Page images

Israel, while the nations at large sat in darkness. In later times, although the diffusion has been more wide, and the command has been that the gospel should be preached to every creature, it has actually been greatly limited compared with the population of the world. To this hour there are hundreds of millions of our race who remain unvisited by the dayspring from on high. And if we suppose that for these the atonement which the gospel reveals was as much designed as for the others, we shall be led to the most unworthy views of the divine character. God could have made it known to all, and yet it seems he has not. It is vain to plead the remissness of those whose duty it was to diffuse the benefit of gospel light among their benighted fellow men; for as they were completely under his sovereign control, this, although it leaves them inexcusable, leaves the fact wholly unexplained as regards the purpose and design of God. The thing has happened under his superintending providence, and must, therefore, be in harmony with the secret councils of his will. It is, of course, utterly irreconcilable with the notion that the atonement of Jesus Christ was designed for all. What would men think of the prince, who, designing to emancipate all the inhabitants of a rebellious province of his empire, should provide a sufficient ground of escape for all, but should communicate the knowledge of this merciful provision only to a few, while the greater number were allowed to continue in perpetual durance in consequence of their unhappy ignorance? Or, what would men think of the physician,

who should benevolently devise and prepare a medicine designed to cure a disease of universal prevalence, and yet suffer multitudes for whom it was so designed to remain ignorant of its existence, thus rendering it impossible for them to avail themselves of its healing virtues? Such things might occur among men, with whom generosity, and humanity, and consistency, and wisdom, are but rare qualities, but that any thing analogous should ever occur in the arrangements of Him whose understanding is infinite, whose nature is love, and in whom compassions flow, is utterly inconceivable. We hold, then, the limited diffusion of the gospel to be demonstrative of the definite nature of Christ's


7. We take the liberty of adverting to the absurdity that attends every other supposition but that of a definite atonement.

There are, as we have seen, only four suppositions on the subject:-that Christ died, either for some of the sins of all men; or for all the sins of all men; or for all the sins of some men; or for the sins of no one in particular, but for sin in general. The first is held by none: the third is that which it is our object to prove: the second and fourth are what are held by the opponents of our doctrine; and these, we are now to show, involve such as maintain them in absurdity. That Christ made atonement for all the sins of all men, is a supposition fraught with absurdity. As we have already seen, it supposes him to be the Saviour of those who are never saved, the Redeemer of those

who are never redeemed, the Deliverer of thousands who are never delivered but remain under eternal condemnation. But this is not the absurdity we have at present in view. When those who hold the sentiment that Christ made atonement for the sins of all men, are asked, why, in this case, it happens that any are condemned? they readily reply, that salvation was procured for men on the condition that they should believe, and, not believing, they of course cannot be saved. The reason, in short, why many of those for whom Christ died fail to reap the benefits of his death, is their unbelief. Now here is a series of absurdities. It is supposed, for one thing, that many are condemned for unbelief, although, as we have seen, they had not an opportunity of believing, never having been put in possession of the gospel. Then, again, it is supposed that men are able of themselves to believe-that faith is a spontaneous act of the natural man, irrespective of the death of Christ, and that without which the death of Christ can have no efficacy; whereas, according to the scriptures, faith is the gift of God, an act of the new man only, and an effect, not the cause, of the efficacy of Christ's death. This being the case, it is absurd to talk of its being the condition of man's salvation, on the fulfilment of which the effect of the atonement hinges. For, if man cannot believe of himself, if the power to do so is God's gift, conferred out of respect to and in consequence of the virtue of Christ's atonement, it is as absurd to speak of Christ's making atonement for

men on condition that they believe, as it would be to offer a blind man a sum of money on condition that he will open his eyes. Besides, on this supposition, the death of Christ might have been utterly and for ever unavailing, with respect to the whole human The efficacy of the atonement is thus suspended on the condition of man's belief; the reason why it proves inefficacious, in the case of any, is the unbelief of the persons in question; but had all chosen not to believe-and what some do, all might have done the atonement had been rendered altogether useless. Every view of salvation, then, is absurd, which does not provide security for the existence of faith in all for whom it is designed. Christ died, not to render salvation possible merely, but certain.

Nor are these the only absurdities with which this supposition is burdened. The benefit of Christ's atonement, it is said, extends not to all men, because of the unbelief of some. But unbelief is either a sin or not a sin. If it is not a sin, it is unaccountable that any should be condemned, or come short of salvation, on account of it. If a sin, Christ either made atonement for it, or did not make atonement for it. If Christ made atonement for the sin of unbelief in all men, it is inconceivable that any should perish on account of that sin. If Christ did not make atonement for it, then he made not atonement for all the sins of all men. To say then that Christ made atonement for all the sins of all men, and yet that many perish because of unbelief, is absurd. From this dilemma we see no way of escape; and the abettors

of the point in dispute must lay their account with being tossed on one or other of its horns, till they are pleased to abandon the untenable position they have assumed.

That Christ made atonement for no man's sins in particular, but for sin in general, is a supposition as absurd as that we have now exposed. We are afraid the idea is not uncommonly entertained, that the death of Christ was only a public exhibition of God's displeasure at sin, introduced simply with a view to maintain the honour of the divine moral government. Not to mention other objections to this view of the subject, we remark at present that it leads to absurdity. Christ, according to this, did not die for sinners, but for sin. But sin, apart from sinners, has no counterpart in nature; it is a metaphysical abstraction, a nonentity. Sin is a moral quality, which, like all other qualities, supposes necessarily a subject to which it belongs; and it were every whit as rational to talk of redness existing apart from an object that is red, or roundness apart from an object that is round, as of sin apart from a sinner. Separate sin from sinners and you have a mere abstraction, for which it is dishonouring to the character of the blessed Saviour to suppose him to make atonement.

Add to all, that sin in general,-sin in the abstract, includes the sin of angels as well as that of men. And, if Christ died only to make a public display of the divine abhorrence at sin in general, we see not why the extent of the atonement should be limited

« PreviousContinue »