By Aaron Hills
THE SUFFICIENCY AND EXTENT OF THE ATONEMENT
We have been discussing a great plan of salvation, originated and being carried out by the infinite God. It is a matter of the most profound importance to the entire moral universe. It is affecting the destinies of heaven, earth and hell. Three worlds are watching its operation with most intense interest. A natural question arises. What is its sufficiency? Who may be benefited by it? This is a point upon which men have widely differed in opinion, and has led to two great opposing schools of theology-the Calvinistic and the Arminian. We will contrast these two great systems in a subsequent chapter. Here we will discuss:
I. The Sufficiency of the Atonement. Fairchild observes, "The Atonement is not exhausted in the salvation of sinners; when one sinner has been saved, it is no less effective for the salvation of others. It is a great moral force, as available for all sinners as for one; and this is the Scripture representation" (p. 221). We may well inquire what elements enter into it that gives it such rich sufficiency. The following have been specially named.
1. The Holiness of Christ. A sinner can not be a mediator or make atonement. Whoever becomes a criminal himself, cannot intercede for another criminal. The Scriptures fully recognize this fact. Even in the types that foreshadowed the Atonement, it was constantly taught. The lamb or bullock that was brought to the altar must be without spot or blemish. The Scriptures, with this thought in mind, are always extolling the sinlessness of Jesus. He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and higher than the heavens" (Heb. 7: 26). "Him who knew no sin He made to be sin (a sin offering) on our behalf" (2 Cor. S: 21). "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience?" (Heb. 9: 14). The infinite holiness of Christ is as sufficient to bless all the guilty inhabitants of a fallen world as to bless one. The majesty of His holiness gives an immeasurable sufficiency of influence and power to his atoning work.
2. His Greatness. Whoever seeks an intercessor or mediator at the court of a king will want one of the highest possible rank. No finite being would have been of sufficient dignity and station to have stood for a guilty race before the infinite God. Indeed, God could not have permitted a finite being to make an atonement for us; for it would inevitably have led us to worship him and praise him forever as our Savior, and thus rob God of His glory. Moreover the Atonement must come from the Ruler Himself. He is the one to make the sacrifice and undergo the suffering, to save His own honor and His own government. It therefore required the Infinite Son of God, one with the Father, to do what had to be done to make our peace with God. It was the Creator of all things, the Lord of the angels himself, who, came to our rescue and died in our behalf, to shed the cleansing blood.
3. Its Voluntariness. No involuntary sacrifice would have any value in the estimation of God or man. A forced substitution of one person suffering for another by compulsion would be conspicuous only for its rank injustice; and this is the chief impression it would make upon all thinking beings. But when the sacrifice is in the free choice of the substitute, and that substitute is the ruler himself, its voluntariness adds a wealth of power and influence that cannot be estimated.
The Scripture is very plain on this point. We must always keep in mind the essential oneness of the Father and the Son, in the adorable mystery of the Trinity when we quote the divine Word on this theme. Jesus Himself said, "No man taketh my life from me: I have power to lay it down and power to take it again. I lay it down of myself" (John 10: 17, 18).
The Scriptures teach that the Father gave the Son; that the 'Son gave Himself; that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world; that He spared Him not but delivered Him up for us all (Rom. 8: 32): that He prepared for Him a body for His priestly sacrifice for sin; and the Son willingly responded, "Lo, I am come to do thy will, 0 God" (Heb. 10: 5-7). In all this the mind of the Son was one with the mind of the Father; "the Son came not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20: 28). He freely surrendered it for our salvation. This oneness of mind and purpose to save is carried back of the Incarnation and Atoning suffering to the Son in the bosom of the Father before the world was, planning with him the great salvation.
Thus the voluntariness of the suffering of Christ crowns it with exceeding value in the eyes of the Heavenly Father. And the willingness of God to make such a sacrifice for sinners lifts it into infinite significance and glory in the estimation of all moral beings. Such a sacrifice is sufficient to cancel all peril to the government of God from the forgiveness of sin even of a whole race.
4. Christ's Relation to Man. Jesus joined Himself to humanity, and became a perfect high-priest through suffering. It enabled Him by experience to know our sufferings and temptations and infirmities. As our Elder Brother, He could plead with the voice of sympathy in our behalf and get a hearing from the throne.
