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government. If a medium had been found, as in the instances of Æschylus, Onesimus, and Mephibosheth, the expression of David's love would not have been due to Absalom; for the medium of expressing it would not at all destroy the grace and freeness of it.
This argument from the freeness of divine grace is never used by its friends, except to oppose
the atonement. It is not that they care for the honors of free and sovereigo grace. They do not consider, that their use of the argument is as much opposed to the doctrine of repentance, as it is to the hypothesis of a commercial atonement. None of them preach pardon without repentance; and even those of them who preach universal restoration make it honorable only after an intervening punishment. If divine grace, to be free and unconditional, must be supposed to act without safe grounds, without a just reason, without an honorable medium, then, why not do away with punishment altogether? Why not renounce the doctrine of repentance, as well as that of the atonement? The hardened sinner no more approves of free pardon through repentance, than the selfrighteous relishes a free pardon through an atonement. The apostles preached the atonement, and repentance, as if never suspecting that they infringed on the honors of sovereign grace. I apprehend, then, that what I have here dignified with the name of an “argument” of our opponents, deserves no better name than that of a sophism.
To plead that a boon cannot be free and gratuitous if. granted upon honorable grounds only, goes to destroy and subvert moral government entirely. For a governor to treat the injured and the injurious subject alike is to destroy the difference between right and wrong, virtue and vice. Rectoral love is as much exercised and honored in punishing the injurious, as in protecting the injured. In God the attribute of love does not consist in private love towards man, but in good-will towards the universe. It is as much concerned for the public good as for individual happiness. In the
atonement God appears Love, love to sinners, and love to law and justice.
The love of God is not love expressed by a weak and an unreasonable fondness, nor love exercised by arbitrary power; it is rectoral love, expressed, indeed, freely and gratuitously, but expressed honorably and safely. Even in the days of Job it was clearly understood, that an atonement did not destroy the freeness of divise love, or the sovereignty of divine grace. God was freely disposed to pardon Job's friends before they offered their sacrifice, and their pardon was freely granted and conveyed through their sacrifice. The deliverance of a sick man from the borders of the grave is ascribed to free grace expressed on honorable grounds. “He will be gracious unto him, and will say, Deliver him from going down to the pit, for I have found a ransom. Hence then our conclusion is warrantable, that in the atonement infinite love is freely exercised and transcendantly honored.
In the fourth place,—The atonement shews that there is no perfection in God opposed to the well-being of the sinner.
This well-being is not due to the sinner; and of himself, he will never reclaim it, for every sin is moral suicide. But neither the loss, nor the irretrievableness if it, is to be ascribed to God.
The scripture sometimes describe God as angry daily with the wicked, and as whetting his sword against him. This figurative mode of expression is used to teach us the certainty, that to retrieve our well-being in sin is as hopeless, as if all that is in God's nature were opposed to us. Taking their position on such inspired testimony, some theological writers have proceeded so incautiously, as to give an idea of a kind of clashing among the perfections of God, with regard to the wellbeing of a sinner. They speak of love, and grace, and mercy, as it. favorable to the sinner; but holiness, jus, tice, and truth, as sternly opposed to him.
The provision of atonement as an honorable medium of salvation to the chief of sinners, is a demonstration that God was on the side of “good,” that his thoughts were thoughts of peace, and not of evil; and that in these thoughts there was no clashing of perfections, no jarring of inclinations and dispositions. Mercy was never opposed to the exercise of justice and truth. Justice and truth have never opposed the exercise of mercy. Whatever divine perfections can be exercised in a moral government, only find a suitable and honorable medium, and they can all be exercised freely and gloriously.
The design of the atonement is to bring sinners to love and esteem every thing that is in God, and to honor every divine attribute, that he may honor justice, even as he honors mercy. The theology that represents mercy as the darling attribute of God, and his justice as the sinner's foe, cannot be conducive to the formation of a full-orbed piety. Infinite holiness is opposed to man's sin, without being opposed to his well-being; and infinite justice treats him as a criminal, not to hinder his individual happiness so much, as to protect the wellbeing of the universe.
God in the atonement shews that every perfection is darling to him. He has devised a way to exercise them all in the name and for the sake of the dearest object to him in the universe, his only begotten Son. The sinner who looks to the atonement, sees and feels that there is no perfection in God opposed to his welfare. The author of sin is alone the author of misery. Even in hell, no sinner will ever feel that bis misery is owing to some divine attribute having been opposed to his happiness. He will never condemn God, though he may wickedly blaspheme him. He will never suspect that he perished because that infinite love had not been sufficiently expensive, that infinite wisdom had not contrived a plan sufficient in extent to meet his case,—that the honors of infinite justice had not been sufficiently provided for to admit of his pardon, that infinite mercy
had not been sufficiently free, or because that the law had not been sufficiently magnified. No; He will feel that he is his own destroyer, that every attribute in God had provided for his welfare, that not a single perfection had given one smile of encouragement to his sin and rebellion, and that no divine attribute had thrown or left in the way any obstacle to his reconciliation. “This is the condemnation,”—not an angry attribute or a frowning perfection, but "that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light.” The whole gospel of God says, “Fury is not in me.” It is not a
a few attributes, but the whole Godhead, it is God "all in all,” that is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, without imputing to them their transgressions.
In the fifth place,- The atonement provides that in the final results of its operations, in moral government, all the divine perfections will be honored and glorified.
The atonement does not secure that all its designs shall be infallibly accomplished. Such an arrangement would have been inconsistent with the nature of moral government, which is a government of free agents, and exercised not by force, but by the exhibition of inducements. The measure of atonement, like every
other measure in a moral administration, designed and adapted for the use of free agents in a state of probation, must be posed to be susceptible of failure. The measure in Eden failed to keep our first parents in innocency. The measure on Sinai failed to preserve the Israelites from idolatry. And the atonement may fail to prevent some from neglecting so great a salvation, and from denying that Lord that bought them.
Nevertheless, the issue, the upshot of the whole will exhibit every divine perfection in untarnished lustre and glory. The atonement is, like its own ministry, "unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved and in them that perish.” In the perdition of the wicked, eternal veracity will be glorified by the literal infliction of the threatened penalty upon the offenders themselves,
who had despised and refused the benefits of the substituted atonement of the Son of God. Infinite rectitude will be glorified, as distributive justice, by rewarding every offender according to his character; and as public justice, by making their punishment a memento and example to the universe. Even goodness, grace, mercy, and love, will be honorably and gloriously vindicated in the impression produced by the atonement upon all intelligences, and principalities, and powers, in heavenly places, that such a punishment was abundantly deserved and merited; and also by the self-condemnations of the despisers themselves, as those who had voluntarily rejected the counsel of God, against themselves.
In the salvation of believers every perfection will be honored gloriously. At the close of the administration of the atonement, the Mediator will appear to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in them that believe.” He would not thus present himself publicly to the universe, he would be neither glorified nor admired in the effects of the atonement on the redeemed, if any attribute of God were tarnished or dishonored in their salvation. Infinite benevolence will be glorified in the accession of happiness to the universe; wisdom, in the success of the stupendous expedient; mercy, in the bliss and number of the saved; truth, in the fulfilment of all engagements and promises; holiness, in the triumphs over sin; justice, in the secured ends of law and government; and love, in the established harmony of all intelligences in the universe.
The extent of the Atonement illustrated by its relation
to the Divine Attributes.
It has been shewn that in the atonement as a compensative measure, substituted instead of the punish» ment of offenders, and supplying honorable grounds for offering pardon, the honors of all the attributes are care