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every necessary power, and means, and motives, to accept it; but they loved darkness rather than light, and they voluntarily rejected it. God therefore determined to exercise his sovereign pleasure in graciously influencing some to accept it for their salvation.
I am much inclined to think that the exercise of sovereignty in applying the benefits of the atonement to some more than others, is a measure ABOVE the atonement, but exercised through the atonement. 'Thus the atonement itself is a measure above moral government, and yet is exercised through moral government. So miracles are measures above providence, yet exercised through providence. In like manner, divine sovereignty is above the atonement, yet exercised through it. In such language I only embody, in other words, the doctrine of Paul concerning the sovereignty of God. When it is said that all things are put under him (Christ), it is manifest that he IS EXCEPTED who did put all things under him.” In the atonement God did not sink his supremacy, or part with his sovereignty. The atonement laid him under no obligation, under no constraint, to exercise his sovereignty. He had a sovereign right without the atonement, and with it, to have mercy on whom he will have mercy; but he has been pleased to exercise this right through the atonement. He is supposed actually to exercise his sovereign agency in saving, only AFTER men have exercised their agency in rejecting his claims, and after they become liable to what is justly due to them for their sin, and to evils which they themselves lave voluntarily chosen. So that after all, the rejecters receive nothing but what is just, nothing but what they choose themselves.
Will any say, “Cui bono, such a statement—what do you gain by it?" Garn! I gain every thing; 1 gain the accountableness and blameableness of men for not being saved; I gain the unsullied honors of the divine perfections and government in the condemnation of such perverse rejecters; I gain the eternal and imperishable glory of free and sovereign GRACE, that condescended
to save any of such a race of evil-doers; I gain every
a thing that can make theology valuable, and religion practical.
II. The sacred scriptures give us the most clear, ample, and cogent evidence, that the designs of the atonement shall be infallibly secured in instances without number.
Scriptural testimonies of this class are so abundantly and so constantly exbibited in Calvinistic Bodies of Theology, and in other works and treatises bearing on the doctrine of predestination unto life, and so accessible to the inquirer, that a formal induction of them here is deemed unnecessary. The sacred scriptures distinctly assert that the designs of the atonement shall be infallibly secured—that Christ SHALL see of the travail of his soul-that the word of reconciliation shall not return to him void—that as many as the Father gave
him SHALL come unto him, and that none shall be able to pluck them out of his hand. They lift up for us the veil of futurity, and assure us, that in the last day there shall be, and will be, many on the right hand of the Judge; and they represent heaven as infallibly to be peopled with a multitude which no man can number, all of whom shall have washed their robes in the BLOOD of the Lamb. The revelations of the scriptures consider this
Another class of scriptures designate and mark out the characters in whom all the purposes of the death of Christ shall be fully accomplished. They are called his "sheep," bis "friends," his "church," and, "the people whom the Father gave unto him.” The scriptures do not mark these as the only characters for whom the Son of God died, but as the only characters in whom the great designs of his death are fully answered. Another class of passages represent the production and formation of these characters as the result of a divine and eternal purpose and plan. They are called out of the world from amid others, according to God's purpose and grace. Christ gives the honor of sitting at his right hand in his kingdom, only to those
as a sure case.
for whom it has been prepared by the Father. Hence,
The Influences of the Atonement on the interests of
The atonement of the Son of God for sin, is the ground for calling a church out of the midst of mankind. This
one reason why Jesus Christ, in his mediatorial character, is called the foundation" of the church. The first stones of the church of God were built on the promise of the “Seed of the woman," and on this every succeeding stone has been placed. This is the ground of the general call of the gospel; and what a sure foundation it is for a minister to stand
upon, to beseech all men to be reconciled to God! On this
the prophets and apostles, and all wise master-builders have placed the living materials of the “church of the Lord."
The ministry of the atonement is the great instrument for collecting the church. Unto Christ the gathering of the people is to be. Something else may gather a sect of philosophers, or bands of philanthropists; but it is this alone that will gather a church. “And I, if I be lifted up, I will draw all (men) to myself.” It is emphatically called the word and ministry of reconciliation. It is the trumpet of jubilee that announces the acceptable year of the Lord, and calls back to their home and their inheritance, the captives and those that are ready to perish.
This doctrine has always been in the church. When Adam, and Eve, and Abel, formed the first members of the church, the doctrine of the atonement was a cardinal article of its creed. In the church there was never known any way of acceptance with God but through an atonement. Whatever the church lost in seasons of afflictions and defeats, it has never entirely lost the doctrine of the atonement. Its outlines, from behind the dim transparency of ceremonial shadows, never entirely faded away from the vision of the Jewish church; and in the Christian church the ordinance of the Lord's supper has been a plain and imperishable emblem of the atonement, to show forth the Lord's death till he come. Though the emblem has been criminally shrouded from the people in the dark foldings of superstition, or, at another time, shamefully exhibited to the populace in a mantle of State trappings yet the doctrine itself has never quitted the Christian temple. Ecclesiastical History proves that in the precise proportion that any church becomes erroneous on the doctrine of the atonement, that church, whether in Rome or in England, anong Episcopalians or Dissenters, becomes corrupt. It is also capable of proof, on which no entrance can be made now, that a church that denies the atonement of Christ
not a church of his.
The provisions of the atonement have a special reference to the well-being, the purity, the perpetuity, and the glory of the church. The general provisions of the atonement give the Mediator power over all flesh, that he might give eternal life to as many as the Father hath given him; and constitute him "Head over ALL THINGS," with speciality of application, "to the CHURCH.” To the church, all the provisions of the atonement; like all the arrangements of nature and providence, work together for good.
All the services of the church have a direct reference to the atonement. No service in the Christian temple is acceptable to God, but that which is offered through the hands of the minister of the sanctuary.” The prayers of the church take Calvary in their way to heaven. In singing with grace in the heart, the harp must be tuned for the "Song of the Lamb" at the foot of the cross. It disowns all preaching but "the preaching of the cross. The church is baptized into the death of Christ as an atonement for sin; and in the Lord's supper it sits to the feast of the atonement.
The atonement will be the theme of the church for ever and ever. In heaven not a note will be sounded but in harmony with "the blood that speaketh better things.” The burthen of the song will be “UNTO HIM that hath loved us, and WASHED us from our sins in his own blood.” The harp of Saul of Tarsus will send forth a sound which the harp of Gabriel does not reach, and a throng of ransomed sinners will for ever swell the strain, “washed us from our sins," and the sounds of the harpers harping will thrill eternity into melody