrong, this satisfaction is intended to influence the object not the subject, to produce an effect upon the man who has suffered the wrong not the man who did the wrong. Subjective atonement is a contradiction. Atoning to oneself is like lifting oneself.58 The objective nature of atonement is wrought into the very phraseology of Scripture, as the analysis of the biblical terms just made clearly shows. To “cover” sin is to cover it from the sight of God, not of the sinner. To “propitiate” is to propitiate God, not man.
The Septuagint idea of “propitiation,” rather than the Hebrew idea of “covering over,” is prominent in the New Testament and consequently passed into the soteriology of the primitive church and from this into both the Romish and the Protestant soteriology. The difference between the two is not essential, since both terms are objective; but there is a difference. Hebrew kāppar59 denotes that the sacrificial victim produces an effect upon sin. It covers it up. But the corresponding Septuagint term hilaskomai60 denotes that the sacrificial victim produces an effect upon God. It propitiates his holy displeasure. When St. John (1 John 2:2; 4:10) asserts that “Jesus Christ the righteous is the propitiation (hilasmos)61 for our sins” and that God “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” the implication is that the divine nature is capable of being conciliated by some propitiating act. This propitiating act under the old dispensation was, typically and provisionally, the offering of a lamb or goat as emblematic of the future offering of the Lamb of God; and under the new dispensation it is the actual offering of the body of Jesus Christ, who takes the sinner’s place and performs for him the propitiating and reconciling act.
The objective nature of atonement appears, again, in the New Testament term katallagē62 and the verb katallassein.63 These two words occur nine times in the New Testament with reference to Christ’s atoning work (Rom. 5:10–11, 15; 2 Cor. 5:18–20). In the Authorized Version, katallagē64 is translated “atonement” in Rom. 5:11; but in the other instances “reconciliation” and “reconcile” are the terms employed. The verb katallassein65 primarily signifies “to pay the exchange or difference” and secondarily “to conciliate or appease.” The following from Athenaeus (10.33) brings to view both meanings of the word: “Why do we say that a tetradrachma katallattetai,66 when we never speak of its getting into a passion?” A coin is “exchanged” in the primary signification; and a man is “reconciled” in the secondary. Two parties in a bargain settle their difference or are “reconciled” by one paying the exchange or balance to the other. In like manner two parties at enmity settle their difference or are “reconciled” by one making a satisfaction to the other. In each instance the transaction is called in Greek katallagē.67 The same usage is found in the Anglo-Saxon language. Saxon bot, from which comes the modern boot, denotes, first, a compensation paid to the offended party by the offender; then, second, the reconciling effect produced by such compensation; and, last, it signifies the state of mind which prompted the boot or compensation, namely, repentance itself (Bosworth, Anglo-Saxon Dictionary).
The term reconciliation is objective in its signification. Reconciliation terminates upon the object, not upon the subject. The offender reconciles not himself but the person whom he has offended, by undergoing some loss and thereby making amends. This is clearly taught in Matt. 5:24: “First, be reconciled to your brother (diallagēthi tō adelphō).”68 Here, the brother who has done the injury is the one who is to make up the difference. He is to propitiate or reconcile his brother to himself by a compensation of some kind. Reconciliation, here, does not denote a process in the mind of the offender, but of the offended. The meaning is not: “First conciliate your own displeasure toward your brother,” but, “First conciliate your brother’s displeasure toward you.” In the Episcopalian order for the holy communion, it is said: “If you shall perceive your offenses to be such as are not only against God, but also against your neighbors; then you shall reconcile yourselves unto them: being ready to make restitution and satisfaction, according to the uttermost of your powers, for all injuries and wrongs done by you to any other.” The biblical phrase be reconciled to your brother agrees with that of common life in describing reconciliation from the side of the offending party, rather than of the offended. We say of the settlement of a rebellion that “the subjects are reconciled to their sovereign,” rather than that “the sovereign is reconciled to the subjects”; though the latter is the more strictly accurate, because it is the sovereign who is reconciled by a satisfaction made to him by the subjects who have rebelled. In Rom. 5:10 believers are said to be “reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” Here the reconciliation is described from the side of the offending party; man is said to be reconciled. Yet this does not mean the subjective reconciliation of the sinner toward God, but the objective reconciliation of God toward the sinner. For the preceding verse speaks of God as a being from whose “wrath” the believer is saved by the death of Christ. This shows that the reconciliation effected by Christ’s atoning death is that of divine anger against sin. Upon this text, Meyer remarks that “the death of Christ does not remove the wrath of man toward God, but it removes God’s displeasure toward man.” Similarly, De Wette remarks that “the reconciliation must mean the removal of the wrath of God; it is that reconciliation of God to man which not only here, but in Rom. 3:25; 2 Cor. 5:18–19; Col. 1:21; Eph. 2:16 is referred to the atoning death of Christ.”69
The priestly work of Christ is also represented in Scripture under the figure of a price or ransom. This, also, is an objective term. The price is paid by the subject to the object: “The Son of Man is come to give his life a ransom (lytron)70 for (anti)71 many” (Matt. 20:28); “the church of God which he has purchased (peripoiēsato)72 with his own blood” (Acts 20:28); “the redemption (apolytrōsis)73 that is in Jesus Christ” (Rom. 3:24); “you are bought (ēgorasthēte)74 with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20); “Christ has redeemed (exēgorasen)75 us from the curse” (Gal. 3:13); “redemption through his blood” (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14); “who gave himself a ransom (antilytron)76 for all” (1 Tim. 2:6). The allusion in the figure is sometimes to the payment of a debt and sometimes to the liberation of a captive. In either case, it is not Satan but God who holds the claim. Man has not transgressed against Satan, but against God. The debt that requires canceling is due to a divine attribute, not to the rebel archangel. The ransom that must be paid is for the purpose of delivering the sinner from the demands of justice, not of the devil. Satan cannot acquire or establish legal claims upon any being whatever.
Some of the early fathers misinterpreted this doctrine of a “ransom” and introduced a vitiating element into the patristic soteriology, which however was soon eliminated and has never reappeared. They explained certain texts which refer to sanctification as referring to justification. In 2 Tim. 2:26 sinful men are said to be “taken captive by the devil at his will.” In 1 Tim. 1:20 Hymenaeus and Alexander are “delivered unto Satan.” In 1 Cor. 5:5 St. Paul commands the church to “deliver over” the incestuous member “to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.” In these passages, reference is had to the power which Satan has over the creature who has voluntarily subjected himself to him. The sinner is Satan’s captive upon the principle mentioned by Christ in John 8:34: “Whosoever commits sin is the servant (doulos)77 of sin”; and by St. Paul in Rom. 6:16: “Know not that to whom you yield yourselves servants (doulous)78 to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey; whether of sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness?” There is in these passages no reference to any legal or rightful claim which the devil has over the transgressor, but only to the strong and tyrannical grasp which he has upon him. This captivity to Satan is related to the work of the Holy Spirit, more than to the atoning efficacy of Christ’s blood; and deliverance from it makes a part of the work of sanctification, rather than of justification. This deliverance is preceded by another. In the order of nature, it is not until man has been first redeemed by the atoning blood from the claims of justice, that he is redeemed by the indwelling Spirit from the captivity and bondage of sin and Satan.
When, therefore, the efficacy of Christ’s death is represented as the payment of a ransom price, the same objective reference of Christ’s work is intended as in the previous instances of “propitiation” and “reconciliation.” By Christ’s death, man is ransomed from the righteous claims of another being than himself. That being is not Satan, but God the holy and just. And these claims are vicariously met. God satisfies God’s claims in man’s place. God’s mercy ransoms man from God’s justice.
We have thus seen from this examination of the scriptural representations that Christ’s priestly work has an objective reference, namely, that it affects and influences the divine being. Christ’s atonement “covers sin” from God’s sight. It “propitiates” God’s wrath against sin. It “reconciles” God’s justice toward the sinner. It “pays a ransom” to God for the sinner. None of these acts terminate upon man the subject, but all terminate upon God the object. Christ does not “cover sin” from the sinner’s sight. He does not “propitiate” the sinner’s wrath. He does not “reconcile” the sinner to the sinner. He does not “pay a ransom” to the sinner. These acts are each and all of them outward and transitive in their aim and reference. They are directed toward the infinite, not the finite; toward the Creator, not the creature. Whatever be the effect wrought by the vicarious death of the Son of God, it is wrought upon the divine nature. If it appeases, it appeases that nature; if it propitiates, it propitiates that nature; if it satisfies, it satisfies that nature; if it reconciles, it reconciles that nature. It is impossible to put any other interpretation upon the scriptural ideas and representations. A merely subjective reference, which would find all the meaning of them within the soul of man, requires a forced and violent exegesis of Scripture and a self-contradictory use of the word atonement.
At the same time, revelation plainly teaches that the author of this atoning influence and effect upon the divine being is the divine being himself. God propitiates, appeases, satisfies, and reconciles God. None of these are the acts of the creature. In all this work of propitiation, reconciliation, and redemption, God himself is the originating and active agent. He is therefore both active and passive, both agent and patient. God is the being who is angry at sin, and God is the being who propitiates this anger. God is the offended party, and he is the one who reconciles the offended party. It is divine justice that demands satisfaction, and it is divine compassion that makes the satisfaction. God is the one who holds man in a righteous captivity, and he is the one who pays the ransom that frees him from it. God is the holy judge of man who requires satisfaction for sin, and God is the merciful Father of man who provides it for him. This fact relieves the doctrine of vicarious atonement of all appearance of severity and evinces it to be the height of mercy and compassion. If it were man and not God who provided the atonement, the case would be otherwise. This peculiarity of the case is taught in Scripture. In 2 Cor. 5:18–19 it is said that “God has reconciled us to himself (heautō)79 by Jesus Christ” and that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself (heautō).”80 The statement is repeated in Col. 1:20: “It pleased the Father through the blood of Christ’s cross to reconcile all things unto himself.” According to this, in the work of vicarious atonement God is both subject and object, active and passive. He exerts a propitiating influence when he makes this atonement, and he receives a propitiating influence when he accepts it. He performs an atoning work, and his own attribute of justice feels the effect of it. Says Augustine (On the Trinity 4.14.19): “The same one and true mediator reconciles us to God by the atoning sacrifice, remains one with God to whom he offers it, makes those one in himself for whom he offers it, and is himself both the offerer and the offering.” Similarly, Frank (Christian Certainty, 352) remarks that “freedom from guilt is possible for man, because it has been provided for by God, and this provision rests upon a transaction of God with himself, whereby as other [i.e., as Son] he has made satisfaction to the claims of his own justice upon the sinner.”
This doctrine of Scripture has passed into the creeds and litanies of the church. In the English litany there is the petition: “From your wrath and from everlasting damnation, Good Lord, deliver us.” Here, the very same being who is displeased is asked to save from the displeasure. The very same holy God who is angry at sin is implored by the sinner to deliver him from the effects of this anger. And this is justified by the example of David, who cries, “O Lord, rebuke me not in your wrath, neither chasten me in your hot displeasure” (Ps. 38:1); and by the words of God himself addressed to his people through the prophet, “In my wrath I smote you, but in my favor have I had mercy upon you” (Isa. 60:10). The prophet Hosea (6:1) says to the unfaithful church: “Come and let us return unto the Lord: for he has torn, and he will heal us; he has smitten, and he will bind us up.” In Zech. 1:2–4 Jehovah is described as “sore displeased” and yet at the same time as exhibiting clemency toward those with whom he is displeased: “The Lord has been sore displeased with your fathers. Therefore say unto them, Thus says the Lord of hosts, Turn unto me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will turn unto you, says the Lord of hosts.” “The Lord said to Eliphaz, My wrath is kindled against you, and against your two friends. Therefore take unto you seven bullocks and seven rams and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering, lest I deal with you after your folly” (Job 42:7–8). Here, the very same God who was displeased with Job’s friends devises for them a method whereby they may avert the displeasure. Upon a larger scale, God is displeased with every sinful man, yet he himself provides a method whereby sinful man may avert this displeasure. This is eminently the case with the believer. “When,” says Calvin (3.2.21), “the saints seem to themselves to feel most the anger of God, they still confide their complaints to him; and when there is no appearance of his hearing them, they still continue to call upon him.” Says Anselm (Meditation 2), “Take heart, O sinner, take heart! Do not despair; hope in him whom you fear. Flee to him from whom you have fled. Boldly call on him whom you have haughtily provoked.”81
The doctrine of vicarious atonement, consequently, implies that in God there exist simultaneously both wrath and compassion. In this fact is seen the infinite difference between divine and human anger. When God is displeased with the sinner, he compassionately desires that the sinner may escape the displeasure and invents a way of escaping it. But when man is displeased with his fellowman, he does not desire that his fellowman may escape the displeasure and devises no way of escape. Divine wrath issues from the constitutional and necessary antagonism between divine holiness and moral evil. Divine compassion springs from the benevolent interest which God feels in the work of his hands. The compassion is founded in God’s paternal relation to man; the wrath is founded in his judicial relation to him. God as a Creator and Father pities the sinner; as a judge he is displeased with him. Wrath against sin must be both felt and manifested by God; compassion toward the sinner must be felt, but may or may not be manifested by him. Justice is necessary in its exercise, but mercy is optional. The righteous feeling of wrath toward sin is immutable and eternal in God, but it may be propitiated by the gracious feeling of compassion toward the sinner, which is also immutable and eternal in God. God the father of men may reconcile God the judge of men. Whether this shall be done depends upon the sovereign pleasure of God. He is not obliged and necessitated to propitiate his own wrath for the sinner, as he is to punish sin; but he has mercifully determined to do this and has done it by the atonement of Jesus Christ. By the method of vicarious substitution of penalty, God satisfies his own justice and reconciles his own displeasure toward the transgressor. That moral emotion in the divine essence which from the nature and necessity of the case is incensed against sin, God himself placates by a self-sacrifice that inures to the benefit of the guilty creature. Here, the compassion and benevolent love of God propitiate the wrath and holy justice of God. The two feelings exist together in one and the same being. The propitiation is no oblation ab extra:82 no device of a third party or even of sinful man himself to render God placable toward man. It is wholly ab intra:83 a self-oblation upon the part of the deity himself, in the exercise of his benevolence toward the guilty, by which to satisfy those constitutional imperatives of the divine nature which without it must find their satisfaction in the personal punishment of the transgressor or else be outraged by arbitrary omnipotence.
Upon this point, Augustine (Tractates on the Gospel of John, ex. 6), remarks:
It is written, “God commends his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” He loved us, therefore, even when in the exercise of enmity toward him we were working iniquity. And yet it is said with perfect truth, “You hate, O Lord, all workers of iniquity.” Wherefore, in a wonderful and divine manner, he both hated and loved us at the same time. He hated us, as being different from what he had made us; but as our iniquity had not entirely destroyed his work in us, he could at the same time, in everyone of us, hate what we had done and love what he had created. In every instance it is truly said of God “You hate nothing which you have made; for never would you have made anything, if you had hated it.”
Calvin, after quoting the above from Augustine, remarks (2.16.3) that
God who is the perfection of righteousness cannot love iniquity, which he beholds in us all. We all, therefore, have in us that which deserves God’s hatred. Wherefore, in respect to our corrupt nature and the consequent depravity of our lives, we are all really offensive to God, guilty in his sight, and born to the damnation of hell. But because God is unwilling to lose that in us which is his own, he still finds something in us which his benevolence (benignitas) can love. For notwithstanding that we are sinners by our own fault, we are yet his creatures; though we have brought death upon ourselves yet he had created us for life.
Turretin (Concerning the Truth of Christ’s Satisfaction 1.1) distinguishes between “compassion” and “reconciliation.” Because God is compassionate in his own excellent and perfect nature, he can become reconciled toward a transgressor of his law. If he were inherently destitute of compassion, he would be incapable of reconciliation. Compassion is a feeling, reconciliation is an act resulting from it. The former is inherent and necessary; the latter is optional and sovereign. If God were not compassionate and placable, he could not be propitiated by the sacrifice of Christ. An implacable and merciless being could not be conciliated and would do nothing to effect a reconciliation. God is moved by a feeling of compassion and a benevolent affection toward sinners, prior to and irrespective of the death of Christ: “When we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). The death of Christ did not make God compassionate and merciful. He is always and eternally so. But God’s holy justice is not reconciled to sinners unless Christ die for their sin. The compassion is prior in the order of nature to the death of Christ; the reconciliation of justice is subsequent to it: “Before the death of Christ, God was already compassionate (misericors) and placable. This moved him to provide salvation and redemption for man. But he was actually reconciled and propitiated, only upon the condition and supposition of that death of Christ which was required by eternal justice.”
In this manner, compassion and wrath coexist in God. Says Turretin (as above):
To us indeed it seems difficult to conceive that the same person who is offended with us should also love us; because, when any feeling takes possession of us we are apt to be wholly engrossed with it. Thus if our anger is inflamed against anyone, there is usually no room in us for favor toward him; and on the other hand, if we regard him with favor, there is often connected with it the most unrighteous indulgence. But if we could cast off the disorders of passion and clothe ourselves in the garments of righteousness, we might easily harmonize these things with one another. A father offended with the viciousness of his son loves him as a son, yet is angry with him as being vicious. A judge, in like manner, may be angry and moved to punish, yet not the less on this account inclined by compassion to pardon the offender, if only someone would stand forth and satisfy the claims of justice for him. Why then, should not God, who is most righteous and benevolent, at once by reason of his justice demand penalty and by reason of his compassion provide satisfaction for us?
Turretin quotes in proof of this view the following from Aquinas (3.49.4): “We are not said to have been reconciled as if God began to love us anew (de novo), for he loved us with an eternal love. Rather, we are said to have been reconciled because through this reconciliation every cause of hatred was removed, on the one hand through the cleansing of sin, and on the other hand through the compensation of a more acceptable good (acceptabilioris boni).”84 He also remarks: “The Scholastics say that God loved the human race insofar as he himself made that nature, but he hates it insofar as men have brought guilt on themselves.”85
In all that is said, consequently, respecting the wrath of God, in Christian theology, it is of the utmost importance to keep in view the fact that this wrath is compatible with benevolence and compassion. This is the infinite difference in kind between divine and human anger. At the very moment when God is displeased, he is capable of devising kind things for the object of his displeasure: “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). And at the very instant when guilty man is conscious that divine wrath is resting upon him, he may address his supplication for a blessing to the very being who is angry with his sin and may pray: “From your wrath, good Lord, deliver me.” And the great and ample warrant and encouragement for men to do this is found in the sacrifice of the Son of God. For in and by this atoning oblation, divine compassion conciliates divine wrath against sin. In the death of the God-man, “righteousness and peace, justice and mercy, kiss each other” (Ps. 85:10). The mercy vicariously satisfies the justice; divine compassion in the sinner’s stead receives upon itself the stroke of divine wrath; God the Father smites God the Son, in the transgressor’s place: “Awake, O sword, against the man that is my fellow, says the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 13:7).86
This subject is elucidated still further by noticing the difference between the holy wrath of God and the wicked wrath of man: “The wrath of man works not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). When man is angry at man, this feeling is absolutely incompatible with the feeling of compassion and benevolent love. Selfish human anger and benevolence cannot be simultaneous. They cannot possibly coexist. When a man, under the impulse of sinful displeasure, says to his brother “Raca” or “you fool” (Matt. 5:22), when he feels passionate and selfish wrath, he cannot devise good things for his brother man. On the contrary, he devises only evil things. He plots his neighbor’s destruction. The wrath of the human heart is not only incompatible with benevolence, but is often intensely malignant. It is even increased by the moral excellence that is in the object of it. Holiness in a fellow creature sometimes makes wicked human anger hotter and more deadly. The Jews gnashed their teeth in rage at the meekness and innocence of Christ. “The hatred of the wicked,” says Rousseau (Confessions 9), “is only roused the more from the impossibility of finding any just grounds on which it can rest; and the very consciousness of their own injustice is only a grievance the more against him who is the object of it.” “They hated the one whom they injured,”87 says Tacitus. This kind of wrath requires complete eradication before compassion can exist. “Better it were,” says Luther (Table Talk: Of God’s Works), “that God should be angry with us than that we be angry with God, for he can soon be at a union with us again, because he is merciful; but when we are angry with him, then the case is not to be helped.”
Still further elucidation of this subject is found in the resemblance between the holy wrath of God and the righteous anger of the human conscience. The sinful feeling of passionate anger to which we have just alluded is an emotion of the heart; but the righteous feeling of dispassionate anger to which we now allude is in the conscience. This is a different faculty from the heart.88 Its temper toward sin is unselfish and impartial, like the wrath of God. And this feeling can exist simultaneously with that of benevolence. When a man’s own conscience is displacent and remorseful over his own sin, there is no malice toward the man himself, “for no man ever yet hated his own flesh” (Eph. 5:29). At the very moment when a just and righteous man’s conscience is offended and incensed at the wickedness of a fellowman, he can and often does devise good things toward him. The most self-sacrificing philanthropists are those whose conscience is the most sensitive toward the moral evil which they endeavor to remove and whose moral displeasure against sin is the most vivid and emphatic. It is not the sentimental Rousseau, but the righteous Calvin who would willingly lay down his life, if thereby he could save men from eternal retribution. The conscience of Rousseau was dull and torpid, compared with the keen and energetic conscience of Calvin; but the desire of the latter for the spiritual and eternal welfare of sinful men was a thousand times greater than that of the former, supposing that there was in Rousseau any desire at all for the spiritual and eternal welfare of man. When St. Paul says respecting Alexander the coppersmith, “The Lord reward him according to his works” (2 Tim. 7:14), he gives expression to the righteous displeasure of a pure conscience toward one who was opposing the gospel of Christ and the progress of God’s kingdom in the earth. It was not any personal injury to the apostle that awakened the desire for divine retribution in the case, but a zeal for the glory of God and the welfare of man. Could St. Paul by any self-sacrifice on his own part have produced repentance and reformation in Alexander, he would gladly have made it. As in the instance of his unbelieving Jewish kindred, he would have been willing to be “accursed from Christ” for this purpose (Rom. 9:3). But when a profane man angrily says to his fellowman: “God damn you,” this is the malignant utterance of the selfish passion of the human heart and is incompatible with any benevolent feeling.89
We find, then, that in the exercise of Christ’s priestly office the agency is wholly within the divine nature itself. The justice and the mercy, the wrath and the compassion, are qualities of one and the same eternal being. It follows, consequently, that the explanation of the great subject of divine reconciliation lies in the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of vicarious atonement stands or falls with that of the triune God. If God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct persons, each one of them really objective to the others, then one of them can do a personal work not done by the others that shall have an effect upon the Godhead. And if God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are also one undivided being in nature and essence, then this effect, whatever it be, is not limited and confined to any one of the persons exclusive of the others, but is experienced by the one whole undivided nature and essence itself. The Godhead, and not merely God the Father or God the Son or God the Spirit, is reconciled to guilty man by the judicial suffering of one of the persons of the Godhead incarnate. The Son of God is a person distinct from and objective to the Father and the Spirit. Hence, he can do a work which neither of them does. He becomes incarnate, not they. He suffers and dies for man, not they. And yet the efficacy of this work, which is his work as a trinitarian person, can terminate upon that entire divine nature which is all in God the Father and all in God the Spirit, as it is all in God the Son. “Christ,” says Frank (Christian Certainty, 366), “experienced as a [vicarious] sinner both subjection to God and rejection by God; but yet as one who can call the God who has rejected him, his God, and who while the wrath of God goes forth upon him and delivers him up to the punitive infliction, nevertheless can pray: ‘Not my will, but yours be done.’ ”
Atonement as Subjective
Before leaving the subject of vicarious atonement, it is in place here to notice its relation to the soul of man. For, while Christ’s atonement has primarily this objective relation to the divine nature, it has also a secondary subjective relation to the nature of the guilty creature for whom it is made. The objective atonement is intended to be subjectively appropriated by the act of faith in it.
In the first place, the priestly work of Christ has an influence upon the human conscience similar to that which it has upon divine justice. Man’s moral sense is pacified by Christ’s atonement. Peace is everywhere in Scripture represented as the particular effect produced by faith in Christ’s blood: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Rom. 5:1); “we are made nigh to God by the blood of Christ, for he is our peace” (Eph. 2:13–14); “having made peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20); “peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you” (John 14:27); “the peace of God passes all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).
