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The personal voluntariness of Christ.
To render a substitution valid, honorable, and efficacious, there must be free and perfect voluntariness in the substitute.
The atonement of Christ was to be an index to the whole operations and bearings of the mediatorial system; to point it out as a system adapted to reasonable, free, and voluntary intelligences. It was, in fact, to be a specimen of the voluntariness of the whole economy. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay
I down my life, that I might have it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command have I received of my Father.” John X, 17, 18.
Man was free and voluntary in the offence. God was free and voluntary in providing an atonement. The Father was free and voluntary in accepting the satisfaction, and the Spirit is free in applying salvation to sinners, dividing to every one according as he will. The sinner is free in rejecting or receiving the atonement; and the divine government is free and voluntary in forgiving the sinner; the Christian is free and voluntary in his course of obedience and holiness; his admission to heaven is entirely of free grace and unconstrained good-will; and all the employments and exercises of heaven are free and voluntary. Free, uninfluenced voluptariness is stamped on the whole transaction, and is exercised by all the parties concerned.
This voluntary principle was conspicuous in the whole life and character of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. His whole undertaking was an act of free choice, of perfect voluntariness; without constraint, without reluctance. When he dis
appeared from among the Jews, who sought to kill him, it was only because “His hour” was not yet come. When the right period arrived, he said, “Father, the hour is come:” I am ready: ready to go to Calvary, ready to be sacrificed on an accursed altar, ready to make an atonement for the sin of man.
When this shour" came upon him, he felt as a man, and prayed, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will
, but thine be done.” Yet, this circumstance betrayed no reluctance to his work. Aversion from sufferings is an affection essential to every living creature. Such an affection is in itself innocent and sinless; without it, man would not be the subject of hope or fear, and, consequently, not a fit subject of moral government. Had the blessed Mediator been without such aversion to pain, he would not have appeared really and truly a man: nor would be have appeared so great a sufferer. He loved his Father; and in proportion as he loved his Father, he would be averse to any effects of his displeasure. His love to his Father, his innocent aversion from suffering, the nice susceptibilities of his holy frame, put his obedience to the fullest trial; yet, as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth, but to say "not my will, but thine be done.”
This voluntariness originated in himself. He emptied bimself and made himself of no reputation. No one took his life from him, but he laid it down of himself. He said, "Lo, I come to do thy will.” He had in himself the absolute right of self-disposal. No creature in the universe can possess this right; for his all, all that he is, and all that he has, is owing to the law. He, then, who could say of his life, “I have lay it down, and power to take it up again," must be above law, above a creature—he must be God. This absolute right, and this unconstrained voluntariness of self-disposal, were essential to the lawfulness of his undertaking, and to the acceptance of his work, as Mediator.
power to Though substitution is often above law, it must never be against law. An involuntary substitution would be a measure void of all justice, and void of all
grace; but voluntariness makes it just and gracious. The law of the land does not constrain any man to become a surety; but if any one voluntarily become a surety for an insolvent, the law is not unjust in allowing him to "smart for it.” The law does not constrain any man to undertake great trouble and expense, and to part with a great portion of his estate to deliver a thoughtless and profligate friend or relation; but if he voluntarily do so, the law is perfectly just in letting him bear such a loss, though he never personally deserved it. The law will not force any man to enter into recognizances for the good behavior of another person; yet if he voluntarily enter on such an engagement, and his friend break the peace, no one thinks the law unjust in making the bail suffer the loss.
When Judah voluntarily substituted himself instead of Benjamin, and when Zaleucus substituted his sufferings for the punishment due to his son; no one thinks of charging such transactions with injustice and wrong. It is not right reason, nor the moral sense, but it is jaundiced prejudice, that sees any color of injustice in the voluntary substitution of Jesus Christ for sinful man. It must be something wrong, something that sees not as God seeth, that can detect injustice in the very measure wbich God himself, with all authority "sets forth TO DECLARE his righteousness." If God declares the substitution of the atonement of Christ to be a demonstration of his righteousness—and any set of men declare it to be an evidence of injustice, we cannot be at a loss whose declaration to receive as truth.
An involuntary substitution would, indeed, have been unjust, unreasonable, and inadmissible; therefore much of the acceptableness of the work of Christ is, in connection with the dignity of his person, ascribed to the grace, the love, and the voluntariness which he so freely
displayed in the whole undertaking. We are enriched through his poverty, because it was from mere grace, that he, though he was rich, for our sakes became poor. Christ hath loved us, and bath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling
That Jesus Christ came to the world to save sinners was a step cordially approved of by God, and is worthy of all acceptation among mankind. “Him hath God the Father sealed” to be a Mediator; and his great atonement he has appointed to be the only mediuni of communication between the offenders and the throne. “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
The personal sufferings of Christ.
We have now seen in the substitution of the Lord Jesus Christ all the elements essential to the reality and sufficiency of an atonement to a government: viz. dignity of person, relationship to the offender, worth of character, voluntary substitution, and appointnient by the authority of the government. In this enumeration of the essential elements of atonement, I have not inserted the article of intensity of suffering, simply because, that to the atonement as an atonement, I did not consider it indispensably necessary. The reasons for it will be found in this section.
The reality of the atonement has, in this discussion been tried by the connection of its great elements with the person of Christ; let us now try the question of the extent of the atonement by the same test. It is selfevident that not one of these great elements of atonement could possibly be more or less than it is; from which we argue, that neither could the atonement itself be possibly more or less than it is.
The atonement of Christ is generally represented in the writings of men, and generally believed to consist in an actual suffering of the penalty due to the offenders for whom he suffered. They who take this view of the atonement argue
thus: Some offenders will eventually endure the penalty of the law themselves, as some of them already endure it now in misery. It would be unjust to inflict the penalty on the offender and on the surety; therefore the surety did not endure the penalty for those offenders who shall suffer it themselves.
This hypothesis measures the atonement by the number of the persons to be saved. This measurement is just as reasonable as measuring a king's prerogative to pardon by the number of culprits whom he has reprieved; or measuring the power of the sun to give light by the number of eyes that actually see it; or the efficacy of a medicine by the number of patients cured by it.
Many of the advocates of this view of atonement argue farther than this, and their argument arises naturally from their premises. Jesus Christ, say they, suffered the identical punishment or penalty due to the elect; this penalty is always justly proportioned to the greatness of the offence. Consequently had the elect been more or less in number, or had their individual and aggregate sins been more or less in amount of number and guilt, their surely would have had to suffer more or less for them.
This hypothesis measures the atonement not only by the number of the elect, but by the intensity and degree of the suffering endured for their sin. It adjusts the dimensions of the atonement to a nice mathematical point, and poises its infinite weight of glory even to the small dust of a balance. I need not say that the hand which stretches such lines, and holds such scales, must be a bold one
Such a calculation represents the Son of God as giving so much sufferings for value received in the souls given to him; and represents the Father as dispensing so many favors and blessings, for value received