Aesachylus, the Greek tragedian, was summoned before an assembly of judges to answer for some serious offense against the state. The case was abundantly proved against him, and they were about to cry together, "Condemn, condemn!" when the door opened, and in came; a brother of Aeschylus, who had lost an arm on the battlefield. Instantly recognizing the state of affairs, and the danger threatening his brother, he stepped toward the judges and without saying a word, raised the stump of an arm which he had sacrificed for his country. The judges looked on Aeschylus and on his brother, and after a moment's conference, cried with one voice, "Acquit! Acquit!" So our Elder Brother-Christ, appears for us in mediation,
"Five bleeding wounds He bears,
Our Savior made use of this principle of brotherhood, putting Himself If into the most intimate relation with us, and atoning for us in profoundest sympathy. His compassion and love were voiced in the soul agonies of Gethsemane, in the heart-breaking cries of Calvary, and are still voiced in His intercessory prayers in heaven. Men and angels, in a spontaneous moral judgment, pronounce such a medication, a sufficient ground of forgiveness, and vindicate God in his pardon of sin. No shadow falls on the divine rectitude. The law of God I suffers no dishonor nor loss of ruling power.
5. The whole. "If it be asked what facts and particulars in the work of Christ go to make up the Atonement, the obvious reply must be everything which contributes to the necessary moral impression. The essential fact of the Atonement is the manifestation of God in His true character of a faithful Ruler, a loving Father, ready for any sacrifice to maintain the great moral interests of His universe."
"This manifestation is involved in the incarnation, and in the whole life work of Christ, with His death as the crowning fuel" (Fairchild), "The holiness, greatness, voluntariness, divine Sonship, and human brotherhood of Christ are, in themselves but qualities of fitness for His redemptive mediation and enter as elements of sufficiency into the atonement only as He enters into His sufferings. Without His sufferings and death there is really no Atonement" (Miley). Even as the Scripture says: "Without the shedding of blood there is no remission."
How much the infinite mind and heart of Christ suffered, we may not know. The humiliation of Christ was immeasurable, stooping to earth at all in the form of a servant. "And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient unto death even the death of the Cross" (Phil. 2:8). "What scenes are disclosed in Gethsemane and Calvary! Burdens of sorrow, depths of woe, intensities of agony! An awful mystery of suffering! At such a cost the Savior redeems the world." It is such a sufficiency of Atonement as meets all possible needs of the government of God.
II. The Extent of the Atonement.
For whose benefit was the Atonement intended? In a real and proper sense, God is managing the universe for His own glory. He consults His own glory and happiness, as the supreme and most influential reason for all His conduct. This is wise and right in Him because His own glory and happiness are infinitely the greatest good in and to the universe. The Atonement gave God an opportunity to express His love, and so He Himself was benefited by it. His happiness has been augmented in great measure from its contemplation, execution and results.
He made the Atonement, also, for the benefit of all holy beings; they are deeply benefited by it, from its very nature, as it gives them a higher knowledge of God than they ever could have had in any other way. The Atonement is the greatest work that He could have wrought, and the most calculated to display all the attributes of the divine nature, and thus it benefited them by making known to them the nature of God. For this reason, angels are desirous of looking into the Atonement. The inhabitants of heaven are profoundly interested in those displays of the character of God that are made in it. The Atonement is doubtless one of the greatest blessings God ever conferred upon the universe of holy beings.
The Atonement was doubtless designed particularly for the benefit of the inhabitants of this world. From its very nature It is calculated to bless all of them, It is a most stupendous revelation of God to man, in which every man must be directly interested, All mankind can be blessed by it as truly as any part of it, Many benefits come unconditionally to all, Doubtless, but for the Atonement which was promised in Eden, none of our race, save our first parents would have had an existence. All the loving ministrations of God's providence that come alike to the evil and the good, are the indirect results of the Atonement, The infinite patience with which God waits upon sinners to woo and win them to accept His love is doubtless, the result of that great scheme of mercy which they so often despise.
But can its saving benefits reach all mankind? The answer to this question locates the theologian. Here the two great schools of theology are divided into opposing camps.