The human conscience is the mirror and index of the divine attribute of justice. The two are correlated. What therefore God’s justice demands, man’s conscience demands. “Nothing,” says Matthew Henry, “can pacify an offended conscience but that which satisfied an offended God.” The peace which the believer in Christ’s atonement enjoys, and which is promised by the Redeemer to the believer, is the subjective experience in man that corresponds to the objective reconciliation in God. The pacification of the human conscience is the consequence of the satisfaction of divine justice. God’s justice is completely satisfied for the sin of man by the death of Christ. This is an accomplished fact: “Jesus Christ the righteous is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). The instant any individual man of this world of mankind believes that divine justice is thus satisfied, his conscience is at rest. The belief of a fact is always needed in order to a personal benefit from it. Belief is not needed in order to establish the fact. Whether a sinner believes Christ died for sin or not will make no difference with the fact, though it will make a vast difference with him: “If we believe not, yet he abides faithful: he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). Unbelief cannot destroy a fact. Should not a soul henceforth believe on the Son of God, it would nevertheless be a fact that he died an atoning death on Calvary and that this death is an ample oblation for the sin of the world. But it must be remembered that the kind of belief by which a man obtains a personal benefit from the fact of Christ’s death is experimental, not historical or hearsay. A man may believe from common rumor that the death of Christ satisfies divine justice for the sin of the world and yet experience no benefit and no peace from his belief, even as a blind man may believe from common rumor that there is a mountain in front of him and yet have none of the pleasing sensations and personal benefits that accompany the vision of it. The blind man may have no doubt of the fact that there is a mountain before him; he may even argue to prove its existence and still have all the wretched sensations of blindness and obtain no personal advantage from his hearsay belief. And a sinful man may have no skeptical doubt that the death of Christ on Mount Calvary has completely expiated human guilt and may even construct a strong argument in proof of the fact and still have all the miserable experience of an unforgiven sinner, may still have remorse and the fear of death and the damnation of hell. The belief by which men obtain personal benefit, namely, mental peace and blessedness, from the fact of Christ’s atonement involves trust and reliance upon Christ. A man may believe Christ and yet not believe on him. Christ himself marks the difference between historical or hearsay belief and experimental faith in Matt. 13:13–15: “Seeing, they see not; and hearing, they hear not, neither do they understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which says, By hearing you shall hear and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see and shall not perceive.” Whenever there is an experimental belief of the actual and accomplished fact of Christ’s atonement, there is a subjective pacification of the conscience corresponding to the objective reconciliation of divine justice. But this subjective effect of Christ’s death is neither the primary nor the whole effect of it. It presupposes the objective satisfaction or propitiation. In this instance, as in all others, the object is prior to the subject and determines its consciousness.
Second, the subjective appropriation of Christ’s atonement is the evidence and test of genuine repentance. An unselfish godly sorrow for sin is shown by a willingness to suffer personally for sin. In Lev. 26:41, 43 the truly penitent are described as “accepting the punishment of their iniquity.” The criminal who complains of punishment or resists it or endeavors to escape from it evinces by this fact that he cares more for his own happiness than he does for the evil and wickedness of his act. If he were certain of not being punished, he would repeat his transgression. There is of course no genuine sorrow for sin in such a temper. If, on the contrary, a wrongdoer approves of and accepts the punishment denounced against his crime and voluntarily gives himself up to suffer for his transgression, he furnishes the highest proof of true sorrow. He does not make his own happiness the first thing, but the maintenance of justice. With Angelo (Measure for Measure 5.1), he says:
So deep sticks it in my penitent heart,
That I crave death more willingly than mercy;
’Tis my deserving, and I do entreat it.
With the penitent thief, he says, “We are in this condemnation justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds” (Luke 23:41). Says Dorner (Christian Doctrine 1.302):
No one can deny that true penitence includes the candid acknowledgment of actual desert of punishment and that the denial of this desert and the unwillingness to suffer punishment and to surrender to the disgrace of justice is the most certain proof of a mere semblance of penitence. And it is not essentially different, when repentance and the resolution to live a better life are put in the place of that suffering which constitutes satisfying atonement and gives a title to remission of sin. Such views are a poisoning of penitence, which, in order to be genuine, must stand the test of being ready to suffer punishment and approve of the retribution of justice.
The first impulse consequently of true penitence is to make a personal atonement. This distinguishes penitence from remorse, the godly sorrow from the sorrow of the world (2 Cor. 7:10). Mere remorse has no desire or impulse to suffer and make amends for what has been done. Its impulse and desire is wholly selfish, namely, to escape suffering. Remorse leads to suicide, penitence never. The suicide’s motive is to put an end to his misery. He supposes that he will be happier by dying than by continuing to live. This was the motive of the impenitent Judas.90 But the broken and contrite heart is willing to do and to suffer anything that would really satisfy God’s holy law. This is taught in Ps. 51:16: David in his genuine sorrow for his great transgression says: “You desire not sacrifice, else would I give it.” He perceives that any expiation which he could make for his sin would be unequal to what justice requires; but this does not render him any the less ready to make it if he could. And when the true penitent perceives that another competent person, divinely appointed, has performed that atoning work for him which he is unable to perform for himself, he welcomes the substitution with joy and gratitude. Any aversion, therefore, to Christ’s vicarious atonement evinces that there is a defect in the supposed sorrow for sin. The lust of self is in the experience. The individual’s happiness is in the foreground, and divine holiness is in the background. And the positive and deliberate rejection of Christ’s atonement, upon the same principle, is absolute and utter impenitence. A hostile and polemic attitude toward the blood of Christ as atoning for human guilt is fatal hardness of heart. Christ refers to it in his awful words to the Pharisees: “If you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). Impenitence shows itself both in unwillingness to make a personal atonement for sin and to trust in a vicarious atonement for it. (See supplement 6.2.3.)
Christ’s Sufferings as Penal Substitution
It becomes necessary now to consider the question how the suffering of Christ meets the requisitions involved in the case of substitution of penalty or vicarious atonement. We have seen that suffering is the inmost essence of an atonement. The sacrificial victim must agonize and die. Without shedding of blood there is no remission of penalty. Even in cases where physical suffering does not take place, a suffering of another kind does. A citizen within the province of civil law is said to make amends for his fault when he pays a fine and suffers a loss of money as the compensation to civil justice. What, then, is suffering?
Suffering is of three kinds: (1) calamity, (2) chastisement, and (3) punishment or penalty.
Calamity does not refer to sin and guilt. It is a kind of suffering that befalls man by the providence of God for other reasons than disciplinary or judicial. Calamitous suffering, however, it should be noticed, occurs only in a sinful world. Consequently, it is never found isolated and by itself alone. It is associated either with chastisement (as when a calamity falls upon a child of God) or with punishment (as when it falls upon the impenitent sinner). Calamity is therefore rather an element in suffering than the whole of the suffering. When, for illustration, some of the Galileans had been cruelly put to death by Pilate (Luke 13:1–5), our Lord distinctly told those who informed him of this fact that these Galileans “were not sinners above all the Galileans because they suffered such things.” They were sinners, but not the worst of sinners. In other words, he taught them that the whole of this suffering was not penal. As sinners, they deserved to suffer; and some of this suffering was for their sins. But as they were not greater sinners than other Galileans, they did not deserve a suffering that was so much greater than that of the Galilean people as a whole. A part of this extraordinary suffering, therefore, was calamity, not punishment. As such, it had no reference to the guilt of the Galileans. If it had, it would have been a proof that they “were sinners above all the Galileans.” Our Lord then repeats and emphasizes the same truth by an allusion to the fall of the tower in Siloam upon some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This event did not prove that these few persons were sinners “above all men that dwelled in Jerusalem.” There was, therefore, a calamitous as well as a penal element in this fall of the tower. The same doctrine is taught by the extraordinary sufferings of the patriarch Job. Job’s friends contended that these were all and wholly penal. They inferred that Job had been guilty of some extraordinary sin which merited this extraordinary punishment, and they urged him to confess it. The patriarch, though acknowledging himself to be a sinner and deserving to suffer for sin (Job 42:5–6), was not conscious of any such extraordinary act of transgression as his friends supposed he must have committed and cannot understand why he should have been visited with such enormous afflictions. Both he and they are finally informed by God himself, out of the whirlwind, that the extraordinariness of the suffering is due to the will of God; that it is of the nature of calamity, not of penalty. Jehovah resolves the mystery in the uncommon treatment of Job into an act of almighty power by an infinitely wise being who gives no reason for his procedure in this instance (Job 38–41). Elihu, the youngest of the speakers, seems to have had an intimation in his own mind that this was the true explanation of the dark problem: “I will answer you that God is greater than man. Why do you strive against him? For he gives not account of any of his matters” (33:12–13).
The second species of suffering is chastisement. This is spoken of in Heb. 12:6: “For whom the Lord loves, he chastens (paideuei).”91 Chastisement and punishment are distinguished from each other in 1 Cor. 11:32: “When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” The purpose of chastisement is discipline and moral improvement. The reason for it is not secret and unknown, as in the case of calamity. It is adapted to reform. It is administered by parental affection, not by judicial severity. It is the form which suffering assumes within the family. The parent does not cause the child to feel pain for the satisfaction of justice, but for personal improvement. The suffering does indeed remind the child of his guilt and is suggestive of penalty, but it is not itself penal. Family discipline is not of the nature of retribution.
Hence analogies drawn from the family do not apply to the civil government and still less to divine government, when guilt and retribution are the subjects under consideration. Guilt and retribution are not res domi;92 they are not family affairs. The family was not established for the purpose of punishing criminals, but of educating children. Because a human father may forgive a child, that is, may forego the infliction of suffering for an offense, without any satisfaction being rendered for him by a substitute and without any reference to the claims of law, it does not follow that the state can do this or that the supreme ruler can. Within the sphere of family life, there is nothing judicial and retributive. There is, therefore, no analogy between the two spheres. There can be no legitimate arguing from a sphere in which the retributive element is altogether excluded, such as that of the father and the child, over into a sphere in which the retributive is the prime element, such as that of God the just and man the guilty. It is metabasis eis allo genos.93 A parent is at liberty in case he judges that in a particular instance the child will be morally the better for so doing to forego chastisement altogether. He can pass by the transgression without inflicting any pain at all upon the child. But the magistrate has no right to do this in the instance of crime against the state. He must cause each and every transgression to receive the penalty prescribed by the statute. Furthermore, since chastisement has no reference to crime, it is not graduated by justice and the degree of the offense, but by expediency and the aim to reform. Sometimes a small fault in a child may be chastised with a severe infliction, and a great fault with a mild one. The object not being to weigh out penalty in exact proportion to crime, but to discipline and reform the character, the amount of suffering inflicted is measured by this aim and object. A very slight offense, if there is a tendency frequently to repeat it on the part of the child, may require a heavy chastisement, so that the habit may be broken up. And on the other hand, a very grave offense which is exceptional in its nature and to which there is no habitual tendency on the part of the child, may be best managed with a slight infliction of pain or even with none at all. A rebuke merely may be better adapted to promote the reformation of the offender. All this is illustrated in God’s dealings with his own children. A Christian of uncommon excellence to human view sometimes experiences a great affliction, while one of less devoutness, apparently, is only slightly afflicted or perhaps not at all. This difference is not caused by the degree of demerit in each instance, but by what the divine eye sees to be required in each case in order to the best development of character.
Now the relation of a believer to God is like that of the child to the earthly father. Man enters into God’s heavenly family by the act of faith in Christ. All the suffering that befalls him in this sphere is therefore of the nature of chastisement, not of punishment or retribution. It is not intrinsically endless and hopeless, as divine retribution is: “I will visit their transgression with the rod; nevertheless my loving-kindness I will not utterly take from him”; “he will not always chide; neither will he keep his anger forever” (Ps. 89:31–34; 103:9; Jer. 10:24). The penalty due to the believer’s sin has been endured for him by his Redeemer, and therefore there is no need of his enduring it. Justice does not exact penalty twice over. Consequently, whenever the believer suffers pain from any cause or source whatever, he is not suffering retributive punishment for purposes of law and justice, but corrective chastisement for purposes of self-discipline and spiritual improvement: epi to sympheron94 (Heb. 12:10). This suffering, though for the present moment not joyous but grievous, yet after it has been submissively endured, works out the peaceable fruit of righteousness (12:11). Even death itself, which is the climax of suffering, is not penal for a believer. Its sting, that is, its retributive quality, is extracted (1 Cor. 15:55–56). Suffering is penal when it is intended and felt to be such and is chastisement when it is not so intended and felt. God intends a benefit, not a punishment, when he causes a believer in Christ to suffer the pains of dissolution; and the believer so understands it. He feels that it is fatherly discipline. When a penitent believer dies, God supports and comforts the departing soul; but when an impenitent unbeliever dies, the soul is left to itself without support and comfort from God. The tranquilizing presence of God converts death into chastisement; the absence of such a presence makes it penalty. (See supplement 6.2.4.)
The relation of a rebellious and unbelieving man to God is like that of a rebellious citizen to the state. All that such a citizen can expect from the government under which he lives is justice, the due reward of his disobedience. The state is not the family, and what is peculiar to the one is not to the other. The disobedient citizen cannot expect from the magistrate the patient forbearance and affectionate tuition which the disobedient child meets with from a parent with a view to his discipline and moral improvement. The citizen is entitled only to justice, and if he gets it in the form of the righteous punishment of his crime he must be silent. No man may complain of justice or quarrel with it. To do so is an absurdity, as well as a fault. By creation, man was within the circle both of divine government and the divine family. Holy Adam was at once a subject and a child. By apostasy and rebellion, he threw himself out of the circle of God’s family, but not out of the circle of God’s government. Sinful man is invited and even commanded to reenter the divine family when he is invited and commanded to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of his sins. But so long as he is an unbeliever, he has not reentered it and is not an affectionate or “dear” child of God. The phraseology in Jer. 31:20 (Ephraim is “my dear son”); Eph. 5:1 (“be followers of God as dear children”); Rom. 8:16–17 (“the Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children then heirs”); Gal. 3:26 (“you are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus”); and Matt. 5:9 (“the peacemakers shall be called the children of God”) is not applicable to men indiscriminately, but only to believers. The childhood and the fatherhood in this case is special, because it is founded in redemption.
There is a providential fatherhood and childhood spoken of in Scripture which is not sufficient to constitute fallen man a member of God’s heavenly family. In Acts 17:28 all men are called the “offspring” of God; and in Mal. 2:10 the question is asked: we not all one father?” This providential fatherhood and childhood is founded in creation. This is proved by a second question in 2:10, which follows the one already cited and explains it: “Has not one God created us?” And in Acts 17:26 the reason given why all nations are the offspring of God is that they are “made of one blood” by their Creator. Creation is a kind of paternity. In Job 38:28–29 this is extended even to the inanimate creation: “Has the rain a father? Or who has begotten the drops of the dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? And the hoary frost of heaven, who has gendered it?” In Deut. 2:27 idolatrous Israel is represented as “saying to a stock, You are my father; and to a stone, You have brought me forth.” In acknowledging a false God to be their maker, they acknowledged him to be their providential father. In accordance with this, God says to a wicked generation “whose spot is not the spot of his children,” who are not “dear” children in the special sense: “Do you thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise? Is not he your father that bought you? Has he not made you and established you?” (Deut. 32:6). Our Lord teaches (Matt. 7:11) that “evil” men have a “father in heaven” and explains this fatherhood by God’s readiness to bestow “good things” in his general providence. This association of paternity with creation and providence is found also in secular literature. Plato (Timaeus 9) says that “to discover the Creator and Father of this universe is indeed difficult.” Horace (Odes 1.12) speaks of “the Father of all, who governs the affairs of men and gods.” Creation, together with providence and government which are necessarily associated with creation, is a solid basis for this kind of paternity. It implies benevolent care and kindness toward its objects, and these are paternal qualities. God’s providential and governmental goodness toward all his rational creatures is often referred to in Scripture: “Your Father which is in heaven makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain upon the just and the unjust” (Matt. 5:45); “he left not himself without witness, in that he did good and gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).
The fact, then, that God creates man after his own image a rational and immortal being, that he continually upholds him and extends to him the blessings of a kind and watchful providence, and still more that he compassionates him in his sinful and guilty condition and provides for him a way of salvation—all this justifies the use of the term father in reference to God and the term child in reference to man. But the fatherhood and childhood, in this case, are different from those of redemption and adoption. The former may exist without the latter. God as the universal parent, while showing providential benevolence and kindness to an impenitent sinner, “filling his mouth with food and gladness” all the days of his earthly existence, may finally punish him forever for his ungrateful abuse of paternal goodness, for his transgression of moral law, and especially for his rejection of the offer of forgiveness in Christ. And this lost man is still, even in his lost condition, one of God’s “offspring.” Abraham, speaking in the place of God, calls Dives in hell a child of the universal parent: “Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things” (Luke 16:25). And Dives recognizes the relationship when he says, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me” (16:24). The providential fatherhood of God is thus shown to be consistent with the punishment of a rebellious son. It is also consistent with the refusal to abate the merited punishment. Dives asks for a drop of water to cool his tongue and is refused. Dives was an impenitent man. He did not confess his sin or implore its forgiveness. He only asked for deliverance from suffering. He lacked the spirit of the prodigal son and of the penitent thief. He did not say, “Father, I have sinned and am no more worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired servants. I am in this condemnation justly. I am receiving the due reward of my deeds.”
The universal fatherhood and childhood may exist without the special, but not the special without the universal. There may be creation, providence, and government without redemption, but not redemption without the former. A man may experience all the blessings of God’s general paternity without those of his special, but not the blessings of God’s special fatherhood without those of his general. Christ speaks of those who are not God’s children in the special sense, when he says, in reply to the assertion of the Jews that “we have one Father, even God”: “If God were your Father, you would love me. You are of your father, the devil” (John 8:41–44). St. John refers to the same class in the words “in this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil” (1 John 3:10).
When men universally are commanded to say “our Father who is in heaven,” they are commanded to do so with the heart, not with the lips merely. They have no permission to employ the terms of the family from the position of a rebel. Says Christ, “Why call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). In like manner God says, “A son honors his father: If I be a father, where is my honor?” (Mal. 1:6). The fact of the providential fatherhood, as previously remarked, is not sufficient to constitute fallen men members of God’s heavenly family. Unfallen man was a member of the heavenly family merely by the fatherhood of creation and providence; but after his rebellion and apostasy this ceased to be the case. Redemption was needed in order to restore him to membership. The whole human family is not now God’s heavenly family. Only a part of it are the dear children of God. Those only are members of God’s family who are members of Christ, “of whom the whole family in heaven and earth [the church above and below] is named” (Eph. 3:15). All others “are bastards and not sons” (Heb. 12:8).95
The third species of suffering is punishment. This is pain inflicted because of guilt. The intention of it is the satisfaction of justice. Retributive justice is expressed in the saying “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” This is the lex talionis96or law of requital.97 Our Lord, in the Sermon on the Mount, did not abolish this law, but placed its execution upon the proper basis. “That which was addressed to the judges,” says Calvin (Henry, Life 1.287), “private individuals applied to themselves, and it was this abuse which our Lord Jesus Christ would correct.” The private person may not put out the eye of him who has put out an eye, but the government may. Retribution is not the function of the individual. It belongs to God and to the government, which is ordained of God: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves; for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). This retributive function is delegated by God to the magistrate: “For he is the minister of God, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that does evil” (13:4). When the private individual takes the lex talionis98 into his own hands, it is revenge. Christ forbade this. When God or the government administers it, it is vengeance. Christ did not forbid this. The former is selfish and wrong; the latter is dispassionate and right.
That particular amount and kind of suffering which is required by the law of requital is punishment. Its primary aim is the satisfaction of justice, not utility to the criminal. The criminal is sacrificed to justice. His private interest is subservient to that of law and government, because the latter is of more importance than the former. Even if he derives no personal benefit from the retribution which he experiences, the one sufficient reason for it still holds good, namely, that he has voluntarily transgressed and deserves to suffer for it. Both the quantity and the quality of the suffering must be considered, in order to penalty. In the first place, the amount of the suffering must be proportionate to the offense. To take human life for a petty larceny would be unjust. To take money as an offset for murder would be unjust. In the second place, suffering must be intended as penal and felt to be penal in order to be penal. It must have this retributive quality. Two men might suffer from God precisely the same amount of suffering, and in one case it might be retribution and in the other chastisement, because in the one case his intention was the satisfaction of law, in the other the correction of his child. Physical death in the case of a wicked man is penal evil, because it is designed as a punishment on the part of God and is felt to be such by the man. God grants no comfort to the wicked in his death; the sting is not extracted, and death is remorseful and punitive. But the very same event of death and the same suffering in amount is chastisement and not punishment for a believer, because it is accompanied with inward strength from God to endure it and is known to be the means of entrance into heaven.
The sufferings of Christ the mediator were vicariously penal or atoning because the intention, both on the part of the Father and the Son, was that they should satisfy justice for the sin of man. They were not calamity, for their object is known. The reason for calamitous suffering is secret. And they were not disciplinary, because Christ having no sin could not pass through a process of progressive sanctification. Scripture plainly teaches that our Lord’s sufferings were vicariously retributive; that is, they were endured for the purpose of satisfying justice in the place of the actual transgressor: “Christ has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust” (1 Pet. 3:18); “Christ was made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13); “Immanuel was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5); “Jesus our Lord was delivered for our offenses” (Rom. 4:25); “he has made him to be sin [a sin offering] for us, who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21); “he is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2); “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29); “he spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32). With this, compare 2 Pet. 2:4: “He spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell.” Penalty in the case of Christ was vicarious; in that of the fallen angels was personal.
The penal and atoning sufferings of Christ were twofold: ordinary and extraordinary. The first came upon him by virtue of his human nature. He hungered, thirsted, was weary in body, was sad and grieved in mind, by the operation of the natural laws of matter and mind. All that Christ endured by virtue of his being born of a woman, being made under the law, living a human life, and dying a violent death belongs to this class. The extraordinary sufferings in Christ’s experience came upon him by virtue of a positive act and infliction on the part of God. To these belong, also, all those temptations by Satan which exceeded in their force the common temptations incident to ordinary human life. Through these Christ was caused to suffer more severely than any of his disciples have. And that this was an intentional and preconceived infliction on the part of God, for the purpose of causing the sinner’s substitute to endure a judicial suffering, is proved by the statement that “Jesus was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matt. 4:1). These severe temptations from Satan occurred more than once: “The devil departed from him for a season” (Luke 4:13). But still more extraordinary was that suffering which was caused in the soul of Christ by the immediate agency of God in the garden and on the cross. That agony which forced the blood through the pores of the skin and wrung from the patient and mighty heart of the God-man the cry, “My God, why have you forsaken me!” cannot be explained by the operation of natural laws. There was positive desertion and infliction on the part of God. The human nature was forsaken, as the words of Christ imply. That support and comfort which the humanity had enjoyed, in greater or less degree, during the life of the God-man upon earth was now withdrawn utterly and entirely. One consequence of this was that the physical suffering involved in the crucifixion was unmitigated. Christ had no such support as his confessors have always had in the hour of martyrdom. But this was the least severe part of Christ’s extraordinary suffering. The pain from the death of crucifixion was physical only. There was over and above this a mental distress that was far greater. This is indicated in the terms employed to describe the spiritual condition of Christ’s soul, in the so-called agony in the garden: “He began to be sore amazed and to be very heavy and says unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death” (Mark 14:33–34). The words ekthambeisthai99 and adēmonein100 imply a species of mental distress that stuns and bewilders. This mental suffering cannot be explained upon ordinary psychological principles, but must be referred to a positive act of God. Christ was sinless and perfect. His inward distress did not result from the workings of a guilty conscience. The agony in the garden and on the cross was not that of remorse; though it was equal to it. Neither was it the agony of despair; though it was equal to it.101
The positive agency of God, in causing a particular kind of suffering to befall the mediator which could not have befallen him by the operation of natural causes, is spoken of in Isa. 53:5–6, 10: “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities. The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. It pleased the Lord to bruise him.” And again in Zech. 13:7: “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd and against the man that is my fellow, says the Lord of hosts; smite the shepherd.” This language teaches that the incarnate second person of the Trinity received upon himself a stroke inflicted by the positive act of another divine person. The Son of God was bruised, wounded, and smitten by God the Father, as the officer and agent of divine justice; and the effects of it appear in that extraordinary mental distress which the mediator exhibited, particularly during the last hours of his earthly life: “While he was buffeted, scourged, and nailed to the cross, we hear nothing from him; but like a lamb before the shearers, he was mute. But when God reached forth his hand and darted his immediate rebukes into his very soul and spirit, then he cries out, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!”102
The nature of this suffering is inexplicable, because it has no parallel in human consciousness. The other forms of Christ’s suffering are intelligible, because they were like those of men. Thirst, hunger, weariness, grief at the death of a friend, were the same in Christ that they are in us. But that strange and unique experience which uttered itself in the cry “My God, why have you forsaken me?” belongs to the consciousness of the God-man. Only he who occupied the actual position of the sinner’s substitute can experience such a judicial stroke from eternal justice, and only he can know the peculiarity of the suffering which it produces. Suffering is a form of consciousness, and consciousness can be known only by the possessor of it. (See supplement 6.2.5.)
