Fundamental Christian Theology, Vol. 2

By Aaron Hills

Part V - Soteriology

Chapter 6


We have seen that the Moral Influence Theory of the Atonement finds the only difficulty in the way of salvation in the nature of men and the Satisfaction or Penal Theory finds the chief difficulty in the nature of God. "The Governmental or Benevolence Theory finds that, aside from the difficulty of bringing sinners to repentance, there is the danger which arises to the GOVERNMENT OF GOD, as to any government, in the offer of pardon to every transgressor upon the condition of repentance. Penalty is a moral force to prevent transgression; a necessary motive against sin in the government of God. To offer a free pardon to the penitent, with-out some counteracting force, would break down this motive and encourage transgression. The Atonement is designed to bring such forces into the government of God, to supply such motives, that the penalty can be remitted, in the case of the penitent, without detriment to the government. As it is to furnish the ground on which penalty can be remitted, it must bring equivalent forces to the support of the government; it must furnish such lessons and make such impressions in the government of God, that the pardon of the penitent will do no harm. The Atonement accomplishes just this work (Fairchild's Theology, p. 222).

We have already, in the opening chapters, touched upon the cardinal principles and fundamental elements of this theory. It is now time to unfold the theory more fully, and to answer the objections made against it. This theory of Atonement had its foundations laid by Grotius (b. at Delft, 1583; d, 1645). He was the Father of International Law and was a man of extraordinary ability and learned attainments. The literary achievements of his youth were remarkable; nor did his mature life disappoint the expectations created by his marvelous precocity. He acquired eminence in science, philosophy, statesmanship, law and theology, and was a voluminous author. In theology he was an Arminian, and like other great souls suffered much for Christ's sake. He was arrested tried condemned, imprisoned and banished; and yet was one of the best, most famous and noblest sons his nation has ever produced This theory is often called the Edwardian or New England theory because the younger Edwards began its development and Dr. Parks of Andover and other great minds of Congregationalism, completed the theory. It was also adopted by Finney and his pupil and successor, President Fairchild and contributed greatly to the power of Finney as the "prince of evangelists and soul-winners." One of its ablest expounders and defenders is Miley-the master theologian of Methodism.

Grotius with his astute legal mind as a born statesman reached the following propositions:

1. The right to punish is the right of a ruler only. Hence God must be considered as a ruler, and the right to punish belongs to a ruler as such, since it exists, not for the punisher's sake, but for I the sake of the commonwealth, to maintain its order, and to promote the public good.

2. Sin deserves eternal penalty, and the penalty must not be remitted except on rectorally sufficient grounds. "God has, there-fore, most weighty reasons for punishing, especially if we are permitted to estimate the magnitude and multitude of sins.

3. God was willing, on account of His great love, though He could have justly punished all men with deserved and legitimate punishment, that is, with eternal death-and had reasons for so doing-to spare those who believe in Christ.

4. But since we must be spared, either by setting forth, or not setting forth, some example against so many great sins, in His perfect wisdom God chose that way by which He could manifest more of His attributes at once, namely, both clemency and severity, or His hate of sin, and care for the preservation of his law.

5. Although sin is an intrinsic evil, there is no absolute necessity arising there from for its punishment. The punishment of sin is just, but not in itself an obligation. The intrinsic evil of sin renders its penal retribution just, but not a requirement of judicial rectitude. Threatened penalty, unless marked by irrevocability, is not absolute. A threat differs from a promise. The latter conveys a right and takes on obligation; the former does not.

6. The divine law is positive, and its penalty is remissible. The law, in precept and penalty, is a divine enactment; in execution a divine act. The execution is not a judicial obligation except for rectoral ends.

7. Penalty is profoundly important in the interests of moral government. Forgiveness too freely granted, or too often repeated, and especially on slight grounds, would annul the authority of the law, or render it powerless for its great and imperative rectoral ends. Thus there is a necessity for an Atonement-for some vicarious provision-which, on the remission of penalty-MAY CONSERVE THE ENDS OF PENALTY. Such a provision is found in the death of Christ. It was a manifestation of the goodness and severity of God and the odiousness of sin, and a deterrent from its commission (Miley's Theology, Vol. II, pp. 160-162).

Any discerning student can see that these were new seed thoughts which were bound to produce a fertile harvest. The completed theory contains all that is good and true in either the Moral Influence Theory or the Satisfaction Theory, while it AVOIDS THEIR LIMITATIONS AND THEIR SAD ERRORS.

Miley defines thus: "The sufferings of Christ are an atonement for sin by substitution in the sense that they were intentionally endured for sinners under judicial condemnation, and for the sake of their forgiveness. They render forgiveness consistent with the divine justice, in that justice none the less fulfills its rectoral office in the interest of moral government. The honor and authority of the divine Ruler, together with the rights and interests of his subjects, are as fully maintained as they could be by the infliction of merited penalty upon sin" (p. 156). Miley's shorter definition is: "The atonement consists in the vicarious sufferings of Christ as a provisory substitute for penalty in the interests of moral government" (p. 176).


As we have already observed, any degree of truth, either in the Moral Influence Theory or the Satisfaction Theory is preserved and greatly strengthened by this theory, while it avoids their pernicious errors, and lines up with Scriptures at every point-a thing which either of the others cannot possibly do. For example:

1. It gives full consideration to the importance of penalty. In considering the bearing of the Atonement to make forgiveness safe in the government of God we mentioned the relation of penalty to government, and the purposes it serves. "The leading impressions of penalty are two:

In the first place, it exhibits the fidelity of the ruler to the interests which the government is designed to maintain. When the transgressor is punished, the faithfulness and efficiency of the government are exhibited. The penalty in God's government shows that sin will not be passed by, or treated as a small matter. The evil doer can not go on in his career under the delusive notion that God will regard his course with indifference; under temptation to sin a wholesome fear takes possession of him, Penalty is a restraint upon sin, by the fear of consequences which it induces. Penalty makes an impression of the danger of sin to the one who commits it; an impression made upon all the subjects of the government.

Now the governmental theory of the Atonement gives full importance to this truth, and claims that the Atonement provides essentially the same lessons, and makes the same impressions that penalty affords; and thus enables God in wisdom to dispense with the penalty in the case of the penitent.

It is a painful necessity of human government to punish the penitent. Even if the murderer on the gallows were as truly penitent as the thief on the cross, and known to be so, the awful exhibition must still be consummated; the risk of pardon would be too great. The reason is, no atonement is made by the governor in a human government. But, in the Gospel system such a necessity is removed; the Atonement meets the case and sets aside the danger of pardon. Even more distinctly than penalty, it begets a sense of the danger of sin-danger to the sinner himself. At first thought we might say that the tendency of the Atonement as it provides pardon is to do away with fear. But this is a hasty view; it makes a profound impression, even beyond that of penalty, of God's fidelity to the interests of His kingdom. He gave His only begotten Son to secure those interests. At such expense to Himself, at such a sacrifice, with such intense personal interest in the end to be attained, has the Atonement been wrought out, that God never can be suspected of carelessly passing by sin, or of regarding it with any easy-going indulgence. By this wonderful coming out before the eyes of men in the incarnation; by encountering sin in His own person, pressing on to the cross itself in the conflict with the powers of darkness, God has so secured to Himself the confidence of the universe that He can exercise His mercy in the pardon of the penitent, without danger of misunderstanding on the part of His creatures. No moral being, in view of this marvelous personal interest and sacrifice on God's part, will imagine that he can go on in sin, and not be looked after and brought to account. The interests of the universe so manifestly rest upon the heart of God, that no sinner can flatter himself that His sin will be treated as a small matter. ... It must be borne in mind that the penalty still stands against the impenitent sinner, and so far the lesson of penalty itself remains.

In the second place, penalty makes an impression of the sinfulness of sin, in that it is God's testimony to its ill-desert. In civil society crime ceases to be regarded as crime, when it ceases to be punished; the public conscience becomes debauched, and the restraint upon crime, which lies in the apprehension of its wickedness, is set aside. Penalty in God's government is a constant reminder of the ill-desert of transgression, a constant enforcement of the obligation of righteousness, an ever present motive to obedience. These are essentially the lessons which penalty in God's government is intended to impress. It is true that in this present life the actual penalty is not exhibited before the eyes of men; its power is in the announcement of a judgment to come. We apprehend God's government as existing over the future world, as well as over the present; its appliances and forces will be necessary, and will continue, while God and his creatures exist.

Now, how does the work of Christ provide this lesson? In two ways; first it is an exhibition of sin, in that no arrangement less significant than the coming of the Immanuel, and His patience and obedience unto death, could be devised to counteract the mischief of sin, and deliver men from its ruin. When the worlds were created, "God spake and it was done." The effort involved no cost or sacrifice to Him. But when a remedy for sin was to be provided, "the eternal Word" emptied Himself, taking on the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and becoming obedient unto death-the cheapest remedy for sin that infinite wisdom could offer. In the presence of the cross there is little opportunity to underestimate sin.

Again, it is to be observed that in the death of Christ sin has made an exhibition of itself. The Savior hangs upon the cross, not by the act of God, but by the act of sinners themselves. We are not to forget that He was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God; but He was taken by sinners, "and by their wicked hands was crucified and slain." The most exalted being that ever stood upon the earth, "the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth," coming to His own to bring them deliverance and salvation, is despised and rejected and slain by the sinners He came to save. Sin never so displayed its malignity and hateful-ness, as in that infamous deed; and the sight of the cross from that day to this, has tended powerfully to make the world ashamed of sin. Thus we gather from the cross the second great lesson which penalty was intended to impress -- the loathsomeness of sin" (Fairchild's Theology, pp, 223-227).

2. This theory provides for a more effective moral influence upon men, than the Moral Influence Theory itself. Granted the Deity of Christ, one with the Father in nature and essence, the fact that such a being voluntarily came to earth to endure humiliation and shame and death, not merely to reform men, but to remove the difficulties on the divine side, and make it possible for the Infinite Ruler of the universe to offer to pardon all the sins of a guilty race, consistently with His own honor, and the safety of His government-this truth has moved the hearts of men as no other ever did. This is the power of the cross to lift men-the mighty Gospel of Christ of which the Great Apostle was not ashamed.

This is the highest known moral force to bring men to repentance. This great truth of influence must have prominence in any proper theory of the Atonement. But the satisfaction theory makes little or nothing of it; and very naturally, we might almost say necessarily, because regeneration is contemplated as a monergistic work of omnipotence, and not of moral forces. The governmental theory recognizes the need of these mighty moral influences on the wicked human heart and amply provides for them.

3. There is as much substitution in the governmental theory as in the Satisfaction Theory; but it is a nobler kind. In the Satisfaction Theory, it is simply penalty inflicted on the holy Christ substituted for penalty inflicted on sinners-the punishment of the righteous One substituted for the punishment of the guilty ones. But the wrathful demand for punishment is in the forefront of it all-its fundamental idea. But with the governmental theory, it is the SUBSTITUTION of the VOLUNTARY, VICARIOUS SUFFERING of Christ for the infliction of PENALTY on sinners, who are willing to repent and believe. As Dr. Raymond says: "The death of Christ is not a substituted penalty but a substitute for a penalty. The necessity of an Atonement is not found in the fact that the justice of God requires an invariable execution of deserved penalty, but in the fact, that the honor and glory of God, and the welfare of His creatures, require that His essential and rectoral righteousness be adequately declared" (Systematic Theology, Vol. II, p. 257).

We have already observed, that the suffering of Christ, voluntarily endured, can by no strict use of language, be called a punishment. Personal demerit is the only source of guilt, and Christ had none. Therefore, He could not be punished.

Zalencus, King of the Locrians, a Grecian colony in Southern Italy found that his little realm was being destroyed by the sin of impurity. He made a law against adultery, the penalty of which was the loss of both eyes; The King's own son was the first to break the law. What shall he do? There is a controversy in his heart. His fatherly compassion pleads for mercy to his son. But as a king his judgment urged the execution of the penalty. He knew that after the temporary wave of pity for the son passed by, his subjects would accuse him of partiality and injustice, and infidelity to the interests of the realm. In this exigency of his government and conflict of soul, he devised a half of an atonement, by the substitution of one of his own eyes for one of his son's. Now he is free to offer half of a pardon, and remit half the penalty.

Now this was a provision above law and above retributive justice. Neither law nor retributive justice could inflict any penalty on the father for the sin of his son. It is a misuse of language to say that the father was punished. All the conditions of penal retribution were wanting. This is a good illustration of the divine atonement. Here was a real case of substitution of the suffering of the holy, for the punishment of the sinful. It was the substitution of VICARIOUS SUFFERING, voluntarily endured, for the punishment of the guilty law-breaker.

And what did this substitution-this atonement made by Zalencus, accomplish? Did it appease Zalencus' wrath and simply satisfy a disposition to inflict retribution? Not a bit: (l) The substitution, without being penal, or a punishment, did answer for the rectoral office of penalty. (2) The ruler fully protected his own honor and authority. (3) Law still voiced its behests and sanctions with unabated force. (4) The vicarious sacrifice of the ruler upon the altar of his parental compassion, and the altar of his administration, could but intensify the respect for him of all his people as a just ruler. (5) It gave thereafter to his laws a salutary power over his subjects.

This may well explain to any mind our conception of the Atonement. "The vicarious sufferings of Christ are an atonement for sin as they reveal God in His justice, holiness and love; in His regard for His own honor and law; in His concern for the rights and interests of moral beings; in His reprobation for sin as intrinsically evil, and utterly hostile to His own rights, and to the welfare of His subjects" (Miley, Vol. II, p. 180).

4. The Governmental Theory gives as much consideration and a far more exalted place to justice than the Satisfaction Theory. According to the Satisfaction theory, the only phase or form of justice involved in the Atonement is "punitive" or "retributive justice," that is bent on punishing sin. Owen says: "Justice is an essential attribute of the divine nature; God cannot do otherwise than punish and avenge sin." A. A, Hodge says: "God in determined, by His nature to punish all sin because of its intrinsic guilt or demerit; the effect produced on the moral universe being incidental." Shedd says: "Justice has but one function"-to inflict penalty. Everywhere we have the same doctrine of an immutable obligation of divine justice to punish sin, and none the less, in the absence of every other reason than its own demerit. The theory is that divine justice must punish sin, even in the total absence of all salutary influence of punishment, whether upon the sinner himself or upon the public virtue and welfare. It is a necessity of judicial rectitude in God. "Divine justice must have penal satisfaction"

How different is the Governmental Theory! It does not glorify a "PUNITIVE" JUSTICE "THAT MUST PUNISH all sin according to its desert"; it exalts a PUBLIC JUSTICE-that principle in God that prompts him to deal with sin in such a way as will bring about the most good to the moral universe- TO PUNISH WHEN HE MUST, AND FORGIVE WHEN HE CAN. PUBLIC JUSTICE IS DIVINE JUSTICE IN MORAL ADMINISTRATION SECURING THE HIGHEST GOOD OF ALL MORAL BEINGS, OR THE MORAL UNIVERSE.

There are weighty reasons for punishment besides the demerit of sin. "Penalty has no reformatory purpose respecting the subject of its infliction, no exemplary character, no office as a deterrent from sin," says the Satisfactionist; "RETRIBUTION OF SIN IS ITS SOLE OFFICE." We demur from such a doctrine. A view of justice which holds it to the simple, immutable retribution of sin is most faulty, and wholly unlike God. His justice, as concerned in moral government, must deeply regard all the interests of all moral beings, and bring the greatest good to the moral universe. Place beside the utterances just quoted from the champions of the Satisfaction Theory, the following from President Fairchild and ask yourself, which breathes the most of the Spirit of the Gospel: "The only justice which has any claim upon God or man is A DUE REGARD FOR EVERY INTEREST." Justice in this sense is satisfied when the well-being of the universe is provided for; it gives to God's government the highest attainable success, and places God in highest honor among his creatures. When these ends are secured, justice can have no other claims upon God or man.

It may be said with entire propriety, that justice not only permits the Atonement; it even requires it. Justice is a due regard to all well-being. The salvation of men was possible to God, through the Atonement. He could not satisfy His own sense of what was fit and suitable in the case, without coming to the rescue at great sacrifice and cost. To fail to do this would have been injustice to Himself and to the interests of His creatures.

There is a form of justice sometimes spoken of, called "retributive justice" which consists in treating every being according to his deserts. The Atonement makes no provision for a justice of this kind. It provides for sinners a better treatment than they deserve, and for the Savior a worse treatment than He deserved. It made him "Who knew no sin," "to be sin for us." Retributive justice is not a principle of righteousness; God does not act upon it, and He does not permit His creatures to do so. He does what He can to save the ill-deserving, and requires us to love our enemies, to be kind even to the unthankful and the evil. The term desert often confuses the minds of men. The superficial thought is that a man's desert is what ought to be rendered to him. No, it is what it is right to render to him, provided nothing better can be done. The whole gospel idea is an effort on God's part to treat men better than they deserve; not to set aside justice, but to fulfill justice which is righteousness. God is just when he justifies the believing sinner. Righteousness requires it; it ought to be done. We sometimes hear the expression that it would be just in God to send us all to perdition. No, we deserve to be sent to perdition; but God is able to do something better for us than that, and therefore it is not just or right for Him to send us to perdition (if He can help it). Retributive justice is not justice; desert is not a guide to duty" (Theology, pp. 230, 231).

Let not this magnificent passage be misunderstood. President Fairchild believed in future and eternal punishment for the incorrigibly impenitent. No sound advocate of the Governmental Theory denies that there is retribution in public justice. This retributive element is never wanting in it. God's public justice manages the universe, doing the best it can with all moral beings. It saves sinners by way of Atonement when it can, i. e., when they will let Him. It punishes those who reject the Atonement and all overtures of mercy and grace, because it must do it, for the good of others. There is nothing else to be done with such sinners. When they will not glorify God's justice by accepting salvation through an Atoning Savior, they must glorify it by receiving damnation.

Two things are necessary to make just the infliction of penalty called for on the part of public justice. First, it must be deserved. Unmerited punishment never could make a wholesome impression upon moral subjects. Cousin says: "Take away from punishment this foundation of justice and you destroy its utility; you substitute indignation and abhorrence for a salutary lesson and for repentance, both in the condemned and in the public; you put courage, sympathy, all that is noble and great in human nature on the side of the victim; you rouse all energetic souls against society and its artificial laws. Thus even the utility of punishment rests upon its justice" (History of Modern Philosophy, Vol. II, pp. 279, 280). Second, the infliction of penalty must be the best thing that can be done. The infinitely wise and holy God always does the thing that is best, and most conducive to the good of the moral universe. It is unthinkable that He should do anything else. "While divine penalty falls only upon sin, the supreme reason for its infliction is in the rectoral ends with which moral government is concerned. . . . There is no sufficient reason why sin must be punished solely on the ground of its demerit. The forgiveness of the actual sinner in every instance of justification is proof positive to the contrary" (Miley, Vol. II, p. 175).

But the Satisfaction Theory denies the remissibility of penalty, on any and all grounds. HERE THE TWO THEORIES ARE AS WIDE APART AS THE POLES. The Governmental theory finds the real necessity of Atonement in the interests of moral government-interests which concern the divine glory and authority, and the welfare of mural beings. This is the great concern of the public justice of God.

5. The Governmental Theory offers as much satisfaction, and of an infinitely higher kind, than the Satisfaction Theory itself. They have adopted the term "satisfaction"; but they have no corner on the fact. With them, God's disposition to inflict deserved punishment is what was satisfied by the Atonement. It is a low and unworthy view of the loving Heavenly Father. There is something in God vastly deeper and higher and holier than a mere punitive disposition which needs to be satisfied. He has compassion for those very sinners whom His justice condemns. His justice is no stronger than his compassion. We may as reasonably conclude that His compassion will find its satisfaction in a gratuitous pardon of all, as that His justice will forbid the pardon of any, except on the equivalent punishment of a substitute.

Fairchild observes: "So far as there is demand for punishment in the mind of God, the Atonement satisfies the demand. God never demands the punishment of sinners, except as a necessity of Government. The Atonement meets this necessity and thus "satisfies the ethical nature of God," in the only sense in which satisfaction is necessary or possible. It satisfies the WISDOM of God, not His WRATH.

"In the same way the Atonement satisfies the demand, in the minds of God's creatures, for the punishment of the penitent. It the interests of God's government against the danger arising from pardon; and in this is the only reasonable ground for a demand for punishment.

"In a similar sense, the Atonement satisfies justice; it meets all the necessities and obligations of the case. The only justice which has any claim upon God or man is a due regard for every interest. Justice in this sense is satisfied, when the well-being of the universe is provided for. It gives to God's government the highest attainable success" (pp. 229, 230). We submit that this is an inconceivably higher idea, than the satisfaction in God of a mere disposition to punish every sinner according to his desert. This keeps in view the glory of the Ruler and the good of the ruled. Miley well says: "The rectoral ends of moral government are a profounder imperative with justice itself, than the retribution of sin, simply as such. One stands before the law in the demerit of crime. His demerit renders his punishment just (deserved) though not a necessity. But the protection of others, who would suffer wrong through his impunity, makes his punishment an obligation of judicial rectitude, except as that protection can be secured through some other means." Now Jesus' atoning death was that "other means," which furnished a moral equivalent, an equivalent in motive power, for the remitted penalty. So the interests of God and the interests of his subjects were all satisfied. Does the Satisfaction Theory offer so far-reaching and divine a satisfaction?

We may truthfully claim that the Governmental Theory is, indeed, the only true theory of satisfaction. It admits that God, like all other holy beings, has a burning indignation against sin and sinners. Yet it is not vindictive or revengeful, but co-exists with an infinite, compassionate love. It asserts no dominance in the mind of God, and does not demand to be appeased, or clamor for penal satisfaction. With all His displeasure at sin, He still makes an Atonement, not to satisfy His avenging wrath, but to meet the needs of His moral creatures, and make it possible to save sinners.

6. The Governmental Theory is in the fullest harmony with the righteousness of God, and makes plain what it is. God is not arbitrary in legislation, but legislates wisely with due regard for His subjects. He inflicts no unjust or unnecessary punishments, but by means of just penalty protects all rights and interests which might suffer wrong from the impunity of sin. He rewards His children according to the provisions and promises of grace. Thus He displays judicial righteousness, in all His dealings with men. It makes Him a righteous ruler of the universe, and the interests of all His subjects are safe in His hands.

7. The Governmental Theory provides for all those mighty forces of the cross which are not found in the penalty theory.

First, it exhibits the beauty of holiness, even more impressively than the odiousness of sin. The exalted character and consecration of the Savior is the highest exhibition of goodness and unselfish devotion that the world has seen. It has stood and must always stand as the loftiest ideal of excellence that human thought can reach; and there is power in that great lesson to beget in human souls a longing for some likeness to Christ Himself. As Paul expresses it (2 Cor. 3: 18), "We all, with open face beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." But if "punishment" was forced upon Jesus "by the wrath of an angry Father," the lesson of the Atonement loses its attraction and power, and becomes revolting to the mind. We do not wonder that Unitarians have sneered at such a theory. But the true doctrine works in human souls a love of holiness. It is probably safe to say that forty-nine out of every fifty people who believe in sanctification and seek it as a personal experience are Arminians, and accept the Governmental Theory of Atonement.

Second. The Governmental Theory the most effectively sets forth the love of God, in the sense of sympathy and compassion for sinners. The Satisfaction Theory represents God as so wrathful and just at sin that His burning desire to punish it must be "satisfied" by the "punishment of His Son," before He can think of offering pardon to a sinner. But the Governmental Theory starts with the COMPASSIONATE LOVE OF GOD which prompted Him to give His Son to die for us, so that the difficulties might be got out of the way, which hindered His mercy from bringing us salvation. The theories differ by the whole arch of heaven.

"The sovereignty of God is illustrated in penalty"; says Fairchild, "His fidelity in the maintenance of law. But the goodness of God which encourages to repentance, and which is the ground of our confidence in Him as a father and a friend, needs to be set forth. If punishment should always, and instantly, follow sin, and repentance should not avail to turn it aside, a suspicion of God's sternness or vindictiveness might have possessed the hearts of men. That danger is forever set aside. The goodness and severity of God are united in the great lesson of the cross.

"In the presence of these great moral forces which the Atonement brings into the government of God, the forgiveness of sin can occasion no detriment. The government is not weakened thereby, but immeasurably strengthened, because it increases our confidence in the Ruler, The pardon of the penitent is proper and just, when their punishment is no longer required to sustain the government. In the case of the unrepentant the penalty still remains with all its moral force" (Theology, p. 228). Thus the Governmental Theory provides for the great moral forces of the Gospel, and is in perfect harmony with them. Undoubtedly the general bearings of the Atonement lie in this direction.

8. The Governmental Theory is in full accord with the terms, atonement, reconciliation, propitiation, redemption. They may all be interpreted by this theory. They are properly rectoral terms, when applied to the results of Christ's work in our behalf. When they imply the personal displeasure of God against sin and sinners, the Atonement of Christ neither appeases the personal displeasure of God, nor conciliates his personal friendship. This is proved by the fact that, although Christ died for sinners, let us say the elect, yet as sinners, we are none the less under the personal displeasure of God, and so continue, until, by repentance and faith, there comes actual reconciliation.

9. Thus it follows, as the Governmental Theory teaches, that the Atonement is only provisory. It enables God to offer salvation, consistently with public justice. It renders it possible for us to be saved if we will, by repentance and faith on our part. But whether we get saved or not, whether the Atonement avails for us, depends on ourselves.

The Satisfaction Theory, on the other hand, teaches that Jesus took the place of some elect ones, was punished in their stead, and secured for them an absolute salvation which they could not miss if they should try. Whether they are willing or unwilling, in God's sovereign time, an "omnipotent, efficacious, irresistible grace" will compel them into the kingdom and corral them into heaven. The reader may judge which is the Scriptural theory.

10. The Governmental Theory will interpret, in their fullest meaning, all the texts which are always quoted in favor of the Satisfaction Theory. For example: 2 Cor. 5:21, "For he hath made Him to be sin for us." A common rendering is "sin-offering." This has ample warrant, and avoids the insuperable difficulties attending the restriction of the meaning to the ethical sense of sin. Christ could not so be made sin, and remain our holy Christ. Gal. 3: 13, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." It is absurd to say that the holy Christ is accursed of God, and all the holy martyrs who have been crucified and hanged. The meaning evidently is, that the penalty of sin hanging over us: this is the law's condemnation from which Christ redeems us by His Atonement. Christ suffered a death for us that was regarded a disgraceful and accursed death.

1 Pet. 2: 24, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." That this fully means the fact of an atonement for sin in the vicarious suffering of Christ there is no doubt. But there are insuperable difficulties in the way of reading "penal" substitution into this verse. The doctrine of satisfaction cannot interpret the term "sins" literally, and then appropriate the text. From such a sense the strongest doctrine of penal substitution now turns aside. With the sufferings and death of Christ as the only and necessary ground of salvation, we can most freely and fully use the text in perfect harmony with the Governmental Theory.

11. There are five colossal facts of Scripture and reason that are in fullest agreement with the Governmental Theory, and are all against the Satisfaction Theory, in the face of which it cannot stand.

(1) All sinners are under divine condemnation and guilt. Conscience affirms it. There is no exception made in favor of elect sinners. The divine law condemns all alike; the penalty of justice threatens all alike. But how could this be true according to the Satisfaction Theory? If Christ had suffered their full merited punishment, divine justice would demand their discharge. They should be as free from all answerableness in penalty as though they had not sinned. The substitutional punishment of Christ anticipated their sins, and their guilt was removed before they were born. The penalty of justice once inflicted, the subject is free. And on the theory of Satisfaction, redeemed sinners can no more be answerable in penalty for their sins at any time, than the Atoning Christ can be compelled to be punished (die) a second time for them. They were infallibly saved before they were born. But the Scriptures, and their reason, and their conscience, aroused by the Holy Spirit, tell them that they are in danger, and in a state of guilt, though redeemed. It proves to a demonstration that the Atonement itself is only a PROVISORY ground of forgiveness. This endorses the governmental theory, and flatly contradicts the Satisfaction Theory.

(2) All the experiences of the soul in justification are in harmony with the Governmental Theory and against the Satisfaction Theory. All those Scriptures threatening punishment upon evil doers, which the Holy Spirit uses to make the sinner uncomfortable in his sins; all the deep sense of guilt which the Spirit intensifies in the heart; all the forebodings of an awakened conscience, which anticipates impending wrath; all the agonizing prayer of the convicted sinner seeking after God; all the deep repentance, putting away sin, and the faith that lays hold of God for forgiveness; and the immediate incoming of peace, and the witness of the Spirit that the sins have, for the first time, been forgiven, and that the cloud of peril which hung over the soul has passed away, and that God smiles upon his newly forgiven child at least; every step and feature of it, from start to finish, is contrary to the Satisfaction Theory. Such experiences never would come to the soul, if the theory were true. Nobody would deny it, or think of questioning it, but some theologian under the exigencies of an unscriptural theology, who is trying to drive his theory through the Book of God. Let us all beware of "handling the Word of God deceitfully." Amen!

(3) The Governmental Theory magnifies the grace of the Heavenly Father in His forgiveness of sin; but the Satisfaction Theory robs Him of all grace. Forgiveness is in the very nature of it an act of grace, that the divine forgiveness in our justification is an act of grace, the Scriptures abundantly declare, "We are justified freely, through the redemption in Christ Jesus." But anyone can see that a debt that is fully paid, by whomsoever paid, is not forgiven. And the fundamental element of the Satisfaction Theory is the absolute irremissibility of penalty. Therefore the Son had to be "punished" in our stead, to "satisfy" THE AVENGING WRATH OF THE FATHER. If that is so, then there was no grace in the mind of the Heavenly Father at all, but only a grim punitive disposition, which demanded punishment. So if He forgives at all it is not by grace but by absolutely exacting punishment. There is about as much grace in that, on the Father's part, as there was in old Shy-lock, who "demanded the exact pound of flesh, nearest his heart, according to the strict letter of the bond." Not so with the Governmental Theory. It holds upon a PROVISORY ATONEMENT in voluntary suffering (not punishment) rendering a loving Heavenly Father free to graciously, freely forgive all His penitent, but guilty children.

(4) The Governmental Theory is in harmony with the Universality of the Atonement. This will be discussed in a subsequent chapter. We only name it here. But the Satisfaction Theory is in harmony with a limited atonement and actually demands it. It can tolerate no other. All for whom Jesus perfectly obeyed and was "punished" thus satisfying every claim of the law of God, have an absolute salvation secured them. They must be saved and by no possibility could be lost. This, as we have said already, would land us all in universalism and sweep the whole race into heaven, To avoid this manifestly unscriptural conclusion, the Satisfaction theory must have a "limited atonement only for the elect" to help it out. The Governmental Theory, on the other hand, is consistent with a universal atonement, with a conditionality of its saving grace, coupled with that other solemn truth of Scripture, that those for whom Christ died may still, reject his mercy and perish.

(5) The Governmental Theory is in perfect harmony (and the Satisfaction Theory is not) with God's universal offers of salvation. We are all commissioned to herald a "whosoever Gospel" to a dying world, and press it upon every creature, as having a chance of salvation. The Satisfaction Theory is necessarily opposed to this glorious truth of God. The Governmental Theory fully provides for the proclamation of a Gospel of hope to every fallen son and daughter of Adam's race. It fits into all the truths and covers all the facts as no other theory does or can; and it must be the true theory of the Atonement. Amen!