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A limited atonement for a certain chosen number of men, leaves the benevolent ministry of angels, in our rebellious world, unaccounted for. It may
account for the angels being ministering spirits sent forth io minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation; but the whole history of God's works shews, that the ministry of angels has had a benevolent influence upon many who have not proved heirs of salvation. The argument of our Savior about liule children supposes that all of them have a share in the good services of angels. No one will say, either that the holy angels would give their services to such children, or that such children could become interested in such high advantages, irrespectively of the mediation and atonement of Christ.
This ministry of angels has not been confined to mankind in their childhood; it has followed them when grown up, and even when living in sin. As instances of this benevolent ministry towards mankind as sioners, I might mention the case of Hagar and her son, the case of Balaam, the case of the angel who led the contumacious Israelites through the wilderness; and, not to make a larger enumeration, the case of the angel who descended to the pool of Bethesda* to trouble the waters for the healing of the bodily disorders of men.
The ministry of angels for the benefit of man is in every case an effect of the mediation and atonement of Christ, for angels and principalities are made subject to his authority. They go at his bidding in every employment. If Christ had purchased their ministry for a certain number only, how have these intelligences of distant worlds taken such interests in all the children of our world? Is this an uncovenanted employment and do even they do works of supererogation? Will these holy beings squander upon others a ministry so dearly purchased only for some?
* The critical disputes about the text of this narrative do not at all affect the probabiliiy of the benevolent aspect of the ministry of angels towards sinners.
An atonement limited in its aspect and design, is opposed to the report which the intelligences of other worlds have given to us of their views of its bearings and influence. This is the report from other worlds. “And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people: for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will towards men.”
When Peter remarked that angels desire to look into the administration of the atonement, it should be remembered that these intelligences had been inquiring into this subject for above four thousand years. Now let it be considered, that these high and noble existences are possessed of powers remarkable for comprehension and accuracy; that they applied those powers to a given subject for so many ages; that they studied this subject in all the information and light of knowledge in heaven; that their application to this subject did not consist in intellectual speculation merely, but also in actual services employed from time to time for furthering the great arrangements of this subject; and that on their visit to the Shepherds, they were commissioned to give a correct announcement of this provision of mercy.
These intelligences seem to consider this scheme of mercy as embracing the "earth," “men," and "all people.” The tidings of the angel are not "good" to all people, unless Christ the Lord be a Savior unto all people. The good tidings that Christ the Lord was a Savior unto all people, could not be “a great joy” unto them, unless he were so, truly and sincerely, the expression of "good-will towards men.'
If these well-informed spirits after four thousand years' application of their great minds to this subject, and actual employment in some of its plans, had understood the atonement to be a measure limited to a certain number, they would not have announced it in such
universal terms, and with such an unlimited aspect. When the angel said that the advent of the Savior was a great joy which should be to all people, he understood it to "be" so in the purpose of God, and the design of the atonement.
This view of the angel's sentiments on the extent of the provision of mercy, is not at all destroyed by the testimony given to Mary, that she should call her son “Jesus, because he should save his people from their sins.” It is utterly incapable of proof that the angel meant by “his people,” the objects of sovereign speciality and election. “His people” in this passage mean, the people of the Jews, who were, particularly even at this time, the people of his fold: to them he camebut his own [ people) received him not. This sense of the phrase is fully justified by Luke i, 68, 77; vii, 16. Supposing, however, that the angel intended' by "bis people” the objects of gracious speciality, this passage would not decide against the universal aspect of the atonement; as in that case it would refer to the actual results only of the atonement, and not at all to its general design and tendency.
Limited views of the atonement are not compatible with the nature of the joy which angels have in the conversion of sinners.
As the conversion of sinners is a pleasure and a joy to them, the inserence is fair, that the unconverted state of sinners, is a matter that is displeasing and grievous to them, as much as any thing can be displeasing, and grievous to glorious and happy minds. The argument which the apostle Paul employs with the Corinthians in behalf of purity and propriety in worship, is the supposition that an improper spirit and behavior is displeasing to the angels who commune with their assemblies. The sinner who grieves the Holy Spirit, may be well supposed to grieve holy angels. If however these great and holy intelligences see or know that the atonement of Christ was only designed for a certain number, which, as they become converted, actually supply to Christ the
identical travail of his soul, on what principle can the unconverted state of the others be a grief to them? Their griet cannot arise from the exclusion of these unconverted, from the proposals and offers of the atonement—much less from any impious apprehensions that these offers to sinners were not sincere. It must be left to the advocates of limited atonement to account for this supposed grief of angels upon any other principle, than that of their regarding the sinner as acting a perverse, undutiful, and wicked part, in rejecting the clear and open overtures of the atonement.
These angels cannot regard the rejection of the atonement, and of the gospel offers, wrong and wicked in the sinner, if the atonement was never designed for him, and if the offers made to him were not really meant and intended for his adoption.
An atonement limited to a certain number is inconsistent with the argument, which is founded on the “desire of angels to look into these things," to press upon sinners the indispensable duty of becoming interested in the salvation of Christ, and the heinous guilt of neglecting it. Hear Dr. Dwight's statement.
“Were the gospel as untrue as infidels assert, they would be no gainers. If it should be true, what will become of them. What must be the feelings of an infidel on a dying bed, if he is then in possession of sober thought, and solemnly remembers bis contempt for the Savior, and his rejection of the offers of life? With what emotions must he enter eternity?” This argument is sound and sober, and it agrees well with Dr. Dwight's view of the death of Christ.
On the principles of a limited and partial atonement, this argument can not be pressed, on any sinner who may be supposed to be out of the pale of salvation. It is utterly unworthy of the gospel to recommend to such an excluded sinner, the examination of the atonement,
* Dwight's Sermons, vol, ii, p. 440.
as a man of taste, and to tell him that the study of this cardinal measure of the divine government would be a good intellectual exercise for him, and would materially improve the benevolence of his character. Yet the advocates of exclusive salvation can not consistently recommend such a sinner to inquire into the claims of the atonement of Christ in any other way.
A limited atonement is inconsistent with the exhortations and encouragements, which the scriptures give to sinners universally, to direct their attention and pursuit to the happiness and glory of the heavenly places.
Sinners of all sorts are directed and recommended to lay up for themselves treasures in heaven, to seek, and! to set their affections upon, the things that are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of the Father. Now all the blessings and the good things in heaven are purified, consecrated, and set apart by the "better sacrifice of Christ.” If they are, therefore, purified and selected for a certain number, how can the minister of the gospel invite all men to seek what was never intended for them? There is not a blessing, nor a companion to be had in heavenly places,* that is not hallowed and purified by the blood of atonement. It is,
* I cannot deny myself the pleasure of introducing here a passage from "Bishop Porteus' Sermons;" its pertinency and eloquence will apologize for its length.
“It is, I believe, generally taken for granted, that it was for the human race alone that Christ suffered and died; and we are then asked, with an air of triumph, whether it is conceivable, or in any degree credible, that the eternal Son of God should submit to so much indignity, and so much misery, for the fallen, the wicked, the wretched inhabitants of this small globe of earth, which is as a grain of sand to a mountain; a mere spec in the universe when compared with that immensity of worlds, and system of worlds, which the sagacity of a great modern astronomer has discovered in the boundless regions of space.
“But on what ground is it concluded that the benefits of Christ's death extend no further than to ourselves? As well might we suppose that the sun was placed in the firmament merely to illuminate and warm this earth that we inhabit. To the vulgar and illiterate this actually appears to be the case. But philosophy teaches us better things: it enlarges our contracted views of the divine beneficence, and brings us acquainted with other planets,