There are some particulars respecting this positive infliction upon the mediator which must be carefully noted. Though the Father “smote,” “wounded,” and “bruised” the Son, he felt no emotional anger toward the person of the Son. The emotional wrath of God is revealed only against personal unrighteousness, and Christ was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. The Father smote his “beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). At the very instant when the Father forsook the Son, he loved him emotionally and personally with the same infinite affection with which he had loved him “before the world was.” When it is said that Christ experienced the “wrath of God,” the meaning is that he experienced a judicial suffering caused by God. The “wrath” of God in this instance is not a divine emotion, but a divine act by which God the Father caused pain in Jesus Christ for a particular purpose. This purpose is judicial and penal, and therefore the act may be called an act of wrath. “The wrath of God is his will to punish”103 (Anselm, Why the God-Man? 1.6). In Rom. 13:4 the infliction of suffering by the magistrate upon the criminal is denominated an act of “wrath”: “He is the minister of wrath.” But the magistrate has no emotional anger toward the criminal. God the Father could love the Son, therefore, at the very instant when he visited him with this punitive act. His emotion might be love, while his act was wrath. Nay, his love might be drawn forth by this very willingness of the Son to suffer vicariously for the salvation of man. “We do not admit,” says Calvin (2.16.11), “that God was ever hostile or [emotionally] angry with him. For how could he be angry with his beloved Son in whom his soul delighted? or how could Christ by his intercession appease the Father for others, if the Father were incensed against him? But we affirm that he sustained the weight of divine severity; since being smitten and afflicted of God, he experienced from God all the tokens of wrath and vengeance.” Says Witsius (Covenants 2.6.38):
To be the beloved Son of God and at the same time to suffer the wrath of God are not such contrary things as that they cannot stand together. For, as Son, as the Holy One, while obeying the Father in all things, he was always the beloved; and indeed most of all when obedient to the death of the cross; for that was so pleasing to the Father that on account of it he raised him to the highest pitch of exaltation (Phil. 2:9); though as charged with our sins he felt the wrath of God burning not against himself, but against our sins which he took upon himself.
Second, the Son of God understands the judicial infliction which he undergoes, in this sense. God the Son knows that the blow which he experiences from God the Father is not for sin which he has himself committed. The transaction between the two divine persons is of the nature of a covenant between them. The Son agrees to submit his person, incarnate, to a penal infliction that is required by the attribute of justice. But this attribute is as much an attribute of the Son as it is of the Father. The second trinitarian person is as much concerned for the maintenance of law as is the first. The Son of God is not seized an unwilling victim and offered to justice by the Father. The Son himself is willing and desires to suffer. “I have,” he says, “a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished” (Luke 12:50). This explains the fact that Christ everywhere represents himself as voluntarily giving up his life: “No man takes my life from me; I lay it down of myself” (John 10:18). In some instances he employs his miraculous power to prevent his life from being taken because “his hour was not yet come.” But when the hour had come, though in the full consciousness that “twelve legions of angels” were at his command, he suffers himself to be seized by a handful of men, to be bound, and to be nailed to a cross. So far as the feature of mere voluntariness is concerned, no suicide was ever more voluntary in the manner of his death than was Jesus Christ.
Christ’s Active and Passive Obedience
A distinction is made between Christ’s active and passive obedience.104 The latter denotes Christ’s sufferings of every kind—the sum total of the sorrow and pain which he endured in his estate of humiliation. The term passive is used etymologically. His suffering is denominated “obedience” because it came by reason of his submission to the conditions under which he voluntarily placed himself when he consented to be the sinner’s substitute. He vicariously submitted to the sentence “the soul that sins, it shall die” and was “obedient unto death” (Phil. 2:8).
Christ’s passive or suffering obedience is not to be confined to what he experienced in the garden and on the cross. This suffering was the culmination of his piacular sorrow, but not the whole of it. Everything in his human and earthly career that was distressing belongs to his passive obedience. It is a true remark of Edwards that the blood of Christ’s circumcision was as really a part of his vicarious atonement as the blood that flowed from his pierced side. And not only his suffering proper, but his humiliation, also, was expiatory, because this was a kind of suffering. Says Edwards (Redemption 2.1.2):
The satisfaction or propitiation of Christ consists either in his suffering evil or his being subject to abasement. Thus Christ made satisfaction for sin by continuing under the power of death while he lay buried in the grave, though neither his body nor soul properly endured any suffering after he was dead. Whatever Christ was subject to that was the judicial fruit of sin had the nature of satisfaction for sin. But not only proper suffering, but all abasement and depression of the state and circumstances of mankind [human nature] below its primitive honor and dignity, such as his body remaining under death, and body and soul remaining separate, and other things that might be mentioned, are the judicial fruits of sin.
Christ’s active obedience is his perfect performance of the requirements of the moral law. He obeyed this law in heart and in conduct, without a single slip or failure. He was “holy, harmless, and undefiled” (Heb. 7:26). Some theologians confine Christ’s atonement to his passive obedience, in such sense that his active obedience does not enter into it and make a part of it.105 Since atonement consists in suffering and since obedience of the divine law is not suffering but happiness, they contend that Christ’s active obedience cannot contribute anything that is strictly piacular or atoning. This would be true in reference to the active obedience of a mere creature, but not in reference to the active obedience of the God-man. It is no humiliation for a created being to be a citizen of divine government, to be made under the law, and to be required to obey it. But it is humiliation for the Son of God to be so made and to be so required to obey. It is stooping down when the Ruler of the universe becomes a subject and renders obedience to a superior. Insofar as Christ’s active obedience was an element in his humiliation, it was an element also in his expiation. Consequently, we must say that both the active and the passive obedience enter into the sum total of Christ’s atoning work. Christ’s humiliation confessedly was atoning, and his obedience of the law was a part of his humiliation. The two forms of Christ’s obedience cannot therefore be so entirely separated from each other as is implied in this theory which confines the piacular agency of the mediator to his passive obedience.
But while there is this atoning element in Christ’s active obedience, it is yet true that the principal reference of the active obedience is to the law as precept, rather than to the law as penalty. It is more meritorious of reward than it is piacular of guilt. The chief function of Christ’s obedience of the moral law is to earn a title for the believer to the rewards of heaven. This part of Christ’s agency is necessary, because merely to atone for past transgression would not be a complete salvation. It would, indeed, save man from hell, but it would not introduce him into heaven. He would be delivered from the law’s punishment, but would not be entitled to the law’s reward: “The man which does the things of the law shall live by them” (Rom. 10:5). Mere innocence is not entitled to a reward. Obedience is requisite in order to this. Adam was not meritorious until he had obeyed the commandment, “Do this.” Before he could “enter into life,” he must “keep the commandment,” like every subject of divine government and candidate for heavenly reward. The mediator, therefore, must not only suffer for man, but must obey for him, if he would do for man everything that the law requires. Accordingly, Christ is said to be made of God unto the believer “wisdom” and “sanctification” as well as “righteousness” and “redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). Believers are described as “complete” in Christ (Col. 1:10); that is, they are entitled to eternal blessedness as well as delivered from eternal misery. Christ is said to be “the end (telos)106 of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes” (Rom. 10:4). This means that Christ completely fulfills the law for the believer; but the law requires obedience to its precept as well as endurance of its penalty. Complete righteousness is conformity to the law in both respects: “By his obedience shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19); “by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many” (Isa. 53:11); “the Lord our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6); “in the Lord have I righteousness” (45:24; Rom. 8:4; Phil. 3:9; 2 Cor. 5:21).
The imputation of Christ’s active obedience is necessary, also, in order to hope and confidence respecting the endless future. If the believer founds his expectation of an eternity of blessedness upon the amount of obedience which he has himself rendered to the law and the degree of holiness which he has personally attained here upon earth, he is filled with doubt and fear respecting the final recompense. He knows that he has not, by his own work, earned and merited such an infinite reward as “glory, honor, and immortality”: “We cannot by our best works merit eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion between them and the glory to come” (Westminster Confession 16.5).107 But if he founds his title to eternal life and his expectation of it upon the obedience of Christ for him, his anxiety disappears. (See supplement 6.2.6.)
A distinction is made by some theologians between “satisfaction” and “atonement.” Christ’s satisfaction is his fulfilling the law both as precept and penalty. Christ’s atonement, as antithetic to satisfaction, includes only what Christ does to fulfill the law as penalty. According to this distinction, Christ’s atonement would be a part of his satisfaction. The objections to this mode of distinguishing are that (a) satisfaction is better fitted to denote Christ’s piacular work than his whole work of redemption; in theological literature, it is more commonly the synonym of atonement; (b) by this distinction, atonement may be made to rest upon the passive obedience alone to the exclusion of the active. This will depend upon whether “obedience” is employed in the comprehensive sense of including all that Christ underwent in his estate of humiliation, both in obeying and suffering.
Another distinction is made by some between “satisfaction” and “merit.” In this case, “satisfaction” is employed in a restricted signification. It denotes the satisfaction of retributive justice and has respect to the law as penalty. Thus employed, the term is equivalent to “atonement.” “Merit” as antithetic to “satisfaction” has respect to the law as precept and is founded upon Christ’s active obedience. Christ vicariously obeys the law and so vicariously merits for the believer the reward of eternal life. Respecting this distinction, Turretin (14.13.12) remarks that
the two things are not to be separated from each other. We are not to say as some do that the “satisfaction” is by the passive work of Christ alone and that the “merit” is by the active work alone. The satisfaction and the merit are not to be thus viewed in isolation, each by itself, because the benefit in each depends upon the total work of Christ. For sin cannot be expiated until the law as precept has been perfectly fulfilled; nor can a title to eternal life be merited before the guilt of sin has been atoned for. Meruit ergo satisfaciendo, et merendo satisfecit.108
There is some ambiguity in this distinction, also. The term merit is often applied to Christ’s passive obedience as well as to his active. The “merit of Christ’s blood” is a familiar phrase. The mediator was meritorious in reference to the law’s penalty as well as to the law’s precept.109
Atonement and Its Necessity in Relation to Divine Justice
Having thus considered the nature of atonement and the sufferings of the mediator as constituting it, we proceed to notice some further characteristics of it.
In the first place, atonement is correlated to justice, not to benevolence. Some have maintained that retributive justice is a phase of benevolence. They would ultimately reduce all the moral attributes to one, namely, divine love. This theory is built upon the text “God is love.” But there are texts affirming that “God is light” (1 John 1:5) and that “God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). The affirmation “holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts” (Isa. 6:3) is equivalent to “God is holiness.” Upon the strength of these texts, it might be contended that all divine attributes may be reduced to that of wisdom or of justice or of holiness.110 The true view is that each of the attributes stands side by side with all the others and cannot be merged and lost in any other. Justice is no more a phase of benevolence than benevolence is a phase of justice. Each attribute has a certain distinctive characteristic which does not belong to the others and by which it is a different attribute. The fact that one divine attribute affects and influences another does not convert one into another. Omnipotence acts wisely, but this does not prove that omnipotence is a mode of wisdom. God’s justice acts benevolently, not malevolently, but this does not prove that justice is a mode of benevolence. God’s benevolence acts justly, not unjustly, but this does not prove that benevolence is a mode of justice. Divine attributes do not find a center of unity in any one of their own number, but in the divine essence. It is the divine nature itself, not the divine attribute of love or any other attribute, in which they all inhere.
Accordingly, the atoning sufferings and death of Christ are related to the attribute of justice rather than to any other one of the divine attributes. They manifest and exhibit other attributes, such as wisdom, omnipotence, benevolence, and compassion, nay, all the other attributes, but they are an atonement only for retributive justice. Christ’s death does not propitiate or satisfy God’s benevolence nor his wisdom nor his omnipotence; but it satisfies his justice. Atonement cannot be correlated to benevolence, any more than creation can be correlated to omniscience. It is true that the creation of the world supposes omniscience, but creation is an act of power rather than of knowledge and is therefore referred to omnipotence, rather than to omniscience. In like manner, Christ’s atonement supposes benevolence in God, but benevolence is not the particular attribute that requires the atonement. It is retributive justice that demands the punishment of sin. If there were in God mere and isolated benevolence, there would be neither personal nor vicarious punishment; just as there would be no creation if there were in God mere and isolated omniscience. Benevolence alone and wholly disconnected from justice would not cause pain but pleasure. It would relieve from suffering instead of inflicting it. St. Paul in Rom. 5:7 teaches the diversity between the attribute of justice and that of benevolence, in saying that “scarcely for a just man will one die; yet peradventure for a benevolent man some would even dare to die.”111
Second, an atonement for sin of one kind or the other, if not personal then vicarious, is necessary, not optional. The transgressor must either die himself, or someone must die for him. This arises from the nature of that divine attribute to which atonement is a correlate. Retributive justice, we have seen (pp. 297–302), is necessary in its operation. The claim of law upon the transgressor for punishment is absolute and indefeasible. The eternal judge may or may not exercise mercy, but he must exercise justice. He can neither waive the claims of law in part nor abolish them altogether. The only possible mode, consequently, of delivering a creature who is obnoxious to the demands of retributive justice is to satisfy them for him. The claims themselves must be met and extinguished, either personally or by substitution: “Let justice fall from heaven.”112 And this necessity of an atonement is absolute, not relative. It is not made necessary by divine decision in the sense that the divine decision might have been otherwise. It is not correct to say that God might have saved man without a vicarious atonement had he been pleased so to do. For this is equivalent to saying that God might have abolished the claims of law and justice had he been pleased to do so.
In the third place, atonement, either personal or vicarious, naturally and necessarily cancels legal claims. This means that there is such a natural and necessary correlation between vicarious atonement and justice that the former supplies all that is required by the latter. It does not mean that Christ’s vicarious atonement naturally and necessarily saves every man; because the relation of Christ’s atonement to divine justice is one thing, but the relation of a particular person to Christ’s atonement is a very different thing. Christ’s death as related to the claims of the law upon all mankind cancels those claims wholly. It is an infinite “propitiation for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). But the relation of an impenitent person to this atonement is that of unbelief and rejection of it. Consequently, what the atonement has effected objectively in reference to the attribute of divine justice is not effected subjectively in the conscience of the individual. There is an infinite satisfaction that naturally and necessarily cancels legal claims, but unbelief derives no benefit from the fact.
In like manner, a personal atonement naturally and necessarily cancels legal claims. When the prescribed human penalty has been personally endured by the criminal, human justice is satisfied, and there are no more outstanding claims upon him. And this, by reason of the essential nature of justice. Justice insists upon nothing but what is due, and when it obtains this, it shows its righteousness in not requiring anything further, as it does in not accepting anything less. Consequently, personal atonement operates inevitably and, we might almost say, mechanically. If a criminal suffers the penalty affixed to his crime, he owes nothing more in the way of penalty to the law. He cannot be punished a second time. Law and justice cannot now touch him, so far as this particular crime and this particular penalty are concerned. It would be unjust to cause him the least jot or tittle of further retributive suffering for that crime which by the supposition he has personally atoned for. The law now owes him immunity from suffering anything more. It is not grace in the law not to punish him any further, but it is debt. The law itself is under obligation not to punish a criminal who has once been punished. St. Paul says respecting grace and debt in the case of active obedience that “to him that works is the reward not reckoned of grace but of debt; otherwise work is no more work” (Rom. 4:4; 11:6). In like manner, it may be said that “to him who atones for sin, the legal consequence of atonement is not reckoned of grace but of debt; otherwise atonement is no more atonement.”
This reasoning applies to vicarious atonement equally with personal. Justice does not require a second sacrifice from Christ in addition to the first: “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 10:28). This one offering expiated “the sins of the whole world,” and justice is completely satisfied in reference to them. The death of the God-man naturally and necessarily canceled all legal claims. When a particular person trusts in this infinite atonement and it is imputed to him by God, it then becomes his atonement for judicial purposes as really as if he had made it himself, and then it naturally and necessarily cancels his personal guilt, and he has the testimony that it does in his peace of conscience. Divine justice does not, in this case, require an additional atonement from the believer. It does not demand penal suffering from a person for whom a divine substitute has rendered a full satisfaction, which justice itself has accepted in reference to this very person. By accepting a vicarious atonement for a particular individual, divine justice precludes itself from requiring a personal atonement from him. Accordingly, Scripture represents the noninfliction of penalty upon the believer in Christ’s atonement as an act of justice to Christ and also to the believer viewed as one with Christ: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9); “who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died” (Rom. 8:33–34). The atoning mediator can demand upon principles of strict justice the release from penalty of any sinful man in respect to whom he makes the demand. And if in such a case we should suppose the demand to be refused by eternal justice, we should suppose a case in which eternal justice is unjust. For, by the supposition, justice has inflicted upon the mediator the full penalty due to this sinner and then refuses to the mediator that release of this sinner from penalty which the mediator has earned by his own suffering and which is now absolutely due to him as the reward of his suffering. Says Edwards (Wisdom in Salvation in Works 4.150):
It is so ordered now that the glory of the attribute of divine justice requires the salvation of those that believe. The justice of God that [irrespective of Christ’s atonement] required man’s damnation and seemed inconsistent with his salvation now [having respect to Christ’s atonement] as much requires the salvation of those that believe in Christ, as ever before it required their damnation. Salvation is an absolute debt to the believer from God, so that he may in justice demand it on the ground of what his surety has done. (see also Edwards, God’s Sovereignty in Works 4.552)
Similarly Anselm (Why the God-Man? 2.20) asks, “Can anything be more just than for God to remit all debt, when in the sufferings of the God-man he receives a satisfaction greater than all the debt?” Says Ezekiel Hopkins (Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer):
The pardon of sin is not merely an act of mercy, but also an act of justice. What abundant cause of comfort may this be to all believers that God’s justice as well as his mercy shall acquit them; that that attribute of God at the apprehension of which they are wont to tremble should interpose in their behalf and plead for them! And yet, through the all-sufficient expiation and atonement that Christ has made for our sins, this mystery is affected and justice itself brought over from being a formidable adversary to be of our party and to plead for us. (Shedd, Theological Essays, 310–16)
It may be asked: If atonement naturally and necessarily cancels guilt, why does not the vicarious atonement of Christ save all men indiscriminately, as the universalist contends? The substituted suffering of Christ being infinite is equal in value to the personal suffering of all mankind; why then are not all men upon the same footing and in the class of the saved, by virtue of it? The answer is because it is a natural impossibility. Vicarious atonement without faith in it is powerless to save. It is not the making of this atonement, but the trusting in it, that saves the sinner: “By faith are you saved” (Eph. 2:8); “he that believes shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). The making of this atonement merely satisfies the legal claims, and this is all that it does. If it were made but never imputed and appropriated, it would result in no salvation. A substituted satisfaction of justice without an act of trust in it would be useless to sinners. It is as naturally impossible that Christ’s death should save from punishment one who does not confide in it as that a loaf of bread should save from starvation a man who does not eat it. The assertion that because the atonement of Christ is sufficient for all men therefore no men are lost is as absurd as the assertion that because the grain produced in the year 1880 was sufficient to support the life of all men on the globe therefore no men died of starvation during that year. The mere fact that Jesus Christ made satisfaction for human sin, alone and of itself, will save no soul. Christ, conceivably, might have died precisely as he did and his death have been just as valuable for expiatory purposes as it is, but if his death had not been followed with the work of the Holy Spirit and the act of faith on the part of individual men, he would have died in vain. Unless his objective work is subjectively appropriated, it is useless so far as personal salvation is concerned. Christ’s suffering is sufficient to cancel the guilt of all men and in its own nature completely satisfies the broken law. But all men do not make it their own atonement by faith in it by pleading the merit of it in prayer and mentioning it as the reason and ground of their pardon. They do not regard and use it as their own possession and blessing. It is nothing for them but a historical fact. In this state of things, the atonement of Christ is powerless to save. It remains in the possession of Christ who made it and has not been transferred to the individual. In the scriptural phrase, it has not been “imputed.” There may be a sum of money in the hands of a rich man that is sufficient in amount to pay the debts of a million debtors; but unless they individually take money from his hands into their own, they cannot pay their debts with it. There must be a personal act of each debtor in order that this sum of money on deposit may actually extinguish individual indebtedness. Should one of the debtors, when payment is demanded of him, merely say that there is an abundance of money on deposit, but take no steps himself to get it and pay it to his creditor, he would be told that an undrawn deposit is not a payment of a debt. “The act of God,” says Owen (Justification, chap. 10), “in laying our sins on Christ, conveyed no title to us to what Christ did and suffered. This doing and suffering is not immediately by virtue thereof ours or esteemed ours; because God has appointed something else [namely, faith] not only antecedent thereto, but as the means of it.” (See supplement 6.2.7.)
The supposition that the objective satisfaction of justice by Christ saves of and by itself, without any application of it by the Holy Spirit and without any trust in it by the individual man, overlooks the fact that while sin has a resemblance to a pecuniary debt, as is taught in the petition “forgive us our debts,” it differs from it in two important particulars. In the instance of pecuniary indebtedness, there is no need of a consent and arrangement on the part of the creditor when there is a vicarious payment. Any person may step up and discharge a money obligation for a debtor, and the obligation ceases ipso facto. But in the instance of moral indebtedness to justice or guilt, there must be a consent of the creditor, namely, the judge, before there can be a substitution of payment. Should the Supreme Judge refuse to permit another person to suffer for the sinner and compel him to suffer for his own sin, this would be just. Consequently, substitution in the case of moral penalty requires a consent and covenant on the part of God, with conditions and limitations, while substitution in the case of a pecuniary debt requires no consent, covenant, or limitations. Second, after the vicarious atonement has been permitted and provided, there is still another condition in the case, namely, that the sinner shall confess and repent of the sin for which the atonement was made and trust in the atonement itself.
Another error underlying the varieties of universalism is the assumption that because an atonement sufficient for all men has been made, all men are entitled to the benefits of it. This would be true if all men had made this atonement. But inasmuch as they had nothing to do with the making of it, they have not the slightest right or title to it. No sinner has a claim upon the expiatory oblation of Jesus Christ. It belongs entirely to the maker, and he may do what he will with his own. He may impute it to any man whom he pleases or not impute it to any man whom he pleases (Rom. 9:18). Even the act of faith does not by its intrinsic merit entitle the believer to the benefits of Christ’s satisfaction. This would make salvation a debt which the Redeemer owes because of an act of the believer. It is only because Christ has promised and thereby bound himself to bestow the benefits of redemption upon everyone that believes that salvation is certain to faith.