1. Arminianism, by its moral freedom, its doctrine of sin, and the cardinal facts of its soteriology is determined to the universality of the Atonement. Calvinism, by its doctrine of divine decrees, its unconditional election, its moral inability, and its satisfaction theory of Atonement, must limit its extent to the elect. This question is, therefore, no superficial one. It goes to the heart of all things in theology, and all men are naturally concerned in the issue. Even the Satisfaction Theory itself stands or falls with this question: for if the Atonement is destined for all alike, and is sufficient for all, actually and potentially, then, according to that theory, all will be inevitably saved, For the Atonement of satisfaction absolutely secures the salvation of all for whom it was made; they cannot by any possibility miss heaven. Therefore they must either accept a universal salvation, or a limited Atonement. Calvinists choose the latter.
2. There are modified Calvinists-"New School Presbyterians" who affirm that the Atonement was sufficient for all, and is offered to all, but it avails for only those for whom it was intended. But their theory lands them in the same conclusion at last, that only a few can be saved. Thus they place themselves in the following absurd position: "The Gospel should be preached with sincerity alike to all; but none but the elect can ever possibly be saved by it, because none others will believe and obey it; and this is certain because none can believe unless God by the invincible influence of his Spirit, gives them faith, and this He has decreed from all eternity to withhold from all but the elect." Such was the theory of Baxter and many others. It is a jumbled set of contradictory propositions that cast reflections on the sincerity of God.
Dr. Albert Barnes, of sainted memory, got caught in the meshes of this wretched sophistry. He would preach and write by the hour like an Arminian, proclaiming free and full salvation to all men, and then give it all away by a Calvinistic interpretation of some single term or phrase. Hear him: "This atonement was for all men, It was an offering made for the race, It had not respect to individuals so much an to the law and perfections of God, It was an opening of the way for pardon-a making forgiveness consistent- a preserving of truth-a magnifying of the law; and had no particular reference to any class of men. We judge that He died for all. He tasted death for every man. He is the propitiation for the sins of the world. He came; that whosoever would believe on him should not perish, but have eternal life. The full benefit of this atonement is offered to all men. In perfect sincerity God makes the offer. He has commissioned His servants to go and preach the Gospel-that is, the good news that salvation is provided for them-to every creature. He that does not this-that goes to offer the Gospel to a part only, or that supposes that God offers the Gospel only to a portion of mankind-violates his commission, practically charges God with insincerity, makes himself 'wise above what is written' and brings great reproach on the holy cause of redemption. The offer of salvation is not made by man, but by God. It is His commission; and it is His solemn charge that the sincere offer of heaven should be made to every creature. I stand as the messenger of God, with the assurance that all that will may be saved; that the Atonement was full and free; and that if any perish, it will be because they choose to die, and not because they are straitened in God. I have no fellow feeling for any other Gospel; I have no right hand of fellowship to extend to any scheme that does not say that God sincerely offers all the bliss of heaven to every guilty, wandering child of Adam."
Now that was the real Gospel of salvation for every creature- Arminian, every word of it. But strange to say, Dr. Barnes still remained in the Calvinistic camp, and endorsed the Westminster Confession of Faith. Some one asks, "How could he?" This is the way: He held to the Calvinistic doctrine of moral INABILITY and juggled with the word "will". All that WILL may be saved." But he believed that nobody could "will" but those who were enabled to do so by God's "efficacious grace" which He sovereignly withheld from all but the elect!! This whole class of theologians hold that the atonement is ample to save all, IF they would but accept it; but they hold that no man will or can accept it, unless God, by invincible sovereign grace gives the WILL and ABILITY to believe and be saved, but that God from all eternity has determined not to impart this ability to accept Christ-this converting grace, to any but the few elect pets of His sovereign mercy, that saves whom it will, and leaves the rest to perish in their sins. This logically throws all the responsibility for the loss of all that perish upon God. It is a wont unjust and wicked reflection upon the loving Father, "who will have all to be saved," and "is not willing that any should perish" (Matt. 18: 14 and 2 Pet, 3:9 and Ezek, 33: 11), A large number of such theologians subscribed to the following and published it: "And the reason that God does not save all, is not that He lacks the power to do it, but that in His wisdom He does not see fit to exert that power farther than He actually does.... The reason why some differ from others is that God has made them to differ" (Bib. Sac., July No. 1863, pp. 585, 586). In other words, God does not want any more to be saved than are saved, and if some accept Christ and become saints, while others despise mercy, cling to their sins and are lost, it is because "God made them differ." Such Calvinistic utterances are a disgrace to the human intellect of which Christian men, with a Bible in their hands, ought to be ashamed,
3. Old Calvinistic Teaching.
"By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life, and others fore-ordained to everlasting death.
