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fully consulted, perfectly vindicated, and gloriously displayed. On the contrary, in an atonement which is commercial in its character, and limited in its design, the divine perfections seem to clash in their interests, and to be displayed without harmony.
If the atonement be a transaction of commutative or commercial justice, that is, if the atonement consists in the substitute suffering the identical penalty due to a limited number of offenders, and in suffering it for that number only, to the exclusion of all the lost, such an atonement mars the character of every attribute in God.
A commercial and limited atonement dishonors the infinite veracity of God. By such an arrangement veracity appears violated, unfulfilled, and compromised. It is not honored in the execution of the threatening. It threatened only "the soul that sinneth;" and yet it was a substitute who never sinned that died; and even a literal execution upon a substitute cannot be a measure of immutable verity. Divine verity is also dishonored in the apparent, if not manifest, insincerity of divine invitations, and of the offers of the gospel to sinners. If the atonement was not designedly offered for all, its benefits cannot with sincere purpose be offered to all. If the gospel offers be true, they are true, not for ought the sinner or the preacher knows, but they are true according to the simple and real verity of the case between God and the sinner. If the general offers of the gospel be false, if they are not simple, sincere, and unsophisticated verities, when is our preaching vain, and our faith is also vain,” for truth is fallen in the street, its crown in the dust, and its pure robes sullied.
An atonement of a commercial and limited character exhibits infinite mercy as inadequate, restrained, and exclusive. It brings forward a provision that is not sufficient to meet all the exigency of the case. If Christ sustained the sufferings due to a limited number, in proportion to the aggravation of their respective guilt, then, upon what principle can the suffering of a penalty due to a part of mankind, be sufficient for the
whole? Sufficient for what is it? Is it sufficient to save them, though the punishment due to them was never endured by Christ? If it be not sufficient for this, the conclusion cannot be avoided, that it is sufficient for nothing, as far as they are concerned. In such an atonement the character of mercy does not appear with the bland, open, generous, free, and unbounded aspect, which it wears in the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.
Infinite justice has its glory obscured by a commercial and limited atonement. Justice is honored by it neither in the salvation of the believer, nor in the punishment of the unbeliever. In the salvation of a sinner, neither Christ nor the sinner is treated according to what was due to personal character respectively. The perdition of the unbeliever throws a cloud around the honors of justice. Justice has provided a “sorer punishment" for the despisers of the blood of atonement, yet in real verity, on the shewing of commercial redemption, that blood was to them an unappropriable thing; it had not been shed in the enduring of the penalty due to them. Yet the despisers of the atonement are punished more sorely, for not appropriating what did not verily belong to them, and what was never intended to benefit them. Infinite justice punishes them awfully and eternally for not having committed a sacrilege upon the sacred and exclusive inberitance and possession of the church. How different is this calculating and mercenary hypothesis from that expedient that God shews forth to declare his righteousness, with a character unrebukable, and with an honor unsullied.
The hypothesis of a commercial and limited atonement destroys the glories of free and sovereign grace in dispensing pardon and salvation. Free grace does not appear in dispensing pardon upon this scheme. After the identical punishment due to the offenders has been endured by the substitute, the deliverance of the offenders is a matter of right, due and claimable on the principle of distributive justice. Hence some of the advocates of such an atonement represent pardon as a boon not to be supplicated, but to be “sued out," as a claim. And hence also the language which is sometimes used, that "the believer now stands on higher grounds than God," as it would be unjust to refuse bim salvation.
The honors of infinite benevolence are disparaged by this commercial redemption. Sometimes it is said, that the atonement of Christ was sufficient for all, had it pleased God to have designed and intended it for all. This is a mere evasion, and supplies neither a proof, nor a vindication of divine and infinite love. Apply this principle to any other administration of God. Suppose God to have introduced into the material universe a principle, say gravitation, of sufficient force and fitness to preserve order among all the orbs of space. Yet, in some places of his dominions stars hurled against stars, and systems rushed against systems, spreading ruin every where. If we found it difficult to reconcile this crash of worlds with infinite benevolence, would it be enough to say, "the principle of gravitation was sufficient for all worlds, had it pleased God to have designed it for them all?" Or, suppose England provided a sum, or any other consideration, sufficient to ransom all the slaves in her colonies, and yet
thousands of slaves were still languishing and dying in the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity, would it be a vindication of the benevolence of the government to say, "the ransom was sufficient to redeem all the slaves, had it been designed for them all?" No; designing for a few a ransom sufficient for all, would conser no honor upon benevolence.
The wisdom of God shares in all the dishonor which a commercial and limited atonement casts on the other perfections of God. If the atonement consisted in sufferings sufficient for all, but designed for a limited number, such prodigality in agonies, sufferings, and blood, reflects no credit on the wisdom that planned it.
Sometimes, the perdition of the wicked is advanced as an irrefragable evidence against the death of Christ being an atonement for all; as in the case of the lost, Christ must have died in vain. For Christ to die in vain is supposed to be a reflection on the wisdom of God. Though I think this argument is raised from inattention to the nature of all measures of moral government, yet it comes with very bad grace from the advocates of a limited atonement. If the atonement was sufficient for all, sufficient for the saved, and sufficient for the lost, what is become of the sufficiency for the latter part? Even on their own shewing, Christ has died partly in vain. The hypothesis supposes that out of the lavish expenditure of sufferings, and out of the infinite accumulation of merits, only a small amount is designed by God to be of any service to himself, or of use to any of his creatures. What become of more than was sufficient to save the elect? It is, on their own shewing, vain. A moral atonement that does not calculate the sufferings of Christ arithmetically, supposes that though it may not profit those who receive its grace in vain, yet it shall not be in vain as to the great ends of moral government; and it should be remembered, that the salvation of offenders is not the chief end of an atonement, but the glory of God's public character. The atonement does this, even if not one soul were saved. On the other hand a commercial atonement, measuring the amount of merits by the quantum of sufferings endured, or by the mass of blessings conveyed, squanders and throws away as useless, vast treasures of all-sufficient merit. It makes that part of the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, unconsecrated to any holy end, unappropriated to any good purpose.
ON THE ATONEMENT IN ITS RELATION TO THE PUR
POSES OF GOD.
A writer upon the decrees of God is generally regarded as one who meddleth with his Maker;" and his inquiries, however cautiously conducted, are hushed with the aphorism, "secret things belong unto the Lord, things revealed belong to us and to our children for ever.” The citers of this text suppose that the divine purposes and decrees are among "the secret things," and not among the things revealed,” and therefore, do not belong “to us and our children.”
Is it true that the divine purposes are not among the "things revealed?” If they are not, an inquiry into them is an in pertinent intrusion upon the arcana of the Godhead. But if they can be proved to be among the "things revealed," they "belong to us and to our children,” as moral means.
It is indisputably “revealed” that there are such things as divine purposes and decrees. In numerous instances it has been revealed what these purposes are. Even if the purposes themselves are not in the list of moral means, the revelation of their existence is undoubtedly so. In the pages of scripture the announcement or revelation of these purposes is always connected with their influence on practical religion. That the practical tendency of such a developement of the divine decrees is beneficial, may be illustrated by the following case:-A general haranguing his army just before a battle, gives them a solemn assurance, that it is