It is objected that it is unjust to exact personal penalty from any individuals of the human race if a vicarious penalty equal in value to that due from the whole race has been paid to justice. The injustice alleged in this objection may mean injustice toward the individual unbeliever who is personally punished; or it may mean injustice in regard to what the divine law is entitled to on account of man’s sin. An examination will show that there is no injustice done in either respect. When an individual unbeliever is personally punished for his own sins, he receives what he deserves; and there is no injustice in this. The fact that a vicarious atonement has been made that is sufficient to expiate his sins does not stop justice from punishing him personally for them, unless it can be shown that he is the author of the vicarious atonement. If this were so, then indeed he might complain of the personal satisfaction that is required of him. In this case, one and the same party would make two satisfactions for one and the same sin: one vicarious and one personal. When therefore an individual unbeliever suffers for his own sin, he “receives the due reward of his deeds” (Luke 23:24). And since he did not make the vicarious atonement “for the sins of the whole world” and therefore has no more right or title to it or any of its benefits than an inhabitant of Saturn, he cannot claim exemption from personal penalty on the ground of it. Says Owen (Satisfaction of Christ):
The satisfaction of Christ made for sin, being not made by the sinner, there must of necessity be a rule, order, and law constitution how the sinner may come to be interested in it and made partaker of it. For the consequent of the freedom of one by the sacrifice of another is not natural or necessary, but must proceed and arise from a law constitution, compact, and agreement. Now the way constituted and appointed is that of faith, as explained in the Scriptures. If men believe not, they are no less liable to the punishment due to their sins, than if no satisfaction at all were made for sinners.
The other injustice alleged in the objection relates to the divine law and government. It is urged that when the unbeliever is personally punished, after an infinite vicarious satisfaction for human sin has been made, justice, in this case, gets more than its dues, which is as unjust as to get less. This is a mathematical objection and must receive a mathematical answer. The alleged excess in the case is like the addition of a finite number to infinity, which is no increase. The everlasting suffering of all mankind, and still more of only a part, is a finite suffering. Neither the sufferer nor the duration is mathematically infinite, for the duration begins, though it does not end. But the suffering of the God-man is mathematically infinite because his person is absolutely infinite. When, therefore, any amount of finite human suffering is added to the infinite suffering of the God-man, it is no increase of value. Justice, mathematically, gets no more penalty when the suffering of lost men is added to that of Jesus Christ than it would without this addition. The law is more magnified and honored by the suffering of incarnate God than it would be by the suffering of all men individually, because its demand for a strictly infinite satisfaction for a strictly infinite evil is more completely met. In this sense, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20).
It is for this reason, that finite numbers, small or great, are of no consequence when the value of Christ’s oblation is under consideration. One sinner needs the whole infinite Christ and his whole sacrifice because of the infinite guilt of his sin. And a million sinners need the same sacrifice and no more. The guilt of one man in relation to God is infinite; and the infinite sacrifice of Christ cancels it. The guilt of a million men is infinite—not, however, because a million is a larger number than one, but because of the relation of sin to God—and the one infinite sacrifice of Christ cancels it. If only one man were to be saved, Christ must suffer and die precisely as he has; and if the human race were tenfold more numerous than it is, his death would be ample for their salvation. An infinite satisfaction meets and cancels infinite guilt, whether there be one man or millions.
Atonement in Its Relation to Divine Mercy
Fourth, the vicarious satisfaction of justice is a mode or form of mercy. It is so because it unites and harmonizes the two attributes in one divine act, namely, the suffering of incarnate deity for human guilt. When the Supreme Judge substitutes himself for the criminal, his own mercy satisfies his own justice for the transgressor. This single act is, therefore, both an exercise of mercy and an exercise of justice. It is certainly mercy to suffer for the sinner; and it is certainly justice to suffer the full penalty which he deserves. The personal satisfaction of justice, on the contrary, is not a mode or form of mercy, because in this case the Supreme Judge inflicts the suffering required by the violated law upon the criminal himself. Personal satisfaction of justice is justice without mercy. It is the “severity” spoken of by St. Paul in Rom. 11:22.
Vicarious atonement is both evangelical and legal—gospel with law; personal atonement is merely legal—law without gospel. The former is complex: both merciful and just; the latter is simple: just, not merciful. In the legal sphere of ethics and natural religion, where personal satisfaction rules, justice and mercy are entirely separated attributes, unblended and unharmonized. Justice obstructs the exercise of mercy by presenting its unsatisfied claims, and “mercy stands silent by.” There is “no eye to pity, and no arm to save” (Isa. 59:16; 63:5). But in the evangelical sphere of revealed religion, the two attributes are united and harmonized: “Mercy and truth meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other” (Ps. 85:10). Divine mercy now satisfies divine justice, and divine justice accepts the satisfaction. The mercy is now infinitely just, and the justice is now infinitely merciful. The two coordinate and distinct attributes, which outside of the gospel and apart from the
incarnation are separate—the one forbidding the exercise of the other—are now blended; the one meeting all the demands of the other, and both concurring in the salvation of the guilty sinner, for whose advantage all this costly sacrifice is made by the adorable Trinity. (See supplement 6.2.8.)
Fifth, the vicarious satisfaction of justice is the highest mode or form of mercy because it is mercy in the form of self-sacrifice. A comparison of the different modes of divine mercy will show this. When the Creator bestows temporal blessings in his providence upon the sinner; when he makes his rain to fall and his sun to shine upon him; this is a form of mercy greatly inferior to that shown in Christ’s atonement. There is no loss on the part of the giver involved in the gifts of providence. They do not cost the deity any sacrifice. Again, should we conceive it possible for God to waive the claims of law by a word and to inflict no penal suffering upon either the sinner or a substitute, this would be a lower form of mercy than that of vicarious atonement, for the same reason as in the previous instance. There is no suffering and no death undergone in the manifestation of such a species of compassion. This would be the easiest and cheapest of all methods of deliverance from punishment. Again, should we conceive of God, in the exercise of ownership and sovereignty, as taking one of his creatures, say an archangel, and making him a vicarious substitute for man, this too would be a low species of mercy, and for the same reason as in the previous cases. It involves no self-sacrifice upon the part of God. The transaction does not affect anything in the divine essence. There is no humiliation and no suffering of God incarnate. But when justice is satisfied for man by the extraordinary method of substituting God for man, by the method of incarnating, humiliating, and crucifying a person of the Trinity, we see the highest conceivable form of divine compassion and pity. It is so strange and stupendous that it requires very high testimony and proof to make it credible.
The vicarious satisfaction of justice is then the highest form of mercy because (a) the offended party permits a substitution of penalty, (b) the offended party provides the substitute, and (c) the offended party substitutes himself for the offender. The infinite and eternal judge allows, prepares, and is a substitute for the criminal. “How have you loved us,” says Augustine (Confessions 10.43), “for whom he that thought it no robbery to be equal with you was made subject even to the death of the cross; for us, both victor and victim, and victor because victim; for us, both priest and sacrifice, and priest because sacrifice.” Aquinas (1.21.3) remarks of the self-sacrificing pity of God: “Mercy did not abolish justice, but is a certain fullness of justice.”113 Similarly, Wessel (Concerning the Causes of the Incarnation, 17) describes the vicarious atonement: “God himself, the priest himself, the victim himself, made satisfaction for himself, from himself, to himself.”114 Pascal (Thoughts) expresses the same truth in the remark that in the Christian redemption “the judge himself is the sacrifice.” And Livingstone (Last Journal, 5 Aug. 1872) cries from the heart of Africa: “What is the atonement of Christ? It is himself: it is the inherent and everlasting mercy of God made apparent to human eyes and ears. The everlasting love was disclosed by our Lord’s life and death. It shows that God forgives because he loves to forgive. He works by smiles if possible; if not by frowns; pain is only a means of enforcing love.”
In this fact that the vicarious satisfaction of justice is self-sacrificing mercy, we have the answer to the objection that if justice is satisfied there is no exhibition of mercy. There would be none if the satisfaction were made personally by the sinner. But when it is made vicariously by the eternal judge himself, it is the acme of mercy and compassion. Says Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 71: “Although Christ by his obedience and death did make a full satisfaction to God’s justice in the behalf of them that are justified, yet inasmuch as God accepts the satisfaction from a surety which he might have demanded of them and did provide this surety, their justification is to them of free grace.”
This truth is made still more evident by remarking the distinction between mercy and indulgence. The first is founded in principle; the latter is unprincipled. Mercy has a moral basis; it is good ethics. Indulgence has no moral foundation; it is bad ethics. Indulgence is foolish good nature. It releases from punishment without making any provision for the claims of law. Its motive is sensuous, not rational. It suffers, itself, from the sight of suffering, and this is the reason why it does not inflict it. It costs an effort to be just, and it does not like to put forth an effort. Indulgence, in the last analysis, is intensely selfish. Mere happiness in the sense of freedom from discomfort or pain is the final end which it has in view. Consequently, the action of indulgence as distinguished from mercy is high-handed. It is the exercise of bare power in snatching the criminal away from merited suffering. It is might, not right. A mob exercises indulgence when it breaks open a prison and drags away the criminal merely because the criminal is suffering. No member of this mob would take the criminal’s place and suffer in his stead. This would be real mercy, and mercy in its highest form of vicarious satisfaction. Should God deliver man from the claims of law without the substitution of penalty, it would be a procedure the same in principle with that of the mob in the case supposed. It would be indulgence, not mercy.
In Rom. 3:25 indulgence in distinction from mercy is referred to. St. Paul mentions as a secondary reason why Christ was set forth as a propitiation for sin the fact that in the history of the sinful world of mankind God had been indulgent toward those who deserved immediate and swift retribution. He had “passed by” and omitted to punish. Instead of inflicting penalty, he had bestowed “rain and fruitful seasons” upon rebellious men and had “filled their hearts with food and gladness.” He had “suffered (eiase)115 all nations to walk in their own ways” and had “winked at,” that is, overlooked (hyperidōn),116 “the times of this ignorance” (Acts 14:16–17; 17:30). St. Paul does not designate this indulgent treatment of sinful men by charis,117 the usual and proper term for forgiving mercy, but by anochē.118 It is not mercy, but “forbearance.” It is in itself irregular and requires to be legitimated. And it is explained and set right by the piacular offering of the Son of God. Because the vicarious atonement of Christ is sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world, therefore it is that the sins of the whole world experience the forbearance of the Holy One; therefore it is that the whole world receives many temporal blessings instead of swift retribution; therefore it is that God “overlooks” the times of guilty ignorance and disobedience and delays punishment.119
This “pretermission” of transgressions differs from their “remission” in being only temporary. This forbearance, even though explained and legitimated by the propitiation of Christ, is not to be eternal. Justice will finally assert its claims, and those whose unrepented transgressions have met with this temporary indulgence and delay of punishment, on account of Christ’s atonement, will in the end receive the just punishment of sin. St. Paul, in this passage, does not say that these sins had been eternally pardoned by divine grace (charis),120 but had been only temporarily passed by through divine forbearance (anochē).121
In the sixth place, the vicarious satisfaction of justice is the only mode of exercising mercy that is possible to a just being. This follows from the nature of justice and its relation to other divine attributes. If it be conceded that legal claims must be met at all hazards and cannot be either waived in part or abolished altogether, then it is evident that the great problem before divine mercy is how to meet these claims in behalf of the object of mercy. The problem is not how to trample upon justice in behalf of the criminal, but how to satisfy justice for him. And if this problem cannot be solved, then there can be no manifestation of mercy at all by a just being. The penalty must be endured by the actual criminal, and the matter end here. God is a perfectly just being and therefore cannot forever exercise mere forbearance and indulgence toward a transgressor. The mercy of the Supreme Being must be ethical, that is, must stand the test and scrutiny of moral principle and righteousness. If therefore the merciful God desires to release a transgressor from the suffering which he deserves, he must find someone who is fitted and willing to undergo this suffering in his place. And there is in the whole universe no being who is both fitted and willing to do this but God himself. A creature might be willing, but he is unfit for the office of substitute. The language of Milton (Paradise Lost 3.209–12) respecting the transgressor is theology as well as poetry:
Die he, or justice must, unless for him
Some other able, and as willing, pay
The rigid satisfaction, death for death.
Possibility of Substitution
Respecting the possibility of the substitution of penalty, it is to be observed in the first place that the punishment inflicted by justice is aimed, strictly speaking, not at the person of the transgressor, but at his sin. The wrath of God falls upon the human soul considered as an agent, not as a substance. The spiritual essence or nature of man is God’s own work, and he is not angry at his own work and does not hate anything which he has created from nothing. Man’s substance is not sin. Sin is the activity of this substance; and this is man’s work. God is displeased with this activity and visits it with retribution. Consequently, justice punishes the sin rather than the sinner, the agency rather than the agent, the act rather than the person. It does not fix its eye upon the transgressor as this particular entity and insist that this very entity shall suffer and prohibit any other entity from suffering for him. Justice, it is true, is not obliged to allow substitution, but neither is it obliged to forbid it. If it were true that the penalty must be inflicted upon the transgressor’s very substance and person itself as well as upon the sin in his person, then there could be no substitution. The very identical personal essence that had sinned must suffer, and justice would be the only attribute which God could manifest toward a sinner.
Second, justice is dispassionate and unselfish. It bears no malice toward the criminal. It is not seeking to gratify a grudge against him personally, but only to maintain law and righteousness. It inflicts pain not for the sake of inflicting it upon a particular individual, but for the sake of a moral principle. Hence if the sin can be punished in another way than by causing the sinner to be punished; if the claims of law can be really and truly satisfied by a vicarious method; there is nothing in the spirit and temper of justice toward the sinner’s person or soul to forbid this. “The aspect of the law upon a sinner,” says Bates (On Forgiveness), “being without passion, it admits satisfaction by the sufferings of another.” And the same truth is condensed in the Schoolman’s dictum: “It is necessary that punishment be inflicted impersonally on every sin, but not personally on every sinner.”122
Third, the substitution of penalty is implied in divine sovereignty in administering government. If God from his very nature could not permit a proper person to take the place of a criminal, but were necessitated in every single instance to inflict the penalty upon the actual transgressor, his government would be just, but not sovereign. He could make no changes in the mode of its administration—which is what is meant by a sovereign government. But God may vary the mode of administering justice, provided the mode adopted really satisfies justice and there be no special reason in his own mind why in a particular instance the variation may not be permitted. There were such special reasons, apparently, in the case of the fallen angels, but not in the case of fallen men. This exercise of sovereignty in permitting substitution of penalty is by some Calvinistic theologians called a “relaxation” of justice, not in respect to the penalty demanded, but to the person enduring it. Justice relaxes its demands to the degree of permitting a vicar to suffer for the actual criminal, but not to the degree of abating the amount of the suffering. The vicar must pay the debt to the uttermost farthing. Owen uses the term relaxation in the sense of substitution, but describes our Lord’s suffering as the strict and full satisfaction of retributive justice (Communion with the Trinity 1.2):
To see him who is the wisdom of God and the power of God, always beloved of the Father; to see him, I say, fear and tremble and bow and sweat and pray and die; to see him lifted up upon the cross, the earth trembling under him, as if unable to bear his weight, and the heavens darkened over him, as if shut against his cry, and himself hanging between both, as if refused by both, and all this because our sins did meet upon him; this of all things does most abundantly manifest the severity of God’s vindictive justice. Here, or nowhere, is it to be learned.
This is very different from Scotus’s and Grotius’s “relaxation.” The latter is a relaxation in respect to the amount of the penalty, as well as the person enduring it.
In case the administrative sovereignty of God decides to permit and provide a substituted penalty, the following conditions are indispensable, not by reason of any external necessity, but by reason of an internal necessity springing from the divine nature and attributes. First, the suffering substituted must be penal in its nature and purpose and of equal value with the original penalty. The theory of Duns Scotus, afterward perfected by Grotius, according to which God’s administrative sovereignty is so extended that he can by a volitionary decision accept a substituted penalty of inferior value, is the same in principle with the later theory of Socinus. This scheme, denominated “acceptilation”123 from a term of the Roman law, logically carried out is fatal to the doctrine of vicarious atonement. For the same arbitrary sovereignty which compels justice to be content with less than its dues can compel it to be content with none at all. If a government has power and authority to say that fifty cents shall pay a debt of a dollar, it has the power to extinguish debts entirely by a positive decision of the same kind. The principle of justice being surrendered in part is surrendered altogether.
An illustration sometimes employed, taken from the instance of Zaleucus and his son, contains the false ethics of the theory of acceptilation. This Locrian lawgiver had decreed that a person guilty of adultery should be made blind. His own son was proved to be an adulterer. He ordered one of his son’s eyes and one of his own to be put out (Aelian, Historical Miscellany 13.24). This was an evasion, not a satisfaction of the law. The penalty threatened and intended to be threatened against adultery was total blindness. In a substitution of this kind, no one was made blind. Two eyes were put out, but not the two eyes of one man. Had Zaleucus ordered both of his own eyes to be put out, the case would have been a proper illustration of Christ’s vicarious atonement. As the case actually stood, the lawgiver had principle enough to acknowledge the claims of justice, but not principle enough to completely satisfy them. That he was willing to lose one eye proves that he felt the claims of law; but that he was unwilling to make himself totally blind in the place of his son shows that he preferred to sacrifice justice to self rather than self to justice.124
In saying that the suffering substituted for that of the actual criminal must be of equal value, it is not said that it must be identical suffering. A substituted penalty cannot be an identical penalty, because identical means the same in every respect. Identity is inconsistent with any exchange whatever. To speak of substituting an identical penalty is a contradiction in terms. The identical punishment required by the moral law is personal punishment, involving personal remorse; and remorse can be experienced only by the actual criminal. If, in commercial law, a substituted payment could be prevented, a pecuniary debtor would be compelled to make an identical payment. In this case, he must pay in person and wholly from his own resources. Furthermore, he could not pay silver for gold, but gold for gold; and not only this, but he must pay back exactly the same pieces of gold, the ipsissima pecunia,125 which he had received. Identical penalty implies sameness without a difference in any particular. Not only is the quantity the same, but the quality is the same. But substituted penalty implies sameness with a difference in some particular. And in the case before us, that of Christ’s satisfaction, the difference is in the quality, the quantity being unchanged. The vicarious suffering of Christ is of equal value with that of all mankind but is not the same in kind.
Equivalency, not identity, is the characteristic, therefore, of vicarious penalty. The exchange implied in the term substitution is of quality not of quantity. One kind of judicial suffering—that is, suffering endured for the purpose of satisfying justice—is substituted for another kind. Christ’s sufferings were of a different nature or quality from those of a lost man.126 But there was no difference in quantity or value. A less degree of suffering was not exchanged for a greater degree. The sufferings of the mediator were equal in amount and worth to those whose place they took. Vicarious penalty then is the substitution of an equal quantity, but a different quality of suffering. The mediator suffers differently from the lost world of sinners, but he suffers equally.
Equivalency satisfies justice as completely as identity. One hundred dollars in gold extinguishes a debt of one hundred dollars as completely as does one hundred dollars in silver. If the sufferings of the mediator between God and man are of equal value with those of the world of mankind, they are as complete a satisfaction of justice as the eternal death of mankind would be, although they do not, in their nature or quality, involve any of that sense of personal wickedness and remorse of conscience which enters into the punishment of a lost man. They get their value from the nature of the God-man, and it is the value of what is substituted which justice looks at.
The following extract from Samuel Hopkins (System of Doctrine in Works 1.321) enforces this truth:
The mediator did not suffer precisely the same kind of pain, in all respects, which the sinner suffers when the curse is executed on him. He did not suffer that particular kind of pain which is the necessary attendant or natural consequence of being a sinner and which none but the sinner can suffer. But this is only a circumstance of the punishment of sin and not of the essence of it. The whole penalty of the law may be suffered, and the evil may be as much and as great, without suffering that particular sort of pain. Therefore, Christ, though without sin, might suffer the whole penalty, that is, as much and as great evil as the law denounces against transgression.
Second, the penalty substituted must be endured by a person who is not himself already indebted to justice and who is not a subject of the government under which the substitution takes place. If he be himself a criminal, he cannot of course be a substitute for a criminal. And if he be an innocent person, yet owes all his own service to the government, he cannot do a work of supererogation such as is implied in vicarious satisfaction. An earthly state could not righteously allow an innocent citizen to die for another, even if he were willing so to die, because there are claims upon the person and life of every citizen which must go undischarged if his life should be taken. These are the claims of family, of society, of the commonwealth, and of God. Says Owen (Person of Christ, 16):
It is impossible that by anything a man can do well he should make satisfaction for anything he has done ill. For what he so does is due in and for itself. And to suppose that satisfaction can be made for a former fault, by that whose omission would have been another fault had the former never been committed, is madness. An old debt cannot be discharged with ready money for new commodities; nor can past injuries be compensated by present duties which we are anew obliged unto.
Says Anselm (Why the God-Man? 1.20), “When you pay back something that you owe to God you ought not to reckon this as counting toward the debt that you owe for sin. For you owe everything to God.”127 The words of the Jewish elders to Christ respecting the Roman centurion illustrate the point under consideration. They besought Christ to heal his servant, saying that the centurion was worthy of such a favor: “For he loves our nation, and he has built us a synagogue” (Luke 7:5). The centurion had acquired merit, because as a Roman citizen he was under no obligation to build a Jewish synagogue.
The sufferings of Christ meet all these conditions. First, they were penal in their nature and intent, since they were neither calamitous nor disciplinary. They were a judicial infliction voluntarily endured by Christ for the purpose of satisfying the claims of law due from man; and this purpose makes them penal: “It pleased the Lord to bruise him. He was wounded for our transgressions” (Isa. 53:5, 10); “Christ was made a curse for us” (Gal. 2:13); “no man takes my life from me, but I lay it down of myself” (John 10:17–18).
Some writers, while defending the doctrine of vicarious atonement, object to applying the terms penal and penalty to Christ’s sufferings. Magee (Atonement, diss. 13) does so:
The idea of punishment cannot be abstracted from [personal] guilt. Christ’s sufferings are a judicial infliction and may perhaps be figuratively denominated punishment, if thereby be implied a reference to the actual transgressor and be understood that suffering which was due to the offender himself and which if inflicted upon him would then take the name of punishment. In no other sense can the suffering inflicted on account of the transgressions of another be called a punishment.
Ebrard (quoted by Van Oosterzee 2.603, who agrees with Ebrard) says: “If I endure the infliction due to another instead of him, this suffering which for him would have had the moral quality of a punishment has not the moral quality of a punishment for me, because I am an innocent person. For the idea of a punishment contains, besides the objective element of suffering inflicted by the judge, also in addition the subjective element of the sense of guilt or an evil conscience possessed by the guilty.” This last assertion is the point in dispute. Does the idea of a punishment “contain, besides the objective element of suffering inflicted by the judge, also the subjective element of the sense of guilt?” The question is whether the simple purpose and aim of the suffering in a given instance is sufficient to constitute it punishment. If a person suffers with a view to satisfy the claims of law, be he guilty himself or not, is this a “penal” suffering? Is such a “judicial infliction,” as Magee calls it, properly denominated “penalty?” Does the existence of the objective element alone, apart from the subjective element, in the case of suffering for the purpose of atonement for sin, warrant the use of the terms penal and penalty? There are three reasons why it does. (a) There is no other term but this by which to designate a suffering that is endured for the sole purpose of satisfying justice. It cannot be denominated either calamity or chastisement. (b) When a commercial debt is vicariously paid by a friend of the debtor, it is as truly a “payment” as if paid personally, and the term payment is applied to it in the strict sense of the word. But if there is no valid objection to denominating the vicarious satisfaction of a pecuniary claim a “payment,” there is none to denominating the vicarious satisfaction of a moral claim a “punishment.” (c) A third reason for the use of the term punishment or penalty in this connection is found in the use of the corresponding term atonement. No objection is made to calling Christ’s suffering an atonement. But atonement and punishment are kindred in meaning. Both alike denote judicial suffering. There is, consequently, no more reason for insisting that the term punishment be restricted to personal endurance of suffering for personal transgression than there would be in insisting that the term atonement be restricted to personal satisfaction for personal sin. But the vicarious sufferings of Christ are as truly an atonement for sin as would be the personal sufferings of the sinner himself and are as freely called so. It is as proper, therefore, to denominate Christ’s suffering a vicarious punishment as to denominate it a vicarious atonement. The objection of Magee and Ebrard is met by the qualifying term vicarious, invariably joined with the term punishment when Christ’s sufferings are denominated a punishment. No one asserts that they were a “personal” punishment. Anselm (Why the God-Man? 1.15)128 marks the difference by denominating the infliction when laid upon the sinner poena129 and when laid upon the substitute satisfactio.130
Second, the vicarious sufferings of Christ were infinite in value. In the substitution, the amount is fully equal to that of the original penalty. A smaller suffering, an inferior atonement, was not put in the place of a greater and superior. The worth of any suffering is determined by the total subject who suffers, not by the particular nature in the subject which is the seat of the suffering. Physical suffering in a brute is not so valuable as it is in a man, because a brute has only an animal nature, while a man has an animal united with a rational nature. Yet the nature which is the sensorium or seat of the physical pain is the same in both cases. But one hour of human suffering through the physical sentiency is worth more than days of brutal suffering through the physical sentiency, as “one hour of Europe is worth a cycle of Cathay.” When animal life and organization suffer in a man’s person, the agony is human and rational. It is high up the scale. It has the dignity and greatness of degree which pertain to man. But when animal life and organization suffer in an ox or a dog, the agony is brutal and irrational. It is low down the scale. It has nothing of the worth and dignity that belong to the physical agony of the martyr and confessor. To apply this reasoning to the case before us: When a human nature suffers in an ordinary human person, the suffering is human and rational but finite. No mere man’s suffering can be infinite in value because the total subject or person is finite. Whatever a man suffers in either of his natures, body or mind, gets its value from his personality. Measured by this, it is limited suffering. But when a human nature suffers in a theanthropic person, the suffering is divine and infinite because of the divinity and infinity of such a person. The suffering of the human nature, in this instance, is elevated and dignified by the union of the human nature with the divine, just as the suffering of an animal nature in an ordinary man is elevated and dignified by the union of the animal nature with the rational. The suffering of a mere man is human; but the suffering of a God-man is divine. Yet the divine nature is not the sensorium or seat of the suffering in the instance of the God-man, any more than the rational nature is the sensorium or seat of the suffering in the instance of physical suffering in the man. A man’s immaterial soul is not burned when he suffers human agony in martyrdom, and the impassible essence of God was not bruised and wounded when Jesus Christ suffered the divine agony. Hence it is said that Christ “suffered in the flesh,” that is, in his human nature (1 Pet. 4:1).