These angels and men, thus predestinated and fore-ordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished. "Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto, and all to the praise of His glorious grace.
"They who are elected, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit, working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified and kept by His power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only."
"The rest of mankind, God was PLEASED, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby he extendeth or with-holdeth mercy as HE PLEASETH, for the GLORY OF HIS SOVEREIGN POWER OVER HIS CREATURES, TO PASS BY, AND TO ORDAIN THEM TO DISHONOR AND WRATH for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice" (Westminster Confession). We think, with Finney, that a worse slander against the holy God of love never came from the bottomless pit, It is doubtful if any heathen ever made a more atrocious reflection against the Almighty.
4. Can these things be true? We say, No! We hold that the Atonement was designed to make salvation possible to all men, for the following reasons:
(1) From its intrinsic sufficiency. It was infinitely sufficient for all. Even Calvinists admit that. Witsius says: "The obedience and sufferings of Christ considered in themselves, are, on account of the infinite dignity of His person, of that value as to have been sufficient for redeeming, not only all and every man in particular, but many myriads besides, had it so pleased God and Christ."
Turrettin: "It is confessed by all, that since its value is infinite, it would have been sufficient for the redemption of the entire human family, had it appeared good to God to extend it to the whole world" (Atonement, p. 123). A. A. Hodge says: "All Calvinists agree in maintaining earnestly that Christ's obedience and sufferings were of infinite intrinsic value in the eyes of the law, and that there was no need for Him to obey or suffer an iota more nor a moment longer, in order to secure, if God so willed, the salvation of every man, woman and child that ever lived" (The Atonement, p. 356).
Now if the Atonement was so sufficient for all, why should not all get the benefit? If it was so important to make an atonement for any, why not for all? "If the son of a king should interpose in atonement for rebellious subjects, any limitation must be imposed either by the will and purpose of the sovereign atoned, or by the will and purpose of the atoning son. No other has any power in the case. Now the Atonement is made between the Father and the Son. If limited, either the Father would not accept, or the Son would not make, an atonement for all. The question then turns on this-what was the purpose of the Father in giving His Son, and of the Son in dying. Was it for some, or for all?" (Miley).
(2) The Pleasure of the Father,
a. His is a true divine sovereignty. Arbitrariness and partiality are wholly inconsistent with the character of God. He is no respecter of persons (Acts 10: 34). An absolute sovereign, who had no respect for His honor, or regard for the interests of His subjects, might forgive without atonement. But how could a holy God elect to save some without any reason of character, or conduct in them, and pass by myriads of others as good or better? No reason has ever been given or can be given for such conduct on the part of God, and He distinctly disclaims acting in that way.
b. Moreover, God sustains a common relation to all. As Miley says: "God is the Creator and Father of all men. There is, therefore, no difference of divine relationship which could be a reason for limitation in the Atonement." Numbers 16: 22, "O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with the whole congregation?" Also 27: 16, "For in Him we live and move and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, for we also are His offspring." Acts 17: 28, "Shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of Spirits and live?"
c. The Atonement originated in the Fatherly love of God, and it answers to His yearnings for our good. God loved us all as wretched and perishing, and provided for us for that reason. Hence the very reasons for His redeeming love were common in all. It could not, therefore, have been the common Father's good pleasure to destine the Atonement to bless only a part of His children when His love, in which it originated equally embraced them all" (Miley).
d. And if we look at the human side, we would also be led to believe in a universal atonement. "There was no difference among men. All had sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3: 22, 23). All were facing a common doom of eternal separation from God. Their depravity had a common source: its end was a common destruction.
A common love for all came to the rescue of all. Could such love have any pleasure in limiting infinite mercy, adequate for all, to only a few, when His compassion embraced all?
e. The divine perfections argue for a universal atonement. Divine justice has been honored and satisfied. Forgiveness of a penitent race would, with such an atonement, tarnish no divine glory, nor sacrifice any right or interest of the moral government. The divine holiness of God does not demand a limitation. If, by the Atonement, He can, consistently with His holiness, forgive millions of penitent believers, he can forgive billions as well. If He takes delight in seeing His character reproduced in His children, the more He saves from sin, the greater will be His joy.
