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employed to represent the unparalleled wonders of this great subject, and could never be intended to mark out the entire outlines of this infinite transaction.*
III. Sinners are treated by the blessed God on account of the sufferings of Christ as if they themselves had suffered.
If a person sentenced to imprisonment be admitted to pay a fine, the result is to him as if he had suffered the imprisonment. If a colony of slaves are ransomed by a munificent friend, they are treated as if they had been at the cost themselves. If a band of rebels are spared for the sake of the worthiness of the king's son, they are treated as if that worthiness were their own. On the same principle, if a sinner be pardoned at the intercession of an Advocate with God, the result to the sinner is as if he had interceded himself. The Son of God was treated as if he were unworthy and unjust on our account, and we are treated as if we were worthy and just on his account.
This moral transfer of the benefits of Christ's mediatorial worthiness takes place according to a settled arrangement in God's moral government. An inquiry into the modus of his arrangement is idle and unprofitable. This arrangement is observed and acted
upon every day in the providence of common life. I will suppose a case.
An utter stranger of mean exterior knocks at your door, and wishes a share in the hospitalities of your house. You know nothing of him, you are surprised at his request, and dismiss him, perhaps, unceremoniously. He knocks again, makes use of the name of your son, or brother, or some intimate friend declares that he calls at his request, proves that he is on intimate terms with him, and received assurances from him that if he knocked at your door, and make use of
* On this subject, see 'Four Discourses on the Atonement,' by D. BEMAN, of Ainerica. This little work is a rich nursery of what Lord Bacon calls, "The Seed of Things.” It abounds in living theologcal principles, each of which, if duly cultivated and reared, would unfold great and ample truths, illustrative of this great doctrine,
his name, you would shew him every kindness and hospitality. Your conduct toward the stranger is now very different. In him there is no difference, except that he has made use of another's name. But why should you act differently towards him on that account? The reason is that you promptly and spontaneously obey a certain arrangement of providence, and you impute to the stranger a portion of the character or worthiness and respectability of the person whose name he has used, that is, you treat him better on account of that name.
In such a case you never think that there is an actual transfer and commutation of personal worthiness, nor do you stay to inquire how you come to treat the stranger better for making use of your friend's name. Let the first application of the stranger in his own name and character stand for a sinner's approach to God on the ground of his own righteousness. God says, “Depart, I know you not.” He knocks a second time, and makes use of the worthy name of the Son of God, and begs to be admitted into God's favor for the sake of Jesus Christ. He is then cordially “accepted in the Beloved.” He is found in Christ, and is well-received on account of Christ. We perceive no incongruity, but due propriety, in such a transaction in common providence, and we would see no absurdity, but wise benevolence, in such an arrangement in the mediation of Christ, if we were apt to “discern spiritual things.”
On our part this communion of benefits with Christ, takes place by faith, trust, or confidence in him; or, to use the figure above, by using his name. If a sick man be restored to health through his faith and confidence in the science and skill of his physician, he enjoys the blessings of health as if he had had that science and skill himself. If a passenger cross in safety a tempestuous sea through his firm confidence in the knowledge and ability of his Pilot, the result is to him as if he had been at the helm himself. In the same manner, if a sinful man is delivered from his sin
through a firm belief and persuasion that the sufferings of Christ are an awful expression of the evil of sin, and supply an honorable ground for vindicating God's righteousness in pardoning him, the result is to that sinner, as if he had suffered to vindicate that righteousness himself.
The doctrine of the scriptures concerning substitution appears entirely free from the objections brought against the exhibitions of it in some theological systems. When I consider that Jesus Christ suffered as if he had been a sinner, that nevertheless, his sufferings did not partake of the elements of the literal curse of the law, and that in consequence of them sinners are treated as if they bad suffered themselves, the doctrine of substitution appears in bold prominence, and appears to consist in a substitution of sufferings as well as in substitution of persons.
1. The scriptures represent the atonement of Christ as supplying an honorable ground for offering and for dispensing pardon to sinners.
I have defined an atonement to be, any provision, or expedient, that for the purposes of good government answers the same ends as the punishment of the sinner. An atonement is provided that, the ends of government being answered, the governor may be left at liberty to pardon offenders in what way, or on what terms he pleases. An atonement only provides that the governor might be just in pardoning, or that he might pardon, and his justice be unsullied; but not at all that he must pardon or be unjust. A pardon through an atonement is one honorably admitted by justice, but, most assuredly, not one imperiously demanded, as if it were the remission of a commercial debt.
It is in this sense that Jesus Christ is said to have given his life a ransom for all, 1 Tim. ii, 6. The death of Christ is the ransom price (the nurgov) of our deliverance. The ransom price is a sum of money, or any other equivalent consideration that influences the holder of a captive to set him at liberty. It is in reference to this sense that we are said to be justified through the "redemption” that is in Christ Jesus—that is through the ransom-price, the valuable consideration of his death, which makes God just in justifying. The language is, of course, analogical, and must be so understood and explained. The meaning I believe to be this, that as the ransom price is the ground of the liberation of a captive, so is the atonement of Christ the ground and reason for delivering a sinner from liableness to punishment, and from the thraldom of sinful habits and passions.
2. The atonement of Christ is not only the ground on account of which pardon is proclaimed and offered, but it is the medium through which pardon is dispensed and conferred.
Christ is represented as she way” to the Father. Redemption is described as being through Christ." God meets the sioner for reconciliation "in Christ;" and the offender draws near to God win the name of Christ.” The atonement is not the salvation itself, but the medium of salvation; as the ransom-price is not the redemption of the captive, but the medium of his redemption. Therefore, the atonement, as such, does not secure the salvation of any, but is the medium of salvation to all. Just so is providence-it secures health to none, but is the medium of health to all.
The atonement was not designed to deliver at once and summarily offenders, simply as offenders. It never intended to acquit them of their offence irrespectively of their disposition towards the government. In the atonement, God consulted, not alone the sinner's good, but, pre-eminently his own glory; but an indiscriminate pardon dispensed without any regard to the disposition
of the sinner, would be inconsistent with the wisdom of the divine government, and with the public justice which, in this provision, sought the good of the whole commonwealth. To deliver captives, who despise their Deliverer and their deliverance cannot be wise ; and to ransom criminals, only to make them lawless, cannot be good.
The atonement is a medium of redemption, and must be employed as such before redemption will ever be effected. God employs it as the medium of declaring his righteousness, and expressing bis mercy in forgiving sin; and the sinner employs it as the medium of his access to God. The atonement will avail the sinner nothing unless it be used. It is a "remedy,' but it must be taken; it is a “way,” but it must be walked in; it is a "satisfaction for sin,” but it must be pleaded at the throne of God; it is "the blood of the Lamb,” but it must be sprinkled, before it will avail for our safety from destruction. Until this be done, "there is no salvation;" but the wrath of God abideth on every sinner. It is the amnesty of a government to an army of rebels, it may be as comprehensive as the whole army, but it will benefit only those who accept of it.
The New Testament never represents the atonement as the procuring cause of salvation, but the medium of dispensing it. Eternal love is the sole procuring cause of salvation through the atonement. Such a statement is supposed by some to derogate from the dignity of the atonement. Accordingly Mr. M’LEAN* argues thus: “To represent Christ's death merely as a medium through which spiritual blessings are conveyed, and not, the meritorious procuring cause of them, is to ascribe no more to it than to the preaching of the gospel, which is also a medium through which salvation is conveyed."
On the objection of this able and distinguished divine, I submit the following remarks.
* M'LEAN's Works, vol. 4, p. 226.