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of these controversies, as the Saviour once to the Sadducees ; ye do err, not knowing the scriptures; for the relation you both take for granted, has no existence.
4. The view we have taken of the nature of the atonement, may assist us in judging of the various systems and speculations in regard to what is called the matter of the atonement, or the effects produced respectively by the obedience and the sufferings of the Mediator. One tells us that the atonement consisted in suffering ; another, that it consisted in obedience; and a third, that it consisted in both. According to some, Christ's sufferings procured us pardon, and his obedience procured us merit; and both together, complete salvation. According to others, his sufferings go to shield us from punishment, but all positive blessings are the free gift of God. One has told us, that Christ's obedience or virtue entitled him to a reward; and that, on the allowance of his claim, he insisted on liberty to dispose of us at his pleasure.* Many have supposed that his obedience, his holy character, was necessary to render his sufferings meritorious or efficient; but that, in itself, it had no atoning influence. The general opinion has been, that the sufferings of Christ constituted the atonement, or at least was the sole ground of our forgiveness. Without developing farther the various opinions which have been entertained, or stopping to canvass particular hypotheses; I will observe, that if the view we have taken in this discourse of the nature of the atonement, be correct; it will throw much light over this whole subject, and shew that there is not ground for so many
* See an Essay on Redemption, by John Balguy, pp. 107, 8vo. 2d ed. 1785.
nice distinctions as some have made. The atonement was not a legal or a forensic transaction. It was altogether extrajudicial, or out of the ordinary course of legal procedure. It was an expedient for avoiding a legal procedure in regard to believers. It was in its nature, simply a display or exhibition, intended to impress on all creatures a deep sense of “the righteousness“ of God” as a moral governor. Of course, any and every part of the exhibition, and every circumstance attending it-every thing that Christ either did or suffered, from the time of his descent from heaven till his return thither,,had an atoning efficacy, so far as it contributed to render the exhibition as a whole-more impressive. For the transaction operated as a whole, and was intended to produce one general effect. It is not then to be anatomized, and to have distinct offices assigned to its different members. Doubtless some scenes in that august tragedy, which occupied more than thirty years in the performance, were more impressive, and of course contributed more to the atonement, than others. The descent of the Son of God and his assumption of our natures, or the first opening scene of the tragedy, was very striking. His entrance on the arduous and benevolent work of a public teacher and a public benefactor, was a sublime scene. Various others, of much interest, followed rapidly. The plot thickened, and the whole assumed a deeper and deeper colouring, till the last awful scene, which displayed the Son of God nailed to a cross, in agony, unpitied, and bowing his head in death. This was certainly the most stupendous scene in the whole exhibition. It was so viewed by the apostles as well as by common christians; for it is most dwelt on
by them; and is often spoken of as if the whole atonement was concentrated in it. The blood of Christ cleanseth: We are reconciled to God by the death of his Son :—He redeemed us to God by his blood : He made his soul an offering for sin.”—Yet doubtless his sufferings anterior to his crucifixion, the various “ travails of his soul” while on earth, come into the atonement. Nor are his active labours excluded by the apostles. “ By the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification :—for as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."
5. The views exhibited in this discourse, may suggest to us some of the reasons why repentance and faith are required of those to be saved by Jesus Christ. :
As the atonement has no effect upon our characters or deserts, but leaves us just as guilty and obnoxious to punishment as we were before ; as it leaves the law in full force against us, and imposes no obligation on the Lawgiver to acquit and save us; but merely enables him to do it consistently with his own honour and with the public interests of his kingdom ; it is evident, that God may now offer us salvation on what terms he shall think proper. And, I might add, he may offer it to whom he thinks proper, to a part or to all ; for the atonement leaves us all equally without claims, and without hopes too, except from the mere mercy of God.-Now the termos he is pleased to state, are repentance and faith. “ Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
Repentance or reformation is required of us, not be
cause it is any satisfaction for our past transgressions, or by itself an adequate ground of pardon; but because it is necessarily a part of the plan of salvation by grace, founded on the atonement. For, in the first place, the atonement removes only the second ground of punishment, which is the necessity of treating all creatures according to their personal merits, in order to preserve the influence of law and secure the tranquillity and happiness of the universe. The first and the third grounds of punishment, the atonement does not remove, or even touch. The settled abhorrence of all sin which the holy God cannot but feel, or the entire repugnance of his nature to the admission of depraved sinning creatures to an equal share in his affection and his favours with his obedient holy creatures, which was the first ground of punishment; no atonement could possibly remove. It can never be removed, but by the repentance of the sinning creature, by his becoming a holy and obedient child of God. So the third ground of punishment, or the reformation and moral improvement of the sinning creature; must remain of course, so long as the transgressor continues impenitent and unreformed. Now, as the atonement could not remove either of these grounds of punishment, or even weaken them in the slightest degree; repentance is just as necessary to salvation, as if there had never been an atonement made.-Again : from the character of God, as it is displayed by the atonement, it appears that it is his fixed purpose to preserve his kingdom pure, so far at least as it can be done by moral causes. This is a prime object of all his proceedings. How then can he, consistently with his designs, offer pardon to the inhabitants of a sinful world, without insisting on their repentance ? Evidently, he would frustrate his own purposes, if he should suffer his Son to become the minister of sin. When opportunity was presented him for bringing the most powerful of all motives for amendment, to bear on the minds of a whole race of fallen creatures, he would neglect it, and would leave them wholly to their own choice whether to be virtuous or vicious.—And further, such a procedure would greatly impair, if not entirely destroy, the efficacy of the atonement on his whole kingdom. For to offer pardon to transgressors, without insisting on their repentance, when it might so easily be done, and when it would be so likely to produce the best effects; would indicate very great indifference to sin. It would be an exhibition of character directly opposed to the exhibition made by the atonement; and would therefore powerfully counteract its efficacy. Thus to preserve the atonement unimpaired, to render it a safe and sufficient ground of pardon; the repentance, the entire reformation of the pardoned sinner must be peremptorily demanded.
Faith, the other condition of salvation, is a belief of the truths exhibited in the Gospel, and a reliance on the mercy of God, through Jesus Christ, for justification and eternal life. Wherever the Gospel is preached, this is a suitable condition ; not however, because faith has power to unite us to the Redeemer, in such a mysterious union as causes our guilt or punishment to be transferable to him, and his merits to pass back to us or to our account. For such a union is deemed impossible ; nor is it supposed or required by the doctrine of the atonement. But faith is properly made a condition