His goodness and compassion spend themselves in alleviating sorrow and diminishing woe. He has set Himself to lessen as much as possible the influences of sin-that great gulf-stream of anguish that will flow across the empire of God forever, and to save as many as possible to increase the gladness and glory of an eternal heaven. Why should His goodness be limited in its achievements by a purpose to save only a few of the vast multitude of immortals that he Himself creates leaded with a propensity to sin, and that move on, in endless procession, to an eternity of woe, unless He comes to their help? "God has spoken to this point so directly and in such utterances, as to put the fact of His good pleasure for a universal atonement out of all question."As I live, saith the Lord, Jehovah, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live" (Ezek. 33: 11). "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3: 16). "Who would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4). "Not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). It is true, as He affirms, under most solemn, self-adjuration, that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that He turn from His way and live? Is it true that He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son for its redemption? Is it true that He is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish? Can it be true, then, that in the absence of all hindrance, and with the presence of an infinitely greater good, he preferred a limited atonement, and sovereignly destined one, intrinsically sufficient for all, to the favor of only a part? It cannot be. And the Father placed no narrower limit to the grace (of redemption) than the utmost circle of humanity" (Miley, Vol. II, p. 224).
(3) The Pleasure of the Son. All that has been said regarding the pleasure of the Father could be repeated concerning the pleasure of the Son. They are essentially one. They had but one plan-to redeem the fallen race of men. They have but one sovereign purpose to bring glory to God and good to the moral universe. They act upon the same principles. They move to the same impulse of love. With the Son, as with the Father, there is the utter absence of all reason or preference for limitation, and delight in universality. Hodge admitted: "All that Christ did and suffered would have been necessary had only one human soul been the object of redemption; and nothing different, and nothing more, would have been required, had every child of Adam been saved through his blood" (Vol. II, p. 545). Why, then, should Christ want the possible number of those blessed by His great salvation limited? Is it because He, who wept over sinners, delights in the sufferings of the lost? Is it enchanting music to His ears to listen to the wails of the damned? Is it a blissful vision for Him to behold the smoke of their torment ascending forever and ever, to whom He might, without another pang, have given at least a chance to enjoy the eternal bliss of Heaven? The moral reason revolts at such a conclusion. The heart of love turns from such a theory with horror and disgust.
(4) The Voice of the Holy Spirit in Scripture. The Third Person of the Trinity is yet to be heard from, and He too, speaks with no uncertain sound. There are some texts quoted as if they limited the Atonement.
Dr. Hodge writes: "There are very numerous passages in which it is expressly declared that Christ gave Himself for His Church (Eph. 5: 25); that He laid down his life for His sheep (John 10: 15); that He laid down His life for His friends (John 15: 13); that He died that he might gather together in one the children of God that are scattered abroad (John 11:52); that it was the Church which He purchased with His blood (Acts 20: 28), When it is said that Christ loved His Church and gave himself for it, that He laid down His life for His sheep, it is clear that something is said of the Church and the sheep, which is not true of those who belong to neither. ... It is difficult, in the light of Eph. 5: 25, where the death of Christ is attributed to His love of His Church, and is said to have been designed for its sanctification and salvation, to believe that He gave himself as much for reprobates as for those whom He intended to save."
"Every assertion, therefore, that Christ died for a people is a denial of the doctrine that He died equally for all men" (Vol. II, p. 549).
In the same-spirit Turrettin says: "The mission and death of Christ are restricted to a limited number-to His people, His sheep, His friends, His Church, His body; and nowhere extended to all men severally and collectively. Thus Christ is called "Jesus, because he shall save His people from their sins." He is called the 'Savior of His body'; 'the good shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep'; and for His friends, 'He is said to die that He might gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.' It is said that Christ hath purchased the Church with His own blood. If Christ died for every one of Adam's posterity, why should the Scriptures so often restrict the object of His death to a few?" (The Atonement, pp. 125, 126).
This is the most these defenders of a limited Atonement can bring forward in support of their theory. It may be said in reply, that in all the texts given there is not one word which limits the atonement to the subjects named. And with vastly more reason, we may ask, if the Atonement is only for a few, why do the Scriptures so often assert that it is for all? If Queen Victoria had delivered a speech, or written a letter to the city of Manchester, in which occurred these expressions: "I have helped to build up Manchester"; "Her Majesty has been a blessing to the citizens of Manchester," would it be a necessary inference that she had not also blessed Glasgow, or loved Liverpool, or helped London?
