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Moreover; let it be observed, that the objection proceeds on the mistaken supposition, that the atonement of Christ is an exact equivalent for the sins of men, and that, had the number to be saved been either more or less than they are, or had their sins been of greater or less amount, the sufferings of the Redeemer must have varied in proportion. Now, to this view of the subject there are insuperable objections. It is at variance with what we have before established, namely, the infinite intrinsic value of Christ's atonement. It overlooks the grand design of the atonement, which was, not simply to secure a mere commutative satisfaction to the justice of God, but to glorify all the divine perfections, and to make an illustrious manifestation of the principles of his government before the whole universe of moral creatures. It leaves no room for such an unlimited offer of Christ in the gospel, as to render those who reject him without excuse; for if the atonement of Christ bore an exact proportion, in point of worth, to the sins of those who are actually saved by it, then the salvation of any others was a natural impossibility, and no blame could attach to such for neglecting to embrace the proffered boon; indeed there would be no ground on which such an offer could be made. Nay, it would require us to believe, that a far greater display of the righteousness of God and his abhorrence at sin could have been made by the sufferings of men than by those of Christ; for, as, on the supposition in question, the number actually saved is limited, and the sufferings of Christ were an exact counterpart of
the sufferings due to the sins of that limited number, it was only necessary that the whole human race should have suffered for their own sins, to secure an amount of suffering greatly superior to that of the Saviour of sinners. For these reasons, we reject the theory of atonement against which the objection is pointed, and hold by the view already explained, namely, that the sufferings of Christ are to be regarded in the light of a moral satisfaction to the law and justice of God, which would have been requisite had there been but one sinner to be saved, and had that sinner had but one sin, and which would have been adequate had the number to be saved been to any conceivable extent greater than it is. But to this view of the subject the objection does not apply, as the merit of the atonement is not greater than, according to this, is absolutely indispensable.
3. The universal offer made of Christ in the gospel, has been urged as another objection.
The fact on which this objection is founded we admit without reservation. We contend for the unlimited extent of the gospel call, and regard every attempt to restrict it as hostile alike to the letter and the spirit of the gospel. Here we take the phrases 'every creature'-'all the world'-'every one''whosoever will,' &c., in the fullest extent of acceptation of which they admit. The ministers of religion ought to esteem it a privilege and a pleasure, not less than a duty, to be permitted, as ambassadors for Christ, beseechingly to say to all who come within the reach of their voice, 'We pray
you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.' Nor is it denied that the general invitations of the gospel rest, as their basis, on the atonement of Jesus Christ. 'We pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God, FOR he hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin.' 'All things are readycome unto the marriage.' We do not pretend to be able to remove every difficulty, connected with the reconcilableness of the unrestricted offer of salvation and particular redemption. The subject involves all the difficulties connected with the profound abyss of the divine decrees, which it is not for short-sighted man to pretend ability to fathom. If we can only say what may be sufficient to nullify the objection, to show the unreasonableness of cavillers, or to remove the perplexity of humble inquirers, we shall not come short of our aim. With these views, we beg to submit, with all deference, the following considerations.
It would not be a sufficient reason for rejecting, either the doctrine of a definite atonement, or that of an unlimited gospel call, that we found it impossible to reconcile them with one another. That we are incapable of reconciling them does not prove them to be irreconcilable. God may be capable of reconciling them; creatures of a higher intellectual and moral rank may see their reconcilableness; or we ourselves, when elevated to a brighter sphere of being, may yet be fully equal to the difficult problem. Their perfect consistency with one another, is not the
20 2 Cor. v. 20, 21; Matt. xxii. 4.
ground on which we are required to believe either the one or the other. This ground is, with regard to both, the testimony of God in his word. To this testimony we must yield implicit submission, and we must beware of the daring presumption of refusing to receive what God has made known, because of its appearing to our reason either unintelligible in itself, or inconsistent with some other acknowledged dictate of inspiration.
The principles of human obligation are not affected by the secret will of God. What man ought to do, is one thing; what God will do, is another thing. Now, the gospel call may be regarded as expressive of man's duty, rather than of the divine intention. God may and does command many things, which he knows the persons commanded will never fulfill. These things it is the duty of man to do, but it is not the secret will of God to accomplish. By the warnings, and remonstrances, and solemn admonitions of Noah, he called the antidiluvians to repent and be saved from the waters of the deluge; and that it was their duty to do so, is not surely disproved by what we now know, from the fact, that it was not the secret design of God to save them. By means of his servant Moses, God commanded Pharaoh to let Israel go, as a means of saving his own life and those of his people; it was his duty certainly to obey this command; but it was not the secret intention of God that the Egyptians and their king should escape the destruction of the Red sea. The Jews and Roman soldiers were under obligation, from the command
'Thou shalt not kill,' not to put Jesus of Nazareth to death; yet it was in consequence of being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, that he was taken, and by wicked hands crucified and slain. In like manner, may we not say, that the unlimited offer of the gospel proves only that it is the duty of all men to believe in Christ for salvation, and not that it is the design or intention of God that all should be saved by him or that he should obtain salvation for all.
The unlimited nature of the gospel call necessarily results from God's plan of salvation. It is God's method to save men by faith. With his reasons for so doing we are not at present concerned. It is enough for us to know, that 'it hath pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them which believe.' Now, to this the unrestricted offer of Christ is essential, as otherwise men could have no warrant for faith. The warrant of faith is the testimony of God in the gospel. And, it may be asked, could not this testimony have been made only to those to whom it was his design to give grace to receive it? We answer,-not, without doing away with that mixed state of human existence, which God has appointed for important purposes;-not, without making a premature disclosure of who are the objects of his special favour, and who are not, to the entire subversion of that moral economy, under which it is the good pleasure of his will that men should subsist in this world;-not, without even subverting the very design of salvation by faith. For, on this supposition, the