It has been objected that the sufferings of Christ, not being endless, cannot be of equal value with those of all mankind. But when carefully examined and strictly computed, they will be found to exceed in value and dignity the sufferings for which they were substituted. The suffering of the God-man during a section of time is more exactly and mathematically infinite than would be the suffering of the human race in endless time. The so-called infinitude of human suffering is derived from the length of its duration, not from the dignity of the sufferer. It is the suffering of a finite creature in a duration that is eternal only a parte post.131 This would not yield strict eternity. The suffering of the whole human race in an endless duration would, consequently, be only relatively infinite. But the vicarious suffering of the God-man obtains its element of infinitude from the person, not from the duration. And this person is absolutely, not relatively infinite. The suffering of an absolutely infinite person in a finite duration is, therefore, a greater suffering in degree and dignity than is the suffering of a multitude of finite persons in an endless but not strictly infinite time. God incarnate is a greater being and a greater sufferer than all mankind collectively; and his crucifixion involved a greater guilt upon the part of the perpetrators and a more stupendous sacrifice than would the crucifixion of the entire human family. “If,” inquires Anselm (Why the God-Man? 2.14) of his pupil Boso, “that God-man were here present before you, and (you having a full knowledge of his nature and character) it should be said, Unless you slay that person, the whole world and the whole created universe will perish, would you put him to death in order to preserve the whole creation?” To this question the pupil makes answer, “I would not, even if an infinite number of worlds were spread out before me.”
Another proof that the vicarious work of Christ is of greater value in satisfying the claims of the divine law than would be the endless punishment of the whole human race is the fact that Christ not only suffered the penalty but obeyed the precept of the law. In this case, law and justice get their whole dues. But when lost man only suffers the penalty but does not obey the precept, the law is defrauded of a part of its dues. No law is completely obeyed if only its penalty is endured. The law does not give its subjects an option either to obey or to suffer punishment. It does not say to them, “If you will endure the penalty, you need not keep the precept.” It requires obedience primarily and principally; and then it also requires suffering in case of disobedience. But this suffering does not release from the primary obligation to obey. The law still has its original and indefeasible claim on the transgressor for a sinless obedience, at the very time that it is exacting the penalty of disobedience from him. Consequently, a sinner can never completely and exhaustively satisfy the divine law, however much or long he may suffer, because he cannot at one and the same time endure the penalty and obey the precept. He “owes ten thousand talents and has nothing wherewith to pay” (Matt. 18:24). But Christ did both; and therefore he “magnified the law and made in honorable” (Isa. 42:21) in an infinitely higher degree than the whole human family would have done, had they all personally suffered for their sins (cf. Edwards, Redemption in Works 1.406).
Third, the vicarious sufferings of Christ were not due from him as from a guilty person. He was innocent, and retributive justice had no claims upon him. What he voluntarily suffered could, therefore, inure to the benefit of another than himself. The active obedience of Christ was also a work of supererogation,132 as well as his passive obedience. For although his human nature as such owed obedience, yet it owed only a human and finite obedience. But the obedience which the mediator actually rendered to the moral law was not that of a mere man, but of a God-man. It was theanthropic obedience, not merely human. As such, it was divine and infinite. It could, therefore, like the passive obedience of an innocent person, inure to the benefit of another and earn for him a title to eternal life and reward. And, last, the God-man, not being a mere creature, but also the Creator and Lord of all things, could rightfully dispose of himself and his agency as he pleased. He asserted this sovereign lordship over himself: “No man takes my life from me, but I lay it down of myself: I have power and authority (exousian)133 to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18).
The above-mentioned grounds and reasons for the substitution of penalty abundantly demonstrate its harmony with the principles of law and justice; but should they still be disputed, the whole question may be quickly disposed of by asking, Who objects? Objections to any method of administering a government can be urged only by some party whose rights and claims have been disregarded or trampled upon. In the instance of the vicarious atonement of the Son of God, no objection is raised by God the Father, for he officially proposed and planned the method. No objection is raised by God the Son, for he not only consents to be a party in the transaction, but to be the sacrificial victim required by it. And no objection is raised by God the Spirit, for he likewise is a party in the transaction and cooperates in its execution and application. This substitution of penalty is, therefore, a method devised and authorized by the entire Godhead. It is a trinitarian transaction. Nothing is urged against it from this quarter.
And when we pass from the divine being to angels and men and ask for objections from one having real grounds of complaint, there must be of course a dead silence. No angelic or human rights have been interfered with. Objections to the method of vicarious atonement from the world of mankind especially would be not merely unthankful but absurd. That the criminal, who has no claims at all before the law which he has transgressed and under whose eternal condemnation he lies in utter helplessness, that the criminal in whose behalf eternal pity has laid down its own life should object to the method, would deserve not only no reply, but everlasting shame and contempt.
Extent of the Atonement
Having considered the nature and value of Christ’s atonement, we are prepared to consider its extent.134
Some controversy would have been avoided upon this subject had there always been a distinct understanding as to the meaning of words. We shall therefore first of all consider this point. The term extent has two senses in English usage. It has a passive meaning and is equivalent to value. The “extent” of a man’s farm means the number of acres which it contains. The “extent” of a man’s resources denotes the amount of property which he owns. In this signification of the word, the “extent” of Christ’s atonement would be the intrinsic and real value of it for purposes of judicial satisfaction. In this use of the term, all parties who hold the atonement in any evangelical meaning would concede that the “extent” of the atonement is unlimited. Christ’s death is sufficient in value to satisfy eternal justice for the sins of all mankind. If this were the only meaning of “extent,” we should not be called upon to discuss it any further. For all that has been said under the head of the nature and value of the atonement would answer the question is the extent of the atonement?” Being an infinite atonement, it has an infinite value.
The word also has an active signification. It denotes the act of extending. The “extent” of the atonement, in this sense, means its personal application to individuals by the Holy Spirit. The extent is now the intent. The question “what is the extent of the atonement?” now means: To whom is the atonement effectually extended? The inquiry now is not: What is the value of the atonement? but: To whom does God purpose to apply its benefits?135
The active signification is the earlier meaning of the word in English literature. The following are a few out of many instances in which “extent” means extending or putting to use:
Let my officers of such a nature,
Make an extent [levy] upon his house and lands.
—Shakespeare, As You Like It 3.1
Let thy fair wisdom, not thy passion, sway
In this uncivil and unjust extent [attack]
Against thy peace.
—Shakespeare, Twelfth Night 4.1
But both his hands, most filthy feculent,
Above the water were on high extent [extended],
And fayned to wash themselves incessantly;
Yet nothing cleaner were for such intent.
—Spenser, Faery Queen 2.7
Second him
In his dishonest practices; but when
This manor is extended [applied] to my use,
You’ll speak in an humble way and sue for favor.
—Massinger, New Way to Pay Old Debts 4.1
The rule of Solon, concerning the territory of Athens is not extendible [applicable] unto all; allowing the distance of six foot unto common trees, and nine for the fig and olive.
—Browne, Cyrus’s Garden 4
The following are examples of the use of the term in the active signification in the older theologians and doctrinal statements:
The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extends or withholds mercy as he pleases, to pass by. (Westminster Confession 3.7)
According to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, God extends or withholds favor as he pleases. (Westminster Larger Catechism 13)
In these passages, to “extend” mercy means to effectually apply Christ’s redemption, not merely to offer it, because in the latter sense God does not “withhold” mercy from any man. “Is grace impaired in its extent? We affirm it to be extended to everyone that is or was or ever shall be delivered from the pit” (Owen, Against Universal Redemption 4.7). Here, to “extend” grace is to actually save the soul by effectual calling.
In modern English, the term extent is so generally employed in the passive signification of value that the active signification has become virtually obsolete and requires explanation. Writers upon the “extent” of the atonement have sometimes neglected to consider the history of the word, and misunderstanding has arisen between disputants who were really in agreement with each other.
Accordingly, in answering the question as to the “extent” of Christ’s atonement, it must first be settled whether “extent” means its intended application or its intrinsic value, whether the active or the passive signification of the word is in the mind of the inquirer. If the word means value, then the atonement is unlimited; if it means applying, then the atonement is limited.
The dispute also turns upon the meaning of the preposition for. One theologian asserts that Christ died “for” all men, and another denies that Christ died “for” all men. There may be a difference between the two that is reconcilable, and there may be an irreconcilable difference. The preposition for denotes an intention of some kind. If, in the case under consideration, the intention is understood to be the purpose on the part of God both to offer and apply the atonement by working faith and repentance in the sinner’s heart, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, then he who affirms that Christ died “for” all men is in error, and he who denies that Christ died “for” all men holds the truth. These two parties are irreconcilable.
But he who asserts that Christ died “for” all men may understand the intention signified by the preposition to be the purpose on the part of God only to offer the atonement, leaving it to the sinner whether it shall be appropriated through faith and repentance. The intention, in this latter case, does not include so much as in the former, and the preposition is narrower in meaning. When the word for is thus defined, the difference between the two parties is reconcilable. The latter means by for “intended for offer or publication”; the former means “intended for application.”
Again, the preposition for is sometimes understood to denote not intention, but value or sufficiency. To say that Christ died “for” all men then means that his death is sufficient to expiate the guilt of all men. Here, again, the difference is possibly reconcilable between the parties. The one who denies that Christ died “for” all men takes “for” in the sense of intention to effectually apply. The other who affirms that Christ died “for” all men takes “for” in the sense of value. As to the question “which is the most proper use of the word for?” it is plain that it more naturally conveys the notion of intention than of sufficiency or value. If it be said to a person, “This money is for you,” he does not understand merely that it is sufficient in value to pay his debt, but that it actually inures to his benefit in paying it. In the scriptural statement that Christ “gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6), if the word for be made to denote value, so that the text reads, Christ “gave himself a ransom sufficient for all,” a circumlocution is introduced. The preposition for does not express the idea of sufficiency or value directly, but through an explanation; but it expresses the idea of intention immediately and without circumlocution. And this agrees better with the term ransom, which denotes subjective redemption rather than objective satisfaction. This remark applies to such a text as that Christ “tasted death for every man” (Heb. 2:9), which is explained by “many sons” in 2:10. If we interpolate and say that Christ tasted a death that is sufficient for every man, we indeed state a truth, but we inject into the preposition for a larger meaning than accords with the strictly idiomatic use of it.
The distinction between the “sufficiency” of the atonement and its “extent” in the sense of “intent” or effectual application is an old and well-established one. It is concisely expressed in the dictum that Christ died “sufficiently for all, but efficiently only for the elect.”136 The following extracts from Owen (Against Universal Redemption 4.1) illustrate it:
It was the purpose and intention of God that his Son should offer a sacrifice of infinite worth, value, and dignity, sufficient in itself for the redeeming of all and every man, if it had pleased the Lord to employ it for that purpose; yea, and of other worlds, also, if the Lord should freely make them and would redeem them. Sufficient we say, then, was the sacrifice of Christ for the redemption of the whole world and for the expiation of all the sins of all and every man in the world. This is its own true internal perfection and sufficiency; that it should be applied unto any, made a price for them, and become beneficial to them, according to the worth that is in it, is external to it, does not arise from it, but merely depends upon the intention and will of God. It was in itself of infinite value and sufficiency to have been made a price to have bought and purchased all and every man in the world. That it did formally become a price for any is solely to be ascribed to the purpose of God intending their purchase and redemption by it. The intention of the offerer and acceptor [of the sacrifice] that it should be for such, some, or any is that which gives the formality of a price unto it; this is external [to the sacrifice]. But the value and fitness of it to be made a price arises from its own internal sufficiency.
In respect to the phrase ransom price for all (1 Tim. 2:6), Owen remarks that it must be understood to mean that Christ’s blood was sufficient to be made a ransom for all, to be made a price for all; but that the terms ransom and ransom price more properly denote the application than the value of Christ’s sacrifice. He adds that “the expression to die for any person holds out the intention of our Savior in the laying down of the price, to be their Redeemer.”
Atonement must be distinguished from redemption. The latter term includes the application of the atonement. It is the term redemption, not atonement, that is found in those statements that speak of the work of Christ as limited by the decree of election. In Westminster Confession 8.8 it is said that “to all those for whom Christ has purchased redemption, he does certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same.” In 8.5 it is stated that “the Lord Jesus has purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father has given unto him.” Since redemption includes reconciliation with God and inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, it implies something subjective in the soul: an appropriation by faith of the benefits of Christ’s objective work of atonement. Reconciliation and inheritance of heaven are elements and parts of redemption and are limited to those who have believed; and those who have believed are those who have been called and chosen: “Faith is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:9); “you believed, even as the Lord gave to every man” (1 Cor. 3:5); “as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 3:48). Accordingly the Scriptures limit redemption, as contradistinguished from atonement, to the church. Christ “makes reconciliation for the sins of his people” (Heb. 2:17). His work is called “the redemption of the purchased possession” (Eph. 1:14). He is “the mediator of the New Testament, that by means of his death they which are called might receive an eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15). He “has visited and redeemed his people” (Luke 1:68). David, addressing Jehovah, says, “Remember your congregation which you have purchased of old, the rod of your inheritance which you have redeemed” (Ps. 74:2). The elders of Ephesus are commanded to “feed the church of God which he has purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). “He sent redemption unto his people” (Ps. 3:9). “O Israel, fear not; for I have redeemed you” (Isa. 43:1). “He shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Christ is “the Savior of his body the church” (Eph. 5:23). “He said, surely they are my people: so he was their Savior” (Isa. 63:8). “I will save my people from the east country and from the west country” (Zech. 8:7). See the Old Testament passages in which Jehovah is called the Savior of Israel and the New Testament passages in which God is called “our Savior,” that is, of the church.
Since redemption implies the application of Christ’s atonement, universal or unlimited redemption cannot logically be affirmed by any who hold that faith is wholly the gift of God and that saving grace is bestowed solely by election. The use of the term redemption, consequently, is attended with less ambiguity than that of “atonement,” and it is the term most commonly employed in controversial theology.137 Atonement is unlimited, and redemption is limited. This statement includes all the scriptural texts: those which assert that Christ died for all men, and those which assert that he died for his people. He who asserts unlimited atonement and limited redemption cannot well be misconceived. He is understood to hold that the sacrifice of Christ is unlimited in its value, sufficiency, and publication, but limited in its effectual application. But he who asserts unlimited atonement and denies limited redemption might be understood to hold either of three views: (1) The doctrine of the universalist that Christ’s atonement, per se, saves all mankind; (2) the doctrine of the Arminian that personal faith in Christ’s atonement is necessary to salvation, but that faith depends partly upon the operation of the Holy Spirit and partly upon the decision of the sinful will; or (3) the doctrine of the school of Saumur (hypothetic universalism) that personal faith in Christ’s atonement in the first arrangement of God depended in part upon the decision of the sinful will, but since this failed, by a second arrangement it now depends wholly upon the work of the Spirit, according to the purpose of election. (See supplement 6.2.9.)
The tenet of limited redemption rests upon the tenet of election, and the tenet of election rests upon the tenet of the sinner’s bondage and inability. Soteriology here runs back to theology, and theology runs back to anthropology. Everything in the series finally recurs to the state and condition of fallen man. The answer to the question “how is the atonement of Christ savingly appropriated?” depends upon the answer to the question “how much efficient power is there in the sinful will to savingly trust in it?” If the answer be that there is efficient power, either wholly or in part, in the sinful will itself to believe, then faith is either wholly or in part from the sinner himself and is not wholly the gift of God (which is contrary to Eph. 2:8) and justification does not depend wholly upon electing grace (which is contrary to 1 Pet. 1:2) and redemption is not limited. But if the answer be that there is not efficient power in the sinful will itself, either wholly or in part, to savingly believe, then faith is wholly the gift of God, is wholly dependent upon his electing grace, and redemption is limited by election, as is taught in 1 Cor. 3:5: “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, by whom you believed, even as the Lord gave to every man”; and in Rom. 9:16: “It is not of him that wills nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy.” (See supplement 6.2.10.)
The difference between the Calvinist and the Arminian appears at this point. Both are evangelical in affirming that salvation is solely by faith in Christ’s atoning blood. This differentiates them from the legal Socinian, who denies the doctrine of vicarious atonement and founds salvation from condemnation on personal character and good works. But they differ regarding the origin of faith. The Calvinist maintains that faith is wholly from God, being one of the effects of regeneration; the Arminian, that it is partly from God and partly from man. The Calvinist asserts that a sinner is unconditionally elected to the act of faith and that the Holy Spirit in regeneration inclines and enables him to the act, without cooperation and assistance from him. The Arminian asserts that a sinner is conditionally elected to the act of faith and that the Holy Spirit works faith in him with some assistance and cooperation from him. This cooperation consists in ceasing to resist and yielding to the operation of the Spirit. In this case, the Holy Spirit does not overcome a totally averse and resisting will, which is the Calvinistic view, but he influences a partially inclining will.
The Calvinist contends that unconditional election and total inability agree best with the scriptural representations and that the Arminian really adopts them when he sings with Charles Wesley:
Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on thee.
Conditional election is inconsistent with the biblical texts which describe God as independent and sovereign in bestowing faith and salvation. It is no sufficient reply to say that plenary ability to appropriate the atonement of Christ is not attributed to the fallen soul, but only a partial ability, that it is not contended that sinful man can exercise faith in the atonement without any aid at all from God, but only that he can and must contribute a certain degree of voluntary power which if united with that of God the Spirit will produce faith and that the exercise of this is the condition of election. This position of partial ability or synergism comes to the same result with that of plenary ability, so far as divine independence and sovereignty are concerned. For it is this decision of the sinner to contribute his quota, to “do his part” in the transaction, which conditions the result. It is indeed true, upon this theory, that if God does not assist the act of faith is impossible; but it is equally true, that if the sinner does not assist the act of faith is impossible. Neither party alone and by himself can originate faith in Christ’s atonement. God is as dependent in this respect as man. In this case, therefore, it cannot be said that faith depends wholly upon the divine purpose or that redemption is regulated and limited by election.
The middle theory of partial ability and conditional election is found in the Greek anthropology and the Semipelagian fathers generally and is opposed by Calvin (3.24.1) as follows:
The proposition of Paul, “It is not of him that wills nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy,” is not to be understood in the sense of those who divide saving power between the grace of God and the will and exertion of man; who indeed say that human desires and endeavors have no efficacy of themselves unless they are rendered successful by the grace of God, but also maintain that with the assistance of his blessing these things have their share in procuring salvation. To refute their views, I prefer Augustine’s words to my own: “If the apostle only meant that it is not of him that wills or of him that runs, without the assistance of the merciful Lord, we may retort the converse proposition, that it is not of [God’s] mercy alone without the assistance of [man’s] willing and running. But it is certain that the apostle ascribes everything to the Lord’s mercy and leaves nothing to our wills or exertions.”
Again (3.24.13), Calvin marks the difference between Augustine and Chrysostom in the following terms:
Let us not hesitate to say with Augustine that God could convert to good the will of [all] the wicked, because he is omnipotent. Why then does he not? Because he would not. Why he would not remains with himself. For we ought not to aim at more wisdom than becomes us. That would be much better than adopting the evasion of Chrysostom “that God draws those who are willing and who stretch out their hands for his aid,” so that the difference may not appear to consist in the decree of God, but in the will of man.
Luther took the same ground with Calvin:
Some allege that the Holy Spirit works not in those that resist him, but only in such as are willing and give consent thereto, whence it follows that free will is a cause and helper of faith and that consequently the Holy Spirit does not alone work through the word, but that our will does something therein. But I say it is not so; the will of man works nothing at all in his conversion and justification; non est efficiens causa justificationis sed materialis tantum.138 It is the matter on which the Holy Spirit works (as a potter makes a pot out of clay), equally in those that resist and are averse, as in St. Paul. But after the Holy Spirit has wrought in the wills of such resistants, then he also manages that the will be consenting thereunto. (Table Talk: Of Free Will)139
In saying that Christ’s atonement is limited in its application and that redemption is particular not universal, it is meant that the number of persons to whom it is effectually applied is a fixed and definite number. The notion of definiteness, not of smallness, is intended. In common speech, if anything is “limited,” it is little and insignificant in amount. This is not the idea when the redemptive work of Christ is denominated a “limited” work. The circle of election and redemption must indeed be a circumference, but not necessarily a small one. No man is redeemed outside of the circle. All the sheep must be within the fold. But the circle is that of the heavens, not of the earth. The fold is that of the Great Shepherd, not that of an undershepherd. The biblical representation is to this effect: “Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory” (Matt. 6:13); “Christ must reign till he has put all enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:25); “the Lord has prepared his throne in the heavens and his kingdom rules over all” (Ps. 103:21); “the tabernacle of God is with men, and they shall be his people” (Rev. 21:3); “the angel having the everlasting gospel to preach to every nation, kindred, and tongue” (14:6); “the voice of a great multitude and as the voice of many waters” (19:6); the new Jerusalem “lies foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth” (21:16); “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20); chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands upon thousands” (Ps. 68:17).
Although Christ’s atonement, in the discussion of its value and sufficiency, can be separated from the intention to apply it, yet in the divine mind and decree the two things are inseparable. The atonement and its application are parts of one covenant of redemption between the Father and Son. The sacrifice of Christ is offered with the intention that it shall actually be successful in saving human souls from death. It is not rational to suppose that God the Father merely determined that God the Son should die for the sin of the world, leaving it wholly or in part to the sinful world to determine all the result of this stupendous transaction, leaving it wholly or in part to the sinful world to decide how many or how few this death should actually save. Neither is it rational to suppose that the Son of God would lay down his life upon such a peradventure; for it might be that not a single human soul would trust in his sacrifice, and in this case he would have died in vain. On the contrary, it is most rational to suppose that in the covenant between the Father and Son, the making of an atonement was inseparably connected with the purpose to apply it: the purpose, namely, to accompany the atoning work of the Son with the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. The divine Father in giving the divine Son as a sacrifice for sin simultaneously determined that this sacrifice should be appropriated through faith by a definite number of the human family, so that it might be said that Christ died for this number with the distinct intention that they should be personally saved by this death.
This is taught in Scripture: “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:15); “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (15:13); “being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (11:51–52); “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). The annunciation to Joseph respecting the miraculous conception described the Savior as one who “should save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Furthermore, in accordance with this fact of an intention to apply the atonement at the time when the atonement is provided, we find that believers are said to have been “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4); that they have been given to Christ by the Father (John 10:29); that Christ knows them as so given (10:27); that he claims them as his sheep before they have actually believed and even before they have been born, saying, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one flock (poimnē)140 and one shepherd” (10:16). And when Paul was at Corinth, Christ encouraged his apostle to continue his labors, notwithstanding that little success had thus far attended them, by saying, “I have much people in this city” (Acts 18:9).
That the atonement in the mind of God was inseparable from his purpose to apply it to individuals is proved by the following:
1.      The fact that atonement in and by itself, separate from faith, saves no soul. Christ might have died precisely as he did, but if no one believed in him he would have died in vain. Hence it is said that “God has set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in his blood” (Rom. 3:25). It is only when the death of Christ has been actually confided in as an atonement that it is completely “set forth” as God’s propitiation for sin. In like manner, Christ is said to have been “delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification” (4:25). If Christ had not risen from the dead, he could not have been believed in. A dead and buried Christ could not have been an object of personal trust and confidence. Consequently, although it was the suffering and death of Christ, and not his resurrection and exaltation, that properly constitutes the atoning sacrifice, yet this sacrifice in itself and apart from its vital appropriation is useless. In order therefore to man’s justification, Christ must not only be delivered to death for offenses, but raised again from death so that he might be an object of faith. Says Owen (Justification, 9):
It cannot be said that Christ’s satisfaction was made in such a way as to render it uncertain whether it should save or not. Such an arrangement might be just in pecuniary payments. A man may lay down a sum of money for the discharge of another, on such a condition as may never be fulfilled. For on the failure of the condition, his money may and ought to be returned to him; whereupon, he has received no injury or damage. But in penal suffering for crime and sin, there can be no righteous arrangement that shall make the event and efficacy of it to depend on a condition absolutely uncertain, and which may not be fulfilled. For if the condition fail, no recompense can be made to him that has suffered. Wherefore the application of the satisfaction of Christ unto them for whom it was made is sure and steadfast in the purpose of God.
2.      If in the mind of God the death of Christ was separate from the intention to apply it, then it would be as true that Christ died for lost angels as for lost men; because his atonement, being infinite, is sufficient in value to atone for their sin as well as that of mankind. When it is said that Christ died for the sin of the world, it is implied that he did not die for any sin but that of man. The offer of Christ’s atonement is confined to the human race and not made to the angelic world. Now as the divine intention accompanies the providing of an atonement in respect to the difference between angels and men, so it accompanies the application of the atonement in respect to the difference between elect and nonelect men. As the atonement of Christ is not intended to be offered to the angels though it is sufficient for them, so it is not intended to be applied to nonelect men though it is sufficient for them.
3.      If in the mind of God the purpose that Christ should die had not been accompanied with the purpose that his death should be effective for individuals, the former purpose would have been an unproductive and useless one. It would have accomplished nothing, because of man’s unbelief and rejection of the gospel offer. But no purpose of God is unproductive and useless.
4.      The analogy of the typical atonement under the Mosaic economy shows that Christ’s atonement is intended for application only to believers. The lamb offered by the officiating priest was offered for the particular person who brought it to the priest to be offered. Each man had his own lamb, and there was no lamb that belonged to no one in particular but to everyone indiscriminately.
5.      The atoning work of Christ in its intended application is no wider than his intercessory work. He pleads the merit of his death for those to whom the Father purposed to impute it and only for those: “I pray not for the world, but for them which you have given me” (John 17:9). This was Christ’s intercessory prayer. He here teaches that he does not discharge the particular office of intercessor for the nonelect (the “world”) as distinguished from those whom the Father had given him. It is logical therefore to conclude that he does not discharge the particular office of priest for them.
There are biblical passages which are cited to teach unlimited redemption: Christ “tasted death for every man” (Heb. 2:9); Christ is the “propitiation not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2); Christ “gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6); the lamb of God “takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29); “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son” (3:16–17). Respecting this class of passages, the following particulars are to be noticed.
First, Scripture must be explained in harmony with Scripture. Texts that speak of the universal reference of Christ’s death must, therefore, be interpreted in such a way as not to exclude its special reference: “God is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe” (1 Tim. 4:10); Christ “makes reconciliation for the sins of his people” (Heb. 2:17); “Christ is the Savior of his body, the church” (Eph. 5:23); Christ “has visited and redeemed his people” (Luke 1:68); Christ “gives his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28); “Jesus shall save his people from their sins” (1:21; cf. Ps. 74:2; 111:9; Isa. 63:8; Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:28).
Second, the word world in Scripture frequently denotes a part of the world viewed as a collective whole and having a distinctive character, as we speak of the scientific or the religious world:
1.      Sometimes it is the world of believers, the church. Examples of this use are “the bread of God is he which gives life to the world [of believers]” (John 6:33, 51); Abraham is “the heir of the world [the redeemed]” (Rom. 4:13); “if the fall of them be the riches of the world” (11:12); “if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world” (11:15). In these texts, “church” could be substituted for “world.”
2.      Sometimes the word world denotes the contrary of the church: “Men of the world” (Ps. 7:14); “the world knew him not” (John 1:10); “the world cannot hate you, but me it hates” (7:7); “I pray not for the world” (14:17, 22, 27; 15:18–19; 16:20, 33; 17:9, 14, 16, 25; 1 Cor. 2:12; 1 John 2:15–17; 3:1; 4:5; 5:4).
3.      Sometimes the term world means all mankind, in distinction from the Jews: “This gospel shall be preached in the whole world” (Matt. 26:13); “the field is the world” (13:38); “God so loved the world” (John 3:16); “by wisdom the world knew not God” (1 Cor. 1:21); “reconciled the world unto himself” (2 Cor. 5:19); “propitiation for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). These texts teach that redemption is intended for all races, classes, and ages of men.
Similarly the word all sometimes has a restricted signification, denoting all of a particular class: “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). The “all” in Adam is a larger aggregate than the “all” in Christ, because Scripture teaches that all men without exception are children of Adam and that not all without exception are believers in Christ: “If one died for all, than all died [with that one]” (2 Cor. 5:14). The “all” here denotes the body of believers, because it is described as “the living” (hoi zōntes;141 v. 15). “As the judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so the free gift came upon all men unto justification” (Rom. 5:18). The “all” in one instance is described (v. 17) as “receiving abundance of grace,” but not in the other.142
In 1 Cor. 8:11 the phrase shall the weak brother perish for whom Christ died? (and also Heb. 6:4–10; 10:26–30) is a supposition for the sake of argument of something that does not and cannot happen (like 1 Cor. 13:1–3; Gal. 1:8). The influence and natural tendency of the conduct spoken of is to spiritual death. It is not said that the actual result will be the death of the “weak brother.” On the contrary, it is said that “God shall hold him up” (Rom. 14:4). In 2 Pet. 2:1 (“denying the Lord that bought them”), the “false teachers” are described according to their own profession, not as they are in the eye of God. They claim to have been bought by the blood of Christ, and yet by their damnable heresies nullify the atonement. Turretin explains the “purchase” in this case, as redemption from the errors of paganism. See verse 20: “Escaped the pollutions of the world.” Only the outward call is meant. Turretin defends this by the use in the passage of despotēs143 instead of sōtēra144 and of agorazein145 instead of lytrousthai.146 In 2 Pet. 3:9 (“the Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”), the will is that of decree, and the reference is to believers only. The Greek shows this: mē boulomenos tinas apolesthai147—“not purposing that any [of us] should perish.” The preceding clause, “long-suffering toward us (eis hēmas),”148 shows that tinas149 refers to God’s children. The true rendering of eis metanoian chōrēsai150 is “should go on to repentance”—metanoian151 here denoting the process of sanctification or renewing (Eph. 4:23), and chōrēsai152 a progressive motion or advance (as in Matt. 15:17; 19:12). The passage “what could have been done more unto my vineyard?” (Isa. 5:4) does not teach that God could not realize his desire that all men should “turn and live.” It is not the idea of power, but of patience and long-suffering, that is contained in this text. Calvin and Gesenius explain: “What more was there to be done, or was I bound to do?” (Alexander in loco).
Universal Offer of the Atonement
The question arises: If the atonement of Christ is not intended to be universally applied, why should it be universally offered?
The gospel offer is to be made to every man because …
1.      It is the divine command (Matt. 16:5). God has forbidden his ministers to except any man in the offer.
2.      No offer of the atonement is possible but a universal offer. In order to be offered at all, Christ’s sacrifice must be offered indiscriminately. A limited offer of the atonement to the elect only would require a revelation from God informing the preacher who they are. As there is no such revelation and the herald is in ignorance on this point, he cannot offer the gospel to some and refuse it to others. In this state of things there is no alternative but to preach Christ to everybody or to nobody.
3.      The atonement is sufficient in value to expiate the sin of all men indiscriminately; and this fact should be stated because it is a fact. There are no claims of justice not yet satisfied; there is no sin of man for which an infinite atonement has not been provided: “All things are now ready.” Therefore the call to “come” is universal. It is plain that the offer of the atonement should be regulated by its intrinsic nature and sufficiency, not by the obstacles that prevent its efficacy. The extent to which a medicine is offered is not limited by the number of persons favorably disposed to buy it and use it. Its adaptation to disease is the sole consideration in selling it, and consequently it is offered to everybody.
4.      God opposes no obstacle to the efficacy of the atonement in the instance of the nonelect. (a) He exerts no direct efficiency to prevent the nonelect from trusting in the atonement. The decree of reprobation is permissive. God leaves the nonelect to do as he likes. (b) There is no compulsion from the external circumstances in which the providence of God has placed the nonelect. On the contrary, the outward circumstances, especially in Christendom, favor instead of hindering trust in Christ’s atonement. And so, in a less degree, do the outward circumstances in heathendom: “The goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering of God [tend to] lead to repentance” (Rom. 2:4; Acts 14:17; 17:26–30). (c) The special grace which God bestows upon the elect does not prevent the nonelect from believing; neither does it render faith any more difficult for him. The nonelect receives common grace, and common grace would incline the human will if it were not defeated by the human will. If the sinner should make no hostile opposition, common grace would be equivalent to saving grace:153 “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51); “as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also withstand the truth” (2 Tim. 3:8). See Howe’s remarks on common grace (Oracles 2.2.5).
5.      The atonement of Christ is to be offered indiscriminately because God desires that every man would believe in it. “God,” says Turretin (4.17.33), “delights in the conversion and eternal life of the sinner, as a thing pleasing in itself and congruous with his infinitely compassionate nature, and therefore demands from man as a duty due from him (tanquam officium debitum) to turn if he would live.” Substitute in this passage “faith and repentance” for “conversion and eternal life,” and it is equally true. It is the divine delight in faith and repentance and the divine desire for its exercise that warrants the offer of the benefits of Christ’s atonement to the nonelect. Plainly, the offer of the atonement ought to be regulated by divine desire and not by the aversion of the nonelect. God in offering his own atonement should be guided by his own feeling and not by that of sinful man. Because the nonelect does not take delight in faith and repentance is surely no reason why God, who does take delight in it, should be debarred from saying to him, “Turn, turn, for why will you die?” May not God express his sincere feeling and desire to any except those who are in sympathy with him and have the same species of feeling? If a man has a kind and compassionate nature, it is unreasonable to require that he suppress its promptings in case he sees a proud and surly person who is unwilling to accept a gift. The benevolent nature is unlimited in its desire. It wishes well-being to everybody, and hence its offers are universal. They may be made to a churlish and ill-natured man and be rejected, but they are good and kind offers nevertheless, and they are nonetheless sincere, though they accomplish nothing. (See supplement 6.2.11.)
     The universal offer of the benefits of Christ’s atonement springs out of God’s will of complacency: “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his evil way and live” (Ezek. 33:11). God may properly call upon the nonelect to do a thing that God delights in, simply because he does delight in it. Divine desire is not altered by the divine decree of preterition. Though God decides not to overcome by special grace the obstinate aversion which resists common grace, yet his delight in faith and repentance remains the same. His desire for the sinner’s faith and repentance is not diminished in the least by the resistance which it meets from the nonelect nor by the fact that for reasons sufficient he does not decide to overcome this resistance.
6.      It is the nonelect himself, not God, who prevents the efficacy of the atonement. For the real reason of the inefficacy of Christ’s blood is impenitence and unbelief. Consequently, the author of impenitence and unbelief is the author of limited redemption. God is not the cause of a sinner’s impenitence and unbelief, merely because he does not overcome his impenitence and unbelief. If a man flings himself into the water and drowns, a spectator upon the bank cannot be called the cause of that man’s death. Nonprevention is not causation. The efficient and responsible cause of the suicide is the suicide’s free will. In like manner, the nonelect himself, by his impenitence and unbelief, is the responsible cause of the inefficacy of Christ’s expiation. God is blameless in respect to the limitation of redemption; man is guilty in respect to it.154 God is only the indirect and occasional cause of it; man is the immediate and efficient cause of it. This being the state of the case, there is nothing self-contradictory in the universal offer of the atonement upon the part of God. If any of the following suppositions were true, it would be fatal to the universal offer: (a) If at the time of offering Christ’s atonement God was actively preventing the nonelect from believing, the offer would be inconsistent. (b) If at the time of offering it God were working upon the will of the nonelect to strengthen his aversion to the atonement, the offer would be inconsistent. (c) If God were the efficient author of that apostasy and sinfulness which enslaves the human will and renders it unable to believe in Christ without special grace, then the offer of the atonement unaccompanied with the offer of special grace would be inconsistent. But none of these suppositions are true.
7.      The offer of the atonement is universal because, when God calls upon men universally to believe, he does not call upon them to believe that they are elected or that Christ died for them in particular. He calls upon them to believe that Christ died for sin, for sinners, for the world; that there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby they must be saved; that the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin; and that there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. The atonement is not offered to an individual either as an elect man or as a nonelect man; but as a man and a sinner, simply. Men are commanded to believe in the sufficiency of the atonement, not in its predestinated application to themselves as individuals. The belief that Christ died for the individual himself is the assurance of faith and is more than saving faith. It is the end, not the beginning of the process of salvation. God does not demand assurance of faith as the first act of faith: “Assurance of grace and salvation not being of the essence of faith, true believers may wait long before they obtain it” (Westminster Larger Catechism 81); “in whom, after you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13).155
8.      The atonement is to be offered to all because the preacher is to hope and expect from God the best and not the worst for every man.156 He is consequently to expect the election of his hearer, rather than his reprobation. The fact of the external call favors election, not reprobation. The external call embraces the following particulars: (a) hearing the word, (b) religious education by parents and friends, and (c) common grace, experienced in conviction of sin, fear of death and judgment, general anxiety, and dissatisfaction with this life. Upon such grounds as these, the individual is to be encouraged to believe that God’s purpose is to elect him rather than to reprobate him. If a person fears that he is of the nonelect, he should be assured rather that he is mistaken in this fear than that he is correct in it; because God has done more for him that tends to his salvation than to his perdition.
9.      The atonement is to be offered to all men because even those who shall prove in the day of judgment to be nonelect do yet receive benefits and blessings from it. Turretin (16.14.11) mentions the following benefits: (a) the preaching of the gospel, whereby paganism with its idolatry, superstition, and wretchedness is abolished; (b) the extremes of human depravity are restrained; (c) many temporal blessings and gifts of providence are bestowed (Rom. 2:4; Acts 14:17); (d) punishment is postponed and delayed (Acts 17:30; Rom. 3:25). Says Bates (Eternal Judgment, 2):
The grace of the Redeemer is so far universal that upon his account the indulgent providence of God invited the heathen to repentance. His renewed benefits that sweetened their lives (Rom. 2:4) and his powerful patience in forbearing so long to cut them off, when their impurities were so provoking, was a testimony of his inclination to clemency upon their reformation (Acts 14:17). And for their abusing his favors and resisting the methods of his goodness, they will be inexcusable to themselves, and their condemnation righteous to their own conscience. (See supplement 6.2.12.)
The reasons for the universal offer of the atonement, thus far, have had reference to God’s relation to the offer. They go to show that the act upon his part is neither self-contradictory nor insincere. But there is another class of reasons that have reference to man’s relation to the offer. And these we now proceed to mention:
1.      The atonement is to be offered to every man because it is the duty of every man to trust in it. The atonement is in this particular like the Decalogue. The moral law is to be preached to every man because it is every man’s duty to obey it. The question whether every man will obey it has nothing to do with the universal proclamation of the law. It is a fact that the law will have been preached in vain to many persons, but this is no reason why it should not have been preached to them. They were under obligation to obey it, and this justified its proclamation to them. Still more than this, the moral law should be preached to every man even though no man is able to keep it perfectly in his own strength. The slavery of the human will to sin is no reason why the primary and original duty which the human will owes to God should not be stated and enjoined, because this slavery has been produced by man, not by God. In like manner faith in Christ’s atonement should be required as a duty from every man, notwithstanding the fact that “no man can come unto Christ except the Father draw him” (John 6:44); that “faith is not of ourselves, but is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8); and that Christ is “the author and finisher of faith” (Heb. 12:2). Man’s inability without the grace of God to penitently trust in Christ’s atonement, being self-caused like his inability to perfectly keep the moral law without the same grace, still leaves his duty in the case binding upon him. The purpose of God to bestow grace is not the measure of man’s duty. Neither is the power that man has as fallen the measure of man’s duty. Only the power that man had as unfallen and by creation is the measure of it.
2.      The offer of Christ’s atonement for sin should be universal because it is the most impressive mode of preaching the law. In exhibiting the nature of Christ’s sacrifice and its sufficiency to atone for all sin, and especially in showing the necessity of it in order to the remission of any sin whatever, the spirituality and extent of the divine law are presented more powerfully than they can be in any other manner. The offer of the atonement is consequently a direct means of producing a sense of guilt and condemnation, without which faith in Christ is impossible.
3.      The offer of the atonement to an unbeliever is adapted to disclose the aversion and obstinacy of his own will. This method of forgiving sin displeases him. It is humbling. If he were invited to make a personal atonement, this would fall in with his inclination. But to do no atoning work at all and simply to trust in the atoning work of another is the most unwelcome act that human pride can be summoned to perform. Belief in vicarious atonement is distasteful and repulsive to the natural man because he is a proud man. When, therefore, a man is informed that there is no forgiveness of sin but through Christ’s atonement, that this atonement is ample for the forgiveness of every man, and that nothing but unbelief will prevent any man’s forgiveness, his attention is immediately directed to his own disinclination to trust in this atonement and aversion to this method of forgiveness. But this experience is highly useful. It causes him to know his helplessness, even in respect to so fundamental an act as faith. The consequence is that he betakes himself to God in prayer that he may be inclined and enabled to believe (Westminster Larger Catechism 59, 67).
6.2.1 (see p. 693). The attempt is sometimes made to illustrate vicarious suffering in grace by what is denominated “vicarious suffering in nature.” But the analogy is defective. The two things are different in kind, not merely in degree. A mother’s suffering for her child is not substitutionary and has no reference to retributive justice. The following points of difference are evidence: vicariousness in nature (a) is not expiatory, that is, satisfactory of law; (b) does not release another from the obligation to suffer penalty; (c) is sharing suffering with another (the mother suffers with her child; there are two sufferers); and (d) is helping another to bear suffering (the mother assists her child to endure). Vicariousness in grace (a) is expiatory, that is, satisfactory of law; (b) releases another from the obligation to penal suffering; (c) does not share suffering with another, but endures the whole of it (Christ does not suffer together with the sinner, but “treads the winepress alone”); and (d) does not assist the sinner to bear suffering, but suffers in his place. When Christians “bear one another’s burdens, such “vicariousness” as this does not release one of them from bearing burdens. It is community and help in enduring a common burden. Neither is suffering because of another—as when poverty and disease are inherited by children from their parents—the same as suffering for another—that is, in his stead for judicial purposes.
6.2.2 (see p. 697). Calvin teaches that forgiveness is the noninfliction of penalty upon the transgressor. He says (3.4.30): “What would Christ have done for us if punishment for sins were still inflicted upon us? For when we say that he ‘bore all our sins in his own body on the tree, we intend only that he sustained the punishment which was due to our sins. This is more significantly expressed by Isaiah, when he says that the ‘chastisement or correction of our peace was upon him.’ Now what is the correction (correctio) of our peace but the punishment due to sins and which we must have suffered before we could be reconciled to God, if he had not become our substitute? Thus we see clearly that Christ bore the punishment of sin that he might deliver his people from it. The passages cited above expressly signify that God receives us into favor on this condition, that in forgiving our guilt he remits all the punishment that we had deserved. And whenever David or the other prophets implore the pardon of their sins, they at the same time deprecate the punishment, and to this they are impelled by an apprehension of divine judgment. Again, when they promise mercy from the Lord, they almost always professedly speak of punishments and the remission of them.”
To the same effect Leighton (Lord’s Prayer) remarks: “Sin as it is called a debt is taken for the guiltiness of sin, which is to owe the suffering of punishment or an obligement to the curse which the law has pronounced against sin; and because this results immediately from sin, therefore sin is often put for the engagement to punishment; so the apostle’s phrase (1 Cor. 15:56) may be taken. So, then, the debt of sin being the tie to punishment which follows upon it, the forgiving of sin can be no other than the acquitting of a man from that curse, setting him free from his debt or his engagement to suffer.”
To a superficial glance the position that forgiveness of sin is the remission to the sinner of its penalty by means of its infliction upon Christ as the sinner’s substitute seems to favor selfishness and a mechanical view of pardon. The person, it is objected, merely desires deliverance from judicial suffering, and when a vicarious satisfaction of justice is offered to him, he coldly accepts it without any real sorrow for his transgression. It is only a mercantile transaction, like that of the exchange and market generally, with no spiritual affection and gratitude toward God the suffering Redeemer. But this objection supposes that the sinner has no true conception of sin as related to law and justice and no personal interest in the vindication of their claims by penal satisfaction. For if he perceived that the inmost quality of sin is its guilt or desert of penalty, his sorrow over its commission would manifest itself in the desire that it might be punished and in a willingness to undergo the punishment personally, if this would meet the case. The penalty of sin is the righteous retribution of infinite holiness. This is a spiritual evil, and in praying for its remission or release from obligation to endure it, because it has been endured for him by his divine substitute, the penitent sinner has first of all in view the character of God and the nature of justice, and not his own self-interest as shown in a mere wish to escape pain. If he recognizes first of all the punitive demands of righteousness and holiness and is so desirous that they should be satisfied that he would willing meet them by his own suffering, if this were possible, this is the highest proof of the sincerity of his sorrow over his disobedience. When the sinner, in the scriptural phrase, “accepts the punishment of his iniquity” (Lev. 26:41), he acknowledges its desert of penalty, and then pardon is for him both “the merciful and the just” (Rom. 3:26; 1 John 1:19) release of penalty by means of the vicarious endurance of it by his incarnate and suffering Savior. This objection to the Old Testament idea of pardon arises from adopting different ideas of sin and justice from those of the Old Testament. If sin is not guilt or obligation to punishment and if the satisfaction of justice is not inexorably necessary, then mercy is not the vicarious endurance of punishment for the sinner and pardon is not the remission of penalty.
This subject has obtained from Pearson as clear and concise a statement as can be found in theological literature. It is given in his exposition of article 10 of the Apostles’ Creed. Well would it have been if all parties and classes in the English church had adopted respecting the guilt of sin and its remission by means of Christ’s vicarious satisfaction for it the explanation of the Bishop of Chester, of whom Burnet (History of His Own Times) remarks that “he was in all respects the greatest divine of his age; a man of great learning, strong reason, and of a clear judgment. His book on the creed is among the best that our church has produced.” His explanation is as follows: “The second particular to be considered is the obligation of sin, which must be presupposed to the solution or remission of it. Now every sin does cause a guilt, and every sinner, by being such, becomes a guilty person; which guilt consists in a debt or obligation to suffer a punishment proportionable to the iniquity of the sin. This obligation to suffer penalty for sin is distinct from the commission of sin. The commission of sin ceases with the act, but the obligation to suffer for it never ceases. He who but once committed adultery, at that one time sins and at no time after can be said to commit that particular sin; but the guilt or obligation to suffer punishment for it remains on him still, and he may be said forever to be guilty of adultery, because he is forever liable to the wrath of God and obligated to suffer the punishment due to adultery. This obligation to punishment, which remains after the act of sin, is that reatus peccati of which the schools, and before them the fathers, spoke. The nature of this reatus is excellently declared by St. Augustine, when delivering the distinction between actual and original sin: ‘In the case of those persons who are born again in Christ, when they receive an entire remission of all their sins, it is necessary, of course, that the guilt [obligation to punishment] also of the still indwelling concupiscence should be remitted, in order that it should not be imputed to them for sin. For even as in the case of those actual sins which cannot be themselves permanent, since they pass away as soon as they are committed, the guilt or obligation to suffer penalty yet is permanent and if not remitted will remain forevermore; so when concupiscence [original sin] is remitted, the guilt or obligation to suffer penalty is also taken away. For not to have sin means this, namely, not to be deemed guilty of sin, that is, bound to suffer punishment for it’ (Augustine, On Marriage 1.26). This debt or obligation to punishment our blessed Savior thus taught to his disciples: ‘Whosoever is angry with his brother without cause shall be liable (obnoxious or bound over) to the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be liable (obnoxious or bound over) to the council; but whosoever shall say, You fool, shall be liable (obnoxious or bound over) to hellfire’ (Matt. 5:22). So says our Savior again: ‘He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit has never forgiveness, but is in danger of (liable, obnoxious, or bound over to) eternal damnation’ (Mark 3:28–29). From all this it appears that after the act of sin is committed and passed by, the guilt or obligation to suffer the affixed penalty resulting from that act remains; that is, the person who committed it continues still a debtor to the vindictive [retributive] justice of God and is bound to endure the punishment due unto it.
“What, now, is the forgiveness of sin, or in what does remission of sin consist? The forgiveness contains in it a reconciliation of an offended God, without which God cannot be conceived to remit, and a satisfaction unto a just God, without which God is not reconciled. The first of these is taught in the following: ‘We are justified gratuitously by his grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood’ (Rom. 3:24–25); ‘we have an advocate with the Father, and he is the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 2:1); ‘God loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins’ (4:10). This propitiation amounted to a reconciliation, that is, a kindness after wrath. We must conceive that God was angry with mankind before he determined to give our Savior; we cannot imagine that God, who is essentially just, should not abominate iniquity. The first affection, therefore, which we can conceive in him upon the lapse of man is wrath and indignation. God was most certainly holily angry with mankind before he determined to provide for them a Savior from this anger: ‘God commends his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners [and his wrath against sin existed] Christ died for us’; ‘when we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly [with whom justice was displeased]’; ‘when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son’ (Rom. 5:6, 8, 10). Though it be most true that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son’ (John 3:16), yet there is no incongruity in this, that a father should be offended with that son [as a sinner] whom he loves [as a son], and offended with him [in the one relation] at the very time that he loves him [in the other relation]. Notwithstanding, therefore, that God loved men whom he created, yet he was offended with them when they sinned and gave his Son to suffer for their sin in their stead, that through that Son’s suffering he might be reconciled to them. This reconciliation [of the holy justice] of God is clearly delivered in the Scriptures as wrought by Christ: ‘God has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ’ (2 Cor. 5:18); ‘we were reconciled unto God by the death of his Son’ (Rom. 5:10); ‘by him reconciling all things unto himself’ (Col. 1:20). In vain is it objected that the Scripture says our Savior reconciled man to God, but nowhere teaches that he reconciled God to man; for, in the language of Scripture, to ‘reconcile a man to God’ means to reconcile God to man, that is, to cause him who before was angry and offended with a person to be gracious and propitious to him. As the princes of the Philistines spoke of David, ‘Wherewith should he reconcile himself unto the master? should it not be with the heads of these men?’ (1 Sam. 29:4). Wherewith shall he reconcile Saul, who is highly offended with him; wherewith shall he make him gracious and favorable, but by betraying these men unto him? As our Savior advises, ‘If you bring your gift before the altar and there remember that your brother has aught against you, leave there your gift before the altar and go your way, first be reconciled to your brother’ (Matt. 5:23–24); that is, reconcile your brother to yourself, whom you have injured; render him by your submission [and compensation] favorable unto you, who has something against you and is offended at you. As the apostle advises the wife that ‘departs from her husband to remain unmarried or to be reconciled to her husband’ (1 Cor. 7:11), that is, to appease and get the favor of her husband. In the like manner we are said to be reconciled unto God when God is reconciled, appeased, and become gracious and favorable unto us; and Christ is said to reconcile us unto God when he has moved and obtained of God [as holy and sin hating] to be reconciled unto us; when he has appeased his holy displeasure and restored us unto his favor.
“Nor is it any wonder God should be thus reconciled to sinners by the death of Christ, who ‘while we were yet sinners died for us,’ because the punishment which Christ who was our surety endured was a full satisfaction to the justice of God: ‘The Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for many’ (Matt. 20:28). Now a ransom is a price given to redeem such as are in any way in captivity; anything laid down by way of compensation to take off a bond or obligation, whereby he who before was bound becomes free. All sinners were obligated to undergo such punishments as are proportionate to their sins and were by that obligation captivated and in bonds, and Christ did give his life a ransom for them, and that a proper ransom, if that his life were of any price and given as such. For a ransom is properly something of value given by way of redemption to purchase that which is detained or given for the releasing of that which is enthralled. But it is most evident that the life of Christ was laid down as a price; neither is it more certain that he died than that he bought us: ‘You are bought with a price’ (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23). It is the ‘Lord who bought us’ (2 Pet. 2:1). The price which he paid was his blood; for ‘we are not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ’ (1 Pet. 1:18–19). Now as it was the blood of Christ, so it was a price given by way of compensation; and as that blood was precious, so was it a full and perfect satisfaction. For as the gravity of the offense and iniquity of the sin is augmented and increases according to the dignity of the person offended and injured by it, so the value, price, and dignity of that which is given by way of compensation is raised according to the dignity of the person making the satisfaction. God is of infinite majesty against whom we have sinned; and Christ is of the same divinity, who gave his life a ransom for sinners; for God ‘has purchased his church with his own blood’ (Acts 20:28). Although therefore God be said to remit our sins, by which we were bound and captivated to his justice, yet he is never said to remit the price, without which we had never been ransomed and redeemed; neither can he be said to have remitted it, because he did strictly require and receive it [from his beloved Son, from whom he did not remove the cup of agony].
“If, then, we consider together on the side of man the nature and obligation of sin and on the side of Christ the satisfaction made and the reconciliation wrought, we shall easily perceive how God forgives sins and in what remission of them consists. Man being in all conditions [evangelized or unevangelized] under some law [written or unwritten] of God, who has sovereign power and dominion over him, and therefore owing absolute obedience to that law, whensoever in any way he transgresses that law or deviates from that rule, he becomes thereby a sinner and contracts a guilt which is an obligation to endure a punishment proportionable to his offense; and God, who is a lawgiver and sovereign, becoming now the party wronged and offended, has a most just right to punish man as an offender. But Christ, taking upon him the nature of man and offering himself a sacrifice for man’s sin, gives that unto God for and instead of the eternal death of man, which is more valuable and acceptable to God than that death could be, and so makes a sufficient compensation and full satisfaction for the sins of man; which God accepting becomes reconciled unto us and for the punishment which Christ endured takes off our obligation to eternal punishment. Thus man, who by sinning violated the law of God and by that violation offended God and was thereby obligated to undergo the punishment due unto the sin and to be inflicted by the wrath of God, is by the price of the most precious blood of Christ given and accepted in full compensation and satisfaction for the punishment that was due, restored unto the favor of God, who being thus satisfied and upon such satisfaction reconciled is both ‘faithful and just’ [faithful to his promise of mercy and just to his righteousness and holiness] (1 John 1:9) to take off all obligation to punishment from the sinner; and in this act consists the forgiveness of sins.”
6.2.3 (see p. 711). The punishment for suicide, as affixed by Plato (Laws 873), is remarkably like that of the Christian church: “What shall he suffer who slays him who of all men is said to be nearest and dearest to him? I mean the suicide, who deprives himself by violence of his appointed share of life, not because the law of the state compels him nor yet under the compulsion of some painful and inevitable fortune which has come upon him nor because he has had to suffer from irremediable and intolerable shame, but who from indolence or cowardice imposes upon himself an unjust penalty. For him what ceremonies there are to be of purification and burial God knows, and about these the next of kin should inquire of the interpreters and of the laws and do according to their injunctions. Those who meet their death in this way should be buried alone, and none shall be laid by their side; they shall be buried ingloriously in the borders of the twelve portions of the land, in such places as are uncultivated and nameless, and no column or name shall mark the place of their interment.”
6.2.4 (see p. 713). Calvin teaches that whenever the believer suffers pain from any cause or source whatever he is not suffering punishment for purposes of law and justice, but corrective chastisement for purposes of self-discipline and spiritual improvement. In 3.4.31–32 he says: “Since it highly concerns us to understand the design of those chastisements with which God corrects our sins, and how greatly they differ from the examples of his indignation pursuing the impious and reprobate, I conceive it will not be unseasonable to give a summary account of them. For the sake of perspicuity let us call one vengeance or vindictive judgment and the other chastisement or disciplinary judgment. In vindictive judgment God is to be contemplated as taking vengeance on his enemies, so as to exert his [judicial] wrath against them. We consider it, therefore, strictly speaking, to be the vengeance of God when the punishment he inflicts is attended with indignation. In disciplinary judgment he is not so severe as to be angry; nor does he punish in order to destroy or precipitate into perdition. Wherefore it is not properly punishment or vengeance, but correction and admonition. The former is the act of a judge, the latter of a father. For a judge, when he punishes an offender, attends to the crime itself and inflicts punishment according to the nature and aggravations of it. When a father corrects his child [even] with severity, he does it not to take vengeance or satisfaction of justice, but rather to teach him and render him more cautious for the future. Wherever there is vindictive punishment there is also a manifestation of the [judicial] curse and wrath of God, which he always withholds from believers. Chastisement, on the contrary, is, as the Scriptures teach, both a blessing of God and a testimony of his love.”
6.2.5 (see p. 718). Edwards (Excellency of Christ) thus speaks of the relation of Christ’s vicarious sufferings to divine justice and of their being also a manifestation of pity and compassion to the sinner: “Christ never in any act gave so great a manifestation of love to God and at the same time never so manifested his [compassionate] love toward those who were enemies to God as in the act of suffering and dying. The blood of Christ that was sweat out and fell in great drops to the ground in his agony was shed from love to God’s enemies and his own. Never did Christ so eminently show his regard to God’s honor as in offering up himself a victim to revenging [avenging or retributive] justice to vindicate God’s honor; and yet in this, above all, he manifested his [pitying] love to them that dishonored God so as to bring such guilt upon themselves that nothing less than his blood could atone for it. Revenging justice then spent all its force upon him on account of our guilt that was laid upon him; he was not spared at all; and this was the way and means by which Christ stood up for the honor of God’s justice. In this the diverse excellences that meet in the person of Christ appeared, namely, his infinite regard for divine justice and such compassionate love to those that had exposed themselves to it as induced him thus to yield himself a sacrifice to it.”
6.2.6 (see p. 722). Paley (sermons on Heb. 9:26 and Rom. 6:1) thus remarks upon the impossibility of man’s meriting heaven and of his need of obtaining it through the death of Christ: “Souls which are really laboring and endeavoring after salvation, and with sincerity, are every hour made deeply sensible of the deficiency and imperfection of their endeavors. Had they no ground, therefore, for hope, but merit, that is to say, could they look for nothing more than they should strictly deserve, their prospect would be very unhappy. I see not how they could look for heaven at all. They may form a conception of a virtue and obedience which might seem to be entitled to a high reward; but when they come to review their own performances and to compare them with that conception; when they see how short they have proved of what they ought to have been and how weak and broken were their best offices; they will be the first to confess that it is infinitely for their comfort that they have some other resource than their own righteousness. Their acts of piety and devotion toward God are defective in principle and debased by the mixture of impure motives. They are intermittent, cold, and languid. That heavenly mindedness which ought to be inseparable from religious exercises does not accompany theirs, at least not constantly. Their thankfulness is never what it ought to be, or anything like it. Formality is apt continually to steal upon them in their worship. No man reviews his services toward God but he perceives in them much to be forgiven, much to be excused. That such imperfect services, therefore, should be allowed and accepted is an act of abounding grace and goodness in God who accepts them; and we are taught in Scripture that this much needed grace and goodness abounds toward us through Jesus Christ and particularly through his sufferings and death.
“We shall better see the truth of this if we consider well what salvation is. It is nothing else than, after this life is ended, being placed in a state of happiness ineffably great, both in degree and duration; a state, concerning which the following things are said: ‘The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed.’ ‘God has in store for us such things as pass man’s understanding.’ It is not simply escaping punishment, simply being excused or forgiven, simply a little compensation for the little good we do, but it is infinitely more. Heaven is infinitely greater than the small reward which natural religion leads the moral pagan to expect. What do the Scriptures call it? ‘Glory, honor, immortality, eternal life.’ Will anyone contend that salvation in this sense and to this extent; that heaven, namely, eternal life, glory, honor, immortality; that a happiness such as there is no way of describing it but by saying that it surpasses human comprehension; will anyone contend that this is no more than what human virtue deserves, which in its own proper nature and by its own merit it is entitled to look forward to and to receive? The greatest excellence that man ever attained has no such pretensions. The best good action that man ever performed has no claim to this extent or anything like it. It is out of all calculation and comparison and proportion, above and more than any human works can possibly deserve.
“To what, then, are we to ascribe it, that such imperfect endeavors after holiness should procure and that they will in fact procure to those who sincerely exert them, such an immense blessing as ‘glory, honor, immortality, eternal life?’ The Scriptures attribute it to the free will, the free gift, the love and mercy of God. This alone is the source and fountain and cause of salvation, the origin from which it springs and from which all our hopes of attaining it are derived. The cause is not in ourselves nor in anything we do or can do, but in God, in his goodwill and pleasure. It is in the graciousness of his original offer of mercy. Therefore, whatever shall have moved and excited and conciliated that goodwill and pleasure so as to have procured that offer to be made, or shall have formed any part or portion of the motive from which it was made, may most truly and properly be said to be efficacious in human salvation. And this efficacy is in Scripture attributed to the death of Christ. It is attributed in a variety of ways of expression, but this is the substance of them all. He is a sacrifice, an offering to God, a propitiation, the precious sacrifice foreordained, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the Lamb which takes away the sin of the world; we are washed in his blood, we are justified by his blood, we are saved from wrath through him, he has once suffered for sins the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. All these terms, and many more that are used, assert in substance the same thing, namely, the efficacy of the death of Christ in the procuring of human salvation; and human salvation we have seen is not simply escaping punishment, but obtaining glory, honor, immortality, and a blessedness such as there is no way of describing it but by saying that it surpasses human comprehension.”
Edwards (Justification by Faith Alone) teaches the same truth with Paley, but in more technical terms and in closer connection with systematic theology: “The opponents of the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s active righteousness suppose that there is an absurdity in it. They say that to suppose that God imputes Christ’s obedience to us is to suppose that God is mistaken and thinks that we performed that obedience which Christ performed. But why cannot that righteousness be reckoned to our account and be accepted for us without any such absurdity? Why is there any more absurdity in supposing that Christ’s obedience of the law is imputed to us than that his penal satisfaction of the law is imputed? If Christ has suffered the penalty of the law for us and in our stead, then it will follow that his suffering that penalty is imputed to us, that is, is accepted for us and in our stead and is reckoned to our account as though we had suffered it. But why may not his obeying the law of God be as rationally reckoned to our account as his suffering the penalty of the law? Why may not a price to bring into debt [by earning a title to life] be as rationally transferred from one person’s account to another as a price to pay a debt [by atoning for guilt]? There is the very same need of Christ’s obeying the law in our stead in order to the reward, as of his suffering the penalty in our stead in order to our escaping the penalty; and the same reason why one should be accepted on our account as the other. One was as requisite to answer the law’s demands as the other. The same law that fixes the curse of God as the penalty for not continuing in all things written in the law to do them has as much fixed the doing these things as the antecedent of living by them. There is, therefore, exactly the same need, from the law, of perfect obedience being fulfilled in order to our obtaining the law’s reward, namely, heaven, as there is of death’s being suffered in order to our escaping the law’s punishment, namely, hell; or the same necessity, by the law, of perfect obedience preceding life, as there is of disobedience being succeeded by death.”
6.2.7 (see p. 726). The expiation of sin is distinguishable from the pardon of it. The former, conceivably, might take place and the latter not. When Christ died on Calvary, the whole mass, so to speak, of human sin was expiated merely by that death; but the whole mass was not pardoned merely by that death. The claims of law and justice for the sins of the whole world were satisfied by the “offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10); but the sins of every individual man were not forgiven and “blotted out” by this transaction. Still another transaction was requisite in order to this, namely, the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the sinner working faith in this expiatory offering and the declarative act of God saying “your sin is forgiven you.” The Son of God, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, “sat down on the right hand of God” (10:12); but if the redeeming work of the Trinity had stopped at this point, not a soul of mankind would have been pardoned and justified, yet the expiatory value of the “one sacrifice” would have been just the same.
6.2.8 (see p. 729). The standing objection of the Socinian to the vicarious satisfaction of justice—that it presents God in the aspect of implacability and unpaternal severity toward the sinner—falls away when it is considered that vicarious satisfaction in distinction from personal is the satisfaction of one divine attribute by another divine attribute, of divine justice by divine mercy. In and by Christ’s sufferings and death, God’s mercy meets the righteous and necessary demands of God’s justice and thereby releases the sinner from his own obligation to do this. Calvin (3.20.45) directs attention to this feature in redemption: “Sins are called debts in the Lord’s prayer because we owe the penalty of them: a debt we are altogether incapable of discharging, unless we are released by this remission [through Christ’s satisfaction of justice], which is a pardon flowing from God’s gratuitous mercy when he freely cancels these debts without any payment from us, being satisfied by his own mercy in Christ, who has once given himself for our redemption. Those, therefore, who rely on God’s being satisfied with their own merits or the merits of others and persuade themselves that remission of sins is purchased by these satisfactions, have no interest in this gratuitous forgiveness. In this way they do not implore God’s mercy, but appeal to his justice.”
6.2.9 (see p. 743). The Arminians did not carefully distinguish, as the elder Calvinists did, between atonement and redemption. Barrow, who is Arminian, has four sermons on “the doctrine of universal redemption asserted and explained.” He employs the term Savior in his first sermon on 1 Tim. 4:10 in “the large acceptation of conferring any kind of good. Whence God is ‘the Savior of all men’ as the universal preserver and upholder of all things, as in the psalm: ‘You, Lord, preserve man and beast’ (Ps. 36:6). If our Lord be the Savior of all those to whom God’s truth is declared and his mercy offered; or if he be the Savior of all the members of the visible church; particularly, if he be the Savior of those who among these, rejecting the overtures and means of grace or by disobedience abusing them, shall in the event fail of being saved, then he is the Savior of all men.” According to this loose use of the term, Christ is the Savior of those to whom salvation is offered but not secured by regenerating grace and who are eternally lost. Turretin (14.14) explains “Savior” in the first part of this text in the sense of preserver quoting Ps. 36:6 and Acts 17:28 and citing Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Ambrose, and Aquinas in support of this. This explanation is favored by the phraseology we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe. The “living God” refers more naturally to the Trinity than to the incarnate second person, showing that in the first part of the proposition the apostle has in mind the general providential relations of God to man and in the second part his special redemptive and actually saving relations. Turretin would not, with Barrow, denominate Christ “the Savior of all those to whom God’s truth is declared and his mercy offered and who by disobedience abusing them fail of being saved.”
6.2.10 (see p. 744). It is surprising that the denial that faith is the effect and not the cause of election and the new birth should have so much currency in the face of the numerous and explicit teachings of Scripture. Besides the passages quoted on p. 744, consider the following description by St. Paul (Eph. 1:19–20) of divine omnipotence exhibited in election to faith and regeneration: “The eyes of your understanding are enlightened that you may know what is the exceeding greatness of God’s power to us-ward who believe according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in [and by] Christ, when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and authority and dominion.” Again, in his sacerdotal prayer (John 17:2), our Lord represents the whole result of his mediatorial work as dependent upon election: “You have given your Son power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as you have given him.” He also emphasizes the discrimination between the elect and nonelect by saying (John 17:9): “I pray for them, I pray not for the world, but for them which you have given me.” The Redeemer does not say that he never prayed for the whole sinful world of mankind; for he did this whenever he uttered the supplication “your kingdom come; your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”; but on that particular occasion he confines his supplications to a part of the world, namely, the elect.
6.2.11 (see p. 751). It is important to show that the fault is man’s, not God’s, when common grace fails of success, because it evinces that although common grace is not the highest grade of mercy, it is nevertheless a grade of it. It is the exercise of compassion when nothing but justice and retribution are due. Instead of offering pardon and exerting a certain degree of restraining and softening influence upon the transgressor, which is described in Rom. 2:4, God might make no such offer to him and leave him to the wholly unrestrained workings of his free will. Common grace, in this way, has a real value which is not nullified by anything in its own nature but by the enmity and resistance of the sinful will. But in bringing out this fact, it is important not to nullify the distinction between common and special grace by combining common grace with the sinner’s cooperation, whereby common is converted into special and regenerating grace by the sinner’s agency. In addition to the remark on p. 751 n. 153, the following statement guards the subject still more: Again, to say that common grace would succeed if it were not resisted by the sinner is not the same as saying that common grace would succeed if it were yielded to by him. “To give up the contest” is one definition of “yield.” Not contesting at all is wholly different from ceasing to contest by yielding. In the former case there is no resistance by the man; in the latter, there is a resistance which is put a stop to by him. This latter is never done except as the divine Spirit inclines and enables him.
Owen (Dominion of Sin and Grace in Works 14.411 [ed. Russell]) thus describes the sinner’s action under common grace, showing both his voluntary resistance of it and his guilt in frustrating it: “Men who live in sin do voluntarily wrest themselves from under the rule of the law of God and give themselves up to be slaves unto this tyrant. Could sin lay any just claim to this dominion, had it any title to plead, it were some alleviation of guilt in them that give themselves up to it. But men reject the righteous rule of God’s law and choose this foreign and unjust yoke. Hence it follows that all men have a right in themselves to cast off the rule of sin and to vindicate themselves into liberty. They may, when they will, plead the right and title of the law of God unto the rule of their souls, to the utter exclusion of all pleas and pretenses of sin for its power. They have a right to say unto it, Get you hence, what have I to do any more with idols? All men, I say, have the right in themselves because of the natural allegiance they owe to the law of God; but by reason of their own act they have lost the power of themselves to execute this right and actually to cast off the yoke of sin. This is the work of grace. Sin’s dominion is broke only by grace.
“But you will say then, Unto what end serves this right, if they have not the power in themselves to put it in execution? and how can it be charged as an aggravation of their sin that they do not use the right which they have, seeing they have not power so to do? Will you blame a man that has a right to an estate if he do not recover it when he has no means so to do?
“I answer briefly three things. No man living neglects the use of this right to cast off the yoke and dominion of sin because he cannot of himself make use of it, but merely because he will not. [Owen means that the “cannot” has the element of “will not”in it; it is not isolated and abstract inability, but voluntary inability.] He does voluntarily choose to continue under the power of sin and looks on everything as his enemy that would deliver him: ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God, it is not subject unto his law nor can it be’ (Rom. 8:7). When the law comes at any time to claim its right and rule over the soul, a man under the power of sin looks on it as an enemy that has come to disturb his peace and fortifies his mind against it; and when the gospel comes and tenders the way and means for the soul’s delivery, offering its aid and assistance to this end, this also is looked on as any enemy and is rejected, and all its offers, unto that end (see Prov. 1:20–25; John 3:19). This, then, is the condition of everyone that abides under the dominion of sin: he chooses so to do; he continues in that state of sin by an act of his own will; he avows an enmity unto everything which would give him deliverance; and this will be a sore aggravation of his condemnation at the last day.
“God may justly require that of any which it is in the power of the grace of the gospel to enable them to perform and comply with; for this is tendered unto them in the preaching of it every day. And although we know not the ways and means of the effectual communication of grace unto the souls of men, yet this is certain, that [common] grace is so tendered in the preaching of the gospel that none go without it, none are destitute of its aids and assistances but those alone who by a free act of their own wills do refuse and reject it. This is that which the whole case depends upon, ‘You will not come unto me, that you may have life’; and this all unbelievers have or may have experience of in themselves. They may know on a due examination of themselves that they do voluntarily refuse the assistance of the [common] grace which is offered for their deliverance; therefore is their destruction of themselves.
“There is a time when men lose even the right [to cast off the yoke of sin] also. He who gave up himself to have his ear bored lost all his claim unto future liberty; he was not to go out at the year of Jubilee. So there is a time when God judicially gives up men to the rule of sin, to abide under it forever; so that they lose all right to liberty. Thus he dealt with many of the idolatrous Gentiles of old (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28) and so continues to deal with the like profligate sinners; so he acts toward the generality of the antichristian [infidel] world (2 Thess. 2:11–12) and with many despisers of the gospel (Isa. 6:9–10). When it comes to this, men are cast at law [outlawed] and have lost all right and title unto liberty from the dominion of sin. They may repine sometimes at the service of sin or the consequences of it in shame and pain, in the shameful distempers that will pursue many in their uncleanness; yet God having given them up judicially unto sin, they have not so much as a right to put up one prayer or petition for deliverance; nor will they do so, but are bound in the fetters either of presumption and indifference or of dreadful despair. See their work and ways described in Rom. 2:5–6.
“[Though God alone knows whom he has judicially abandoned and no man has the right to declare a fellowman to be thus cast away, yet] the signs or symptoms of the approach of such an irrecoverable condition are (1) a long continuance in the practice of any known sin. The long-suffering of God for a time waits for repentance (1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 3:9). But there is a time when it does only endure ‘vessels of wrath fitted for destruction’ (Rom. 9:22), which is commonly after long practice of known sin. (2) When convictions have been suppressed and warnings despised. God does not usually deal thus with men until they have rejected the means of their deliverance. (3) When men contract the guilt of such sins as seem to entrench on the unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit; such as proud, contemptuous, malicious reproaches of the ways of God, of holiness, of the spirit of Christ and his gospel. (4) A voluntary relinquishment of the means of grace and conversion unto God, which men have heretofore enjoyed. (5) The resolved choice of wicked, profane, unclean, scoffing society.”
The Synod of Dort (“Of Divine Predestination”) directs attention to the responsibility and guilt of man in frustrating common grace: “The promise of the gospel is that whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction to whom God out of his good pleasure sends the gospel. And whereas many who are [outwardly] called by the gospel do not repent or believe in Christ but perish in unbelief, this is not owing to any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross, but is wholly to be imputed to themselves. The death of Christ is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.”
Bates (On Death, chap. 6) in the same manner describes man’s resistance of common grace: “Suppose life be continued, yet sinners that delay repentance can have no rational hopes that they shall sincerely repent in time to come. For (1) saving repentance is the gift of God; and is it likely that those who have been insensible to the loud and earnest calls of the word, inflexible to the gracious methods of God’s providence leading them to repentance, should at last obtain converting grace? The gales of the Spirit are very transient and blow when he pleases; and can it be expected that those who have willfully and often resisted him should by an exuberant favor receive afterward more powerful grace to overrule their stubborn wills and make them obedient? To expect divine grace and the powerful workings of the Spirit after long resisting his holy excitations is both unreasonable and unrevealed. It is written as with a sunbeam that God will graciously pardon repenting sinners that reform their lives; but it is nowhere promised that he will give saving repentance to those who securely continue in sin upon a corrupt confidence that they will repent at last. Our Savior threatens to him who neglects the improving of grace that is offered that ‘that which he has shall be taken away’; yet men unwilling at present to forsake their sins of pleasure and profit vainly hope they shall obtain grace hereafter without any promise from God and against the tenor of his threatenings. God has threatened that his Spirit ‘shall not always strive with rebellious sinners,’ and then their state is remediless. This may be the case of many in this life who are insensible of their misery. As consumptive persons decline by degrees, lose their appetite, color, and strength, till at last they are hopeless, so the withdrawings of the Spirit are gradual, his motions are not so strong nor frequent, and upon the continued provocations of the disobedient he finally leaves them under the most fearful doom: ‘He that is filthy, let him be filthy still; he that is unrighteous, let him be unrighteous still.’ (2) Supposing the Holy Spirit be not totally withdrawn, yet by every day’s continuance in sin the heart is more hardened against the impressions of grace, more averse from returning to God, and repentance is more difficult and hazardous. (3) It is uncertain whether God will at last hear the prayers of such as resist and insult his Spirit in the common operations of his grace. We are commanded to ‘seek the Lord while he may be found and call upon him while he is near.’ The limitation implies that if the season be neglected he will hide his face forever. Now in cases of great moment and hazard what diligence, what caution should be used.”
Westminster Confession 5.6.6 sums up the subject of God’s withdrawing common grace after the sinner’s resistance and abuse of it as follows: “As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God as a righteous judge, for former sins, does blind and harden (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28; 11:7–8), from them he not only withholds his grace whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings and wrought upon in their hearts (Deut. 29:4); but sometimes also withdraws the gifts which they had (Matt. 13:12) and exposes them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin (2 Kings 8:12–13) and withal gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan (Ps. 81:11–12; 2 Thess. 8:15, 32), whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves even under those means which God uses for the softening of others (Exod. 8:15, 32; 2 Cor. 2:15–16).”
6.2.12 (see p. 753). Augustine distinguishes the common from the effectual call in the following passages: “God calls many predestinated children of his to make them members of his only predestinated Son, not with that calling with which they were called who would not come to the marriage, since with that calling were called also the Jews, to whom Christ crucified is an offense, and the Gentiles, to whom Christ crucified is foolishness; but with that calling he calls the predestinated which the apostle distinguished when he said that he preached Christ, the wisdom of God and the power of God to them that were called, Jews as well as Greeks. And it was this calling he meant when he said, ‘Not of works, but of him that calls, it was said unto Rebecca, that the elder shall serve the younger.’ Did he say, ‘Not of works, but of him that believes’? Rather, he actually took this [namely, faith] away from man that he might give the whole to God. Therefore he said, ‘But of him that calls’; not with any sort of calling whatever, but with that calling wherewith a man is made a believer” (Predestination 32). “The vessels of mercy were not so called as not to be elected, in respect of which it is said, ‘Many are called, but few are elected’; but because they were called according to God’s purpose they are of a certainty also elected by the election of grace, as it is denominated, not of any precedent merits of theirs, because grace is all the merit they have” (Rebuke and Grace 13). “Whoever are elected are without doubt also called; but not whoever are called are also elected. Those are elected who are called according to God’s purpose and who are also predestinated and foreknown” (Rebuke and Grace 14).



1 1.      ἀντί
2 2.      ἀντί
3 3.      ἀντί
4 4.      ἀντί
5 5.      ὑπέρ
6 6.      ὑπέρ
7 7.      ὑπέρ
8 8.      ὑπέρ
9 9.      ὑπέρ
10 10.      ὑπέρ
11 11.      ὑπέρ
12 12.      ἀντί
13 13.      ὑπὲρ χριστοῦ
14 14.      ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν
15 15.      ὑπέρ
16 16.      ἀντί
17 17.      ὑπὲρ σοῦ
18 18.      ὑπὲρ πάντῶν
19 19.      πάντες ἀπέθανον
20 20.      ὑπέρ
21 21.      ἀντί
22 22.      ἤ καὶ ἐθελοις ἄν, ὧ ἐπίσθενες, ὑπὲρ τουτοῦ ἀποθανεῖν = Would you even be willing to die, O Episthenes, on his behalf?
23 23.      ὑπέρ
24 24.      ἀντί
25 25.      ὑπέρ
26 26.      erōtēson toutous, mallon de egō touth’ hyper sou poiēsō (ἐρωτησόν τούτους, μαλλὸν δὲ ἐγω τουθ᾽ ὑπὲρ σοῦ ποιήσω)
27 27.      ὑπέρ
28 28.      ἀντί
29 29.      ὑπέρ
30 30.      Wenn auch in vielen Stellen das apothanein hyper nur ein Sterben zum besten Anderer ist, so kann doch wohl in den Stellen, Rom. 4:25; Gal. 1:4; Rom. 8:3; 1 Cor. 15:3; 2 Cor. 5:14, der Begriff der Stellvertretung, wenigsten der Sache nach, nicht zurückgewiesen werden.
31 31.      ὑπέρ
32 32.      ἀντί = in place of
33 33.      ὑπέρ = for
34 34.      διά = on account of
35 35.      περί = concerning
36 36.      ἀντὶ ἡμῶν
37 37.      ἀντὶ τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων ἡμῶν
38 38.      WS: The first of these statements might be either hyper hēmōn (ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν = on our behalf/in our place) or anti hēmōn (ἀντὶ ἡμῶν = in our place); the second might be hyper tōn hamartēmatōn hēmōn (ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων ἡμῶν = because of our sins) or peri (περί) or dia (διά), but not anti (ἀντί). The preposition anti (ἀντί) has only the one meaning of substitution: the others have more than this meaning.
39 39.      ὑπέρ
40 40.      ἀντί
41 41.      ὑπέρ
42 42.      WS: The law as precept, however, would not be satisfied. This proves that endless punishment is not excessive punishment. It still leaves the sinner in debt. According to strict justice, the law could require from the lost an active as well as a passive obedience, perfect obedience in the present and future as well as suffering the penalty for past disobedience.
43 43.      WS: The following are the principal points of difference between Unitarianism and Calvinism respecting the subject of Christ’s redemption. Unitarianism contends (a) that God is inherently and spontaneously merciful; (b) that justice is only a form of benevolence and opposes no obstacles to the exercise of God’s inherent and spontaneous mercy; (c) that Christ was not God, but an exalted creature sent to announce divine mercy, set a holy example, and proffer spiritual assistance to imitate it; it was no part of his mission to satisfy legal claims and harmonize justice with mercy, because there is no need of harmonizing them; and (d) that the doctrine of vicarious atonement implies that God is not inherently merciful, but needs to be made so by the agency of another being, namely, Christ (Channing, Life 1.294, 344, 349, 354). Calvinism contends (a) that God is inherently and spontaneously merciful; (b) that justice is an attribute distinct from benevolence, requiring satisfaction for sin and prohibiting the exercise of mercy until this requirement is met; (c) that Jesus Christ was incarnate God himself, who suffered vicariously for sinners in order to satisfy the legal claims which obstructed the exercise of divine mercy; and (d) that this vicarious satisfaction of justice by God himself is the way in which God shows his inherent and spontaneous mercifulness and not a means employed by a third party, other than God, to make him merciful.
44 44.      WS: Divine wrath against sin, we have seen (p. 168), causes no unhappiness or misery in God because of its righteousness and legitimateness.
45 45.      WS: “It was in China that a Baptist missionary found his converts slow to appreciate the value of Christ’s atoning blood, until the Book of Leviticus threw light upon the sacrificial offering and showed the relation between shedding of blood and remission” (Bible Society’s Record, 21 Nov. 1878).
46 46.      WS: Bähr (Symbolism of the Mosaic Cultus) denies that there is anything piacular in the levitical sin offering. The slain victim is emblematic of self-consecration and self-sacrifice, not of penal satisfaction. The death of the lamb or goat teaches, not that the offerer deserves to die for his past transgression, but that he ought to live for future consecration to obedience. This interpretation lies under all the moral theories of the atonement. Its inconsistency is apparent in making the shedding of blood or death the symbol of life.
47 47.      כָּפַר
48 48.      The Piel is a Hebrew verb pattern that may express the basic meaning for some verb roots, though it more usually indicates some intensification of the action.
49 49.      סָלַח
50 50.      כָּפַר = to make an atonement, cover over
51 51.      ἐξιλάσκομαι
52 52.      סָלַח
53 53.      ἀφίημι
54 54.      Venia sive condonatio peccatorum, ex vulgari et biblica dicendi consuetudine, est abolitio poenae peccatis contractae, et restitutio benevolentiae divinae erga peccatorem.
55 55.      ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν = forgive us our debts
56 56.      ἄφεωνταί σοι αἱ ἁμαρτίαι σοῦ = your sins are forgiven you
57 57.      ἄφεσις ἁμαρτιῶν
58 58.      WS: If it be objected that in the statement of the doctrine of vicarious atonement it is maintained that God atones to God (pp. 702–3), the reply is that Jesus Christ does not make satisfaction to himself as Jesus Christ, but to the Trinity. The incarnate Word satisfies the justice of the Godhead. The relation of his death is therefore objective. It has reference to the divine nature, not to his own theanthropic personality.
59 59.      כָּפַר = to make an atonement, cover over
60 60.      ἱλάσκομαι = to propitiate
61 61.      ἱλασμός
62 62.      καταλλαγή = atonement, reconciliation
63 63.      καταλλάσσειν = to conciliate, appease
64 64.      καταλλαγή
65 65.      καταλλάσσειν
66 66.      καταλλάττεται = is appeased
67 67.      καταλλαγή = atonement, reconciliation
68 68.      διαλλάγηθι τῷ ἀδελφῷ
69 69.      WS: See Magee, Atonement, diss. 20; Owen, Vindications, chap. 21; Shedd, Theological Essays, 265–73.
70 70.      λύτρον
71 71.      ἀντί
72 72.      περιεποιήσατο
73 73.      ἀπολυτρώσις
74 74.      ἠγοράσθητε
75 75.      ἐξηγόρασεν
76 76.      ἀντίλυτρον
77 77.      δούλος
78 78.      δούλους
79 79.      ἑαυτῷ
80 80.      ἑαυτῷ
81 81.      Respira, o peccator, respira; ne desperes, spera in eo quem times. Affuge ad eum a quo aufugisti. Invoca importune quem superbe provocasti.
82 82.      from the outside
83 83.      from within
84 84.      Non dicimur reconciliati quasi deus de novo amare incipiret, nam aeterno amore dilexit, sed quia per hanc reconciliationem sublata est omnis odii causa, tum per ablutionem peccati, tum per recompensationem acceptabilioris boni.
85 85.      Scholastici loquntur, dilexit deus humanum genus quantum ad naturam quam ipse fecit; odit quantum ad culpam quam homines contraxerunt.
86.      WS: The same principle applies to the afflictions of life. The strength and comfort must come from the very same being who afflicts. God is the source of affliction, and he is the God of all comfort. God wounds, and God heals the wound. See Pascal’s letter to his brother-in-law on the death of his own father. The same truth is expressed in the lines of George Herbert:
Ah, my dear, angry Lord!
Since Thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure, I will do the like.
I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve;
And all my sour-sweet days,
I will lament, and love.
87 87.      oderunt quem laeserint
88 88.      WS: “La conscience est la voix de l’âme, les passions sont la voix du corps” [AG: The conscience is the voice of the soul, the passions are the voice of the body]; Rousseau, Émile, 4. This is borrowed from Descartes, Passions of the Soul, arts. 18–19.
89 89.      WS: On the difference between divine and human anger, see Shedd, Theological Essays, 269–84.
90 90.      WS: Suicide, if the act of sanity, is ipso facto proof of insubmission and rebellion toward God and impenitence in sin. Socrates (Phaedo 61) contends that to take one’s own life is to defraud and dishonor the Creator. “The gods,” he says, “are our guardians, and we are a possession of theirs. If one of your own possessions, an ox or an ass, for example, took the liberty of putting himself out of the way when you had given no intimation of your wish that he should die, would you not be displeased with him and would you not punish him if you could?” It was upon this view of suicide that the self-murderer was denied burial by the church in consecrated ground.
91 91.      παιδεύει = treats like a child
92 92.      res domi = matters of the home
93 93.      μετάβασις εἰς ἀλλο γένος = a change into another kind
94 94.      ἐπὶ τὸ συμφέρον = for what is profitable
95 95.      WS: See the excellent treatise of Crawford, Fatherhood of God.
96 96.      law of retaliation
97 97.      WS: See the explanation and defense of it by Kalisch on Exod. 21:22–25.
98 98.      law of retaliation
99 99.      ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι = to be amazed
100 100.      ἀδημονεῖν = to be distressed
101 101.      WS: Christ felt that he was forsaken of God, but not, like a despairing person, that he was eternally forsaken. The desertion was only temporary. The comforting presence of God returns to Christ, as is indicated in the statement of Luke 23:46 that “Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Again, the agony of Christ was not despair, because in this very cry he says “my God.” A despairing man or angel would say “O God” and would not exclaim, saying, “Why have you forsaken me?” Again, Christ did not experience despair, because he knew that the union between the divine and human natures was indissoluble. He also knew that the covenant of redemption between him and the Father could not fail. His distress did not relate to either of these two particulars. It arose (a) from his view of the nature of the curse upon sin which he had vicariously come under; (b) because the comforting influences from the union of the divine with the human nature were temporarily restrained; (c) from temporary desertion of God; and (d) from positive infliction when the “sword was awakened” against him (Owen, Third Sacramental Discourse). The words why have you forsaken me? express wonder, not ignorance or unbelief or complaint. Christ well knew why he was deserted at this hour, had perfect faith and confidence in his Father, and was entirely submissive to his will. But he was amazed and paralyzed at the immensity of the agony. The word why is not interrogative, but exclamatory. The words are equivalent to “how you have forsaken me!” This is Hugh St. Victor’s explanation (see Hooker 5.48). When a Christian exclaims, “Why am I so unbelieving and sinful?” it is only another way of saying, “How unbelieving and sinful I am!” He is not asking for information. He well knows the reason why.
102 102.      WS: South, Sermon on Messiah’s Suffering; Edwards, Excellency of Christ in Works 4.189.
103 103.      ira dei est voluntas puniendi
104 104.      WS: Philippi, Active Obedience of Christ.
105 105.      WS: Piscator was the first formally to present this view. John Taylor of Norwich went to an opposite extreme and held that active obedience was the sole cause of man’s salvation. He denied any piacular effect of Christ’s death and held that as a reward of Christ’s active obedience alone the remission of sin was given to man, as the eminent services of a soldier are rewarded by the monarch by benefits to his family.
106 106.      τέλος
107 107.      WS: See on this point, Paley, sermon on Heb. 9:26, part 2.
108 108.      therefore, he merited by making satisfaction, and he made satisfaction by meriting
109 109.      WS: Owen (Justification, chap. 10) endorses the distinction as made by Grotius: “Whereas we have said that Christ has procured two things for us, freedom from punishment and a reward, the ancient church attributes the one of them to his satisfaction, the other to his merit.” Edwards adopts it: “Whatever in Christ had the nature of satisfaction, it was by virtue of the suffering or humiliation in it. But whatever had the nature of merit, it was by virtue of the obedience or righteousness that was in it” (Redemption in Works 1.402).
110 110.      WS: Bengel composed his Syntagma de sanctitate (Book on holiness) to prove that all the attributes of God are implied in Hebrew qādôš (קָדוֹשׁ). But he did not hold that all are holiness.
111 111.      WS: Butler (Nature of Virtue, diss. 2) contends that “the whole of virtue does not consist in promoting happiness.” This is the same as contending that all moral qualities cannot be resolved into benevolence.
112 112.      fiat justitia ruat coelum
113 113.      Misericordia non tollit justitiam, sed quaedam justitiae plenitudo est.
114 114.      Ipse deus, ipse sacerdos, ipse hostia, pro se, de se, sibi satisfecit.
115 115.      εἴασε
116 116.      ὑπεριδών
117 117.      χάρις = grace
118 118.      ἀνοχή = forbearance
119 119.      WS: That this is the correct interpretation is proved by the use of the preposition dia (διά = on account of) in Rom. 3:25. God set forth Jesus Christ “to be a propitiation, to declare his righteousness on account of (dia) the pretermission of sins.” Had the act of pretermission been the final cause or chief end of the propitiation, the preposition employed would have been eis (εἰς = unto). The main and ultimate purpose of Christ’s death is always denoted in the New Testament by eis aphesin hamartiōn (εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν = unto the forgiveness of sins). The phrase dia paresin hamartēmatōn (διὰ πάρεσιν ἁμαρτημάτων = on account of the forgiveness of sins) occurs only this once in the New Testament.
120 120.      χάρις
121 121.      ἀνοχή
122 122.      Impersonaliter poenam necessario infligi omni peccato, sed non personaliter omni peccatori.
123 123.      Shedd makes two mistakes here: (1) He applies the label acceptilation when what he actually describes is an acceptation. In an acceptilation no payment is received and the debt is declared paid, whereas in an acceptation the creditor accepts some payment, but one of lesser value (e.g., fifty cents on the dollar) to absolve the debt. (2) Socinus denied that Christ’s death is even a partial payment of a debt, teaching instead that God forgives out of pure mercy.
124 124.      It is significant that Socinus himself cites the case of Zaleucus but, rather than using the story to illustrate his own view, he subjects it to withering ridicule (see Socinus, De Jesu Christo Servatore 3.3.251).
125 125.      the exact same money
126 126.      WS: Witsius (Covenants 1.4) finds four elements in the pains of hell: (1) privation of divine love, (2) sense of divine hatred, (3) the worm of conscience, and (4) despair of God’s favor. The second, third, and fourth elements did not enter into Christ’s experience. The first did, temporarily.
127 127.      Cum reddis aliquid quod debes deo, non debes computare hoc pro debito quod debes pro peccato. Omnia enim debis deo.
128 128.      WS: While there may be vicarious as well as personal punishment, because punishment is suffering endured for a judicial purpose and this purpose can be fulfilled by a substitute as well as by the criminal, there can be no vicarious confession of sin and no vicarious repentance for it. Confession and repentance are necessarily personal acts. The Scriptures never represent Christ as vicariously confessing the sins of his people or as vicariously repenting of them. Yet McLeod Campbell, while dissatisfied with the Catholic doctrine of vicarious atonement, has set forth the theory that Christ has made a perfect confession of human sin and that this is an adequate satisfaction for sin. See Crawford, On Atonement and On the Fatherhood of God, lect. 4.
129 129.      punishment
130 130.      satisfaction
131 131.      in the direction of what comes after (i.e., looking forward in time)
132 132.      See glossary 1.
133 133.      ἐξουσίαν
134 134.      WS: Hill, Theology, book 4; Candlish, On Atonement 1.2; Cunningham, Historical Theology 2.323–70.
135 135.      WS: To “extend” the atonement might be understood to mean to “offer” the atonement. But this is not the meaning in this connection. To extend, in the sense now being considered, is not only to offer the atonement but also to render it personally efficacious by regenerating grace.
136 136.      Sufficienter pro omnibus, sed efficaciter tantum pro electis.
137 137.      WS: Owen in his treatise against Arminianism presents “arguments against universal redemption.”
138 138.      it is not the efficient cause of justification but only the material cause
139 139.      WS: Cf. Dabney, Theology, 580–81; Watson, Institutes 2.395–96.
140 140.      ποίμνη
141 141.      οἱ ζῶντες
142 142.      WS: As a specimen of exegesis that throws out the qualifying words and explanatory statements of the author, consider the following from Farrar (St. Paul 2.201): “The word all is the governing word in the Epistle to the Romans. All—for whatever may be the modifications which may be thought necessary, St. Paul does not himself make them—all are equally guilty, all are equally redeemed. All have been temporarily rejected, all shall be ultimately received. All shall be finally brought into living harmony with that ‘God who is above all and through all and in all’ (Eph. 4:6).” The words of St. Paul in Eph. 4:6 are “God who is in you all”—the reference being to believers. The uncials omit hymin (ὑμῖν = in you) but the preceding verse contains it, and the succeeding verse implies it.
143 143.      δεσπότης = lord, master
144 144.      σωτήρα = savior
145 145.      ἀγοραζεῖν = to buy, purchase
146 146.      λυτρουσθαῖ = to redeem
147 147.      μὴ βουλόμενος τινας ἀπολέσθαι
148 148.      εἰς ἡμᾶς
149 149.      τινας = any
150 150.      εἰς μετάνοιαν χωρῆσαι
151 151.      μετάνοιαν = repentance
152 152.      χωρῆσαι = to advance
153 153.      WS: To say that common grace if not resisted by the sinner would be equivalent to regenerating grace is not the same as to say that common grace if assisted by the sinner would be equivalent to regenerating grace. In the first instance, God would be the sole author of regeneration; in the second he would not be.
154 154.      WS: See Owen, Works 14.411 (ed. Russell).
155 155.      WS: Owen, Display of Arminianism 4.1.8.
156 156.      WS: Zanchi, On Predestination, 67 (trans. Toplady).

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