If the Atonement were necessarily saving, and, as a fact, only a few were saved, then of course, the Atonement would necessarily be limited. But it is only an assumption that the Atonement necessarily saves all for whom it was made. Nothing is more certain concerning it than the conditionally of its saving grace.
"God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son," not that the elect might be saved, or His church, or His friends, or His sheep, or His people; but "that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish." The "friends" and "church" and "people" are a distinct class, only as they become actually saved. There is no such class except as the fruit of the Atonement. "When we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Rom. 5: 8). Hence, there could be no such a restricted class for which Christ died. The Atonement as the only ground of their peculiar relation to Christ, must precede that relation, and be made for them as lost sinners, ungodly and enemies. They can enter into their peculiarly dear relation to Christ only through the grace of an Atonement previously made for them. That same Atonement, previously made for them as sinners, was so made for all men (Eph. 2: 11-22). "For there is one mediator also between God and men, Himself man, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all" (1 Tim. 2: 5, 6). "We have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of them that believe" (1 Tim. 4: 10). "That by the grace of God, He should taste death for every man" (Heb. 2:9).
The truth becomes plain from these passages that the ATONEMENT is ONLY CONDITIONAL IN ITS EFFECT. As President Fairchild well says: "The Atonement brings salvation within the reach of every human sinner. It does not secure the salvation of any, but it is sufficient for all. "Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely" (Rev. 22: 17). This is the Atonement of the Gospel. On God's part, all obstacles are removed, all external or governmental conditions of salvation are supplied; and still, all the motives to repentance and righteousness are furnished. The way is open. The sinner must respond to these offers of mercy and salvation. No salvation can come to him without his own co-operation" (Theology, |i.232).
"It is true, indeed, that Christ died for all the actual sharers in the saving grace of Atonement. And there are special reasons for emphasizing the fact. Thus Christ impresses upon their minds the greatness of his love to them, and the greatness of the benefit received through the grace of his redemption, and so enforces His own claim upon their love. But there is not a text quoted in favor of limitation that is not perfectly consistent with its universality."
THE COMMON VOICE OF SCRIPTURE
The universality of Atonement is taught:
a. By those passages which designate the object of the Atonement by universal terms. When it is said that Christ died "for us," it means that He died in our behalf, and in our stead. And so it means the same when the Scriptures affirm that "He is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). "That He by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Heb. 2:9). "The Father hath sent the Son to be the Savior of the world" (1 John 4: 14). "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish." "For God sent not His Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through Him" (verse 17). "One died for all ... and He died for all that they that live should no longer live unto themselves but unto Him" (2 Cor. 5: 14, 15). "The Savior of all men, especially of them that believe" (1 Tim. 4: 10). "Who would have all men to be saved" (1 Tim. 2:4).
It can only be fairly concluded from such passages, that by the death of Christ the sins of every man are rendered remissible, and that salvation is attainable by all.
When the apostle (in Rom. 5: 18) declares that as "through one trespass, the judgment came unto all men to condemnation; even so through one act of righteousness, the free gift came unto all men to justification of life," the force of the comparison would be lost, if the term "all men" were not taken in its widest sense.
No sane interpretation can make "the world" and "all men" and "every man" in so many texts mean "the elect." To attempt to substitute "the elect" for "the world" in many places leads to gross absurdity, as in John 3: 16 and John IS: 19 and 1 John 5: 19, and John 17: 9. Take the last passage: "I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me." Do the advocates of a limited atonement interpret "the world" here to be "the elect"? If so they cut off even the elect from the benefits of Christ's prayer. If they say it means the non-elect, then they must allow that one end which our Lord had in view in this prayer was, that this non-elect world might believe (v. 21). They may choose either of the alternatives and they are vanquished.
b. By those passages which ascribe an equal extent to the benefits of the death of Christ as to the effects of the fall. "Therefore as through one trespass the judgment came unto all men to condemnation; even so through one act of righteousness the free gift came unto all men to justification of life" (Rom, 5; 18), Here two things are clearly taught: 1. That the mediation of Jesus Christ is, in its own nature, a complete and sovereign remedy for man's moral disease; 2. That this remedy, in its applicability, is co-extensive with the consequences of Adam's sin; the language applied to both being precisely the same-"judgment came upon ALL MEN" "the free gift came upon ALL MEN." If the whole human race is meant in the former, the whole human race is meant in the latter clause; and therefore, all men have an interest in the saving benefits of Christ.
c. By passages of Scripture which declare that Christ died for those who may perish. "Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died (Rom. 14: IS)."For through thy knowledge he that is weak perisheth, the brother for whose sake Christ died" (1 Cor. 8: 11). "Of how much sorer punishment, think ye, shall he be judged worthy, who hath trodden under foot, the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace" (Heb. 10: 29). "False prophets and false teachers, who shall privily bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master that bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction" (2 Pet. 2:1).
It is painful to note how Calvinistic commentators juggle with these passages, paraphrasing and twisting them just as Unitarians do the passages that teach the deity of Christ. Scott amusingly remarks: "The Apostles did not write in an exact systematical style, otherwise they would scrupulously have avoided such expressions!" What a pity that the Apostles could not have had a committee of Calvinists to edit their writings! Peter says of Christ: "The Lord that bought them," viz., "the false prophets and false teachers, whose end is destruction." But if the Lord did not intend to redeem them, He did not buy them at all; but this supposition contradicts the apostle. These passages teach that Christ's ransom was general, and that all men are interested in it, which agrees exactly with our theory of a Universal atonement, and flatly opposes those who limit the atonement to the elect. These passages are sufficient to show that Christ died for them that may perish; but if He died for them that may perish, it may be presumed that He died for the whole human family.
d. By those passages which require the Gospel to be proclaimed through all the world to every creature. "Go ye therefore find make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt, 28: I')), "And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations" (Matt. 24: 14).
Luke 24: 47, "And that repentance, and remission of sins should be preached in His name unto all the nations." "And in thee, and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 28:14). "Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession" (Ps. 2:9). "Jehovah hath made bare His holy arm, in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God" (Isa. 52: 10).
It follows, therefore, that the Gospel is to be proclaimed to all men; "to them that are afar off and to them that are nigh." The angels sang over the birth of Christ and one announced, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people" (Luke 2: 10).
Now if the possibility of salvation is confined to a part of the human family, as Calvinism teaches, then the Gospel cannot be "good tidings of great joy to all "people" and God may be charged with deceiving the world. It cannot be good tidings to those for whom Christ made no atonement.
"But," says the Calvinist, "the atonement secures to the non-elect temporal blessings and many gracious privileges." We reply to this, that if God withholds from the non-elect the ability to comply with the terms of the Gospel, and secure the benefits of the atonement, and if their rejection of the overtures of mercy is unavoidable and will "increase their guilt and aggravate their damnation" as they say, then it will be a curse and not a blessing. Of what advantage are existence and mere temporal blessings, if he for whom no salvation was provided, must inherit eternal doom? It were infinitely better for him "if he had never been born."
If, then, we are to regard the Gospel as a candid and honest expression of the divine will concerning the moral recovery of our race; if we would not turn it into a mere mockery, so far as the non-elect are concerned; if we would not make it to them a means of increased torture, a snare and a curse, instead of "good tidings" from God, we must admit that it proclaims a salvation which is, through the Atonement of Christ, made possible to all men.
God commissions preachers to preach the Gospel "to every creature." It is the duty of all men to repent and believe, for "He that believeth on Him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him (John 3: 18 and 36). "These are written that ye might believe and that believing, ye might have life through His name" (John 20: 31). "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16: 31). "God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). Such is the preacher's commission, and the Gospel message. The Arminian can preach it with a whole heart and without any misgiving or mental reservation.
What about the Calvinist? When he presents the offer of salvation to all, and declares that God willeth not the damnation of any, in order to reconcile these texts, which imply a real provision and possibility of Salvation for all, with his creed, he resorts to a distinction between what they call the revealed and secret will of God. They say, it is according to the revealed will of God, that all men should repent and believe and be saved; but it is according to the secret will of God that none shall receive the grace to enable them to repent and believe, but the elect; and consequently that salvation is possible to no others! This horrible doctrine reminds us of the remorselessly cruel Duke of Alva. In 1567 he was sent by Philip II of Spain to the Netherlands, to suppress Protestantism. He gave by public proclamation the right of religious liberty, which the Protestants of Holland took advantage of. Alva thus found out who the Protestants were, and he then proceeded to put 18,000 of them to death by martyrdom, as he afterwards boasted. Alva thus had a publicly announced "public will" and "a secret will" Now these Calvinists represent our holy God, as an infinite, juggling, double-healing, hypocritical Duke of Alva, who publicly announces to the world that "He is not willing that any should perish"; and it is "His will that all should be saved," while He determines secretly to withhold every possibility of salvation from the great mass of mankind! Such a doctrine is simply blasphemous.
The most intelligent Calvinists are confronted with this difficulty which they are utterly unable to surmount, how to reconcile the preacher's commission, and the unlimited calls and invitations of the gospel, with the truth and sincerity of God, according to their theory of a limited atonement. Honest Dr. Dick after stating some of the attempts which have been made to solve this difficulty comes to the following pitiful conclusion: "We may pronounce, I think, these attempts to reconcile, the universal call of the Gospel with the sincerity of God to be a faint struggle to extricate ourselves from the profundities of theology!! They are far, indeed, from removing the difficulty. We believe, on the authority (?) of Scripture, that God has decreed to give salvation to some and to withhold it from others. We know, at the same time, that He offers salvation to all in the Gospel; and to suppose that He is not sincere would be to deny Him to be God. It may be right to endeavor to reconcile these things, because knowledge is always desirable, and it is our duty to seek it as far as it can be attained. But if we find that beyond a certain limit we cannot go, let us be content to remain in ignorance. Let us reflect, however, that we are ignorant in the present case only of the connection between two truths, and not of the truths themselves, for these are clearly stated in the scriptures (?). We ought, therefore, to believe both although we can not reconcile them. Perhaps the subject is too high for the human intellect in its present state. It may be that, however correct our notions of the divine purposes seem, there is some misapprehension which gives rise to the difficulty" (Dick's Theology, Lecture 65).
We should think so! And the great misapprehension is the Calvinistic notion of a limited atonement. We venture the assertion that no sound theology and no correct interpretation of Scriptures will ever result in any such irreconcilable contradictions. There are several things in this quotation from Dr. Dick deserving notice. 1. He assumes it to be a doctrine of the Bible that "God has decreed to give salvation to some, and to withhold it from others." It is a pure assumption, with no Scripture to support it. 2. He admits that "God offers salvation to all." It is true. 3. He confesses his inability to reconcile these facts with the sincerity of God, pronounces every attempt to do so, "a faint struggle to extricate ourselves from the profundities of theology." Ralston suggests that it would be more appropriate to call it "a faint struggle to extricate themselves from the absurdities of Calvinism"! Here is an open and frank admission that this particular doctrine of a limited atonement cannot be reconciled with the Scripture, or with the holiness of God, and the same is true of every other distinctive doctrine of Calvinism. That God offers salvation to all men, is too evident to be denied; but that He has decreed to withhold it from some, never has been, and never can be proved. We conclude that Christ so died for all men, as to make their salvation possible.
e. By all those passages of Scripture which require all men to repent and believe the Gospel. They all imply the universality of the atonement. "Repent ye and believe the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: he that believeth not the Son shall not see life: but the wrath of God abideth on him." "The plain inference from all such passages is that the Gospel is preached to all men in order that they may repent and believe in Christ; that repentance and faith are required of them, in order to their salvation; that they have power to "believe to the saving of the soul," for those who believe not incur the wrath of God; that, having power to believe unto salvation, they must have an interest in the merits of Christ's death; and that consequently, the atonement of Christ, through which alone salvation may be obtained, embraces all mankind" (Wakefield's Theology, p. 384).
f. The nature of saving faith, leads to the same conclusion. This saving faith is a personal trust in the sacrificial death of Christ as a propitiation for his own personal sin, and receives forgiveness as the immediate gift of God. Now this saving faith is required of all men. Peter preached it to the mob in Jerusalem, both to those who were saved, and those who were not, but it cannot be the duty
of any for whom Jesus did not die, consequently for whom there is no salvation. An attainable salvation is the condition of the obligation to believe. No man ever did, or ever can believe in Christ unto salvation without first believing that Christ died for him. If Christ did not die for all, then God requires the great mass of sinners to believe a lie, on penalty of eternal damnation! To this absurdity Calvinism runs.
There is a necessary order of facts and mental process in our faith in Christ; first in believing that He died for us; then in a sure trust of faith in Him for salvation. But if Christ died for only the small part of mankind, then no man has, or can have, previous to his conversion, satisfactory evidence that there is an atonement for him.
The following indubitable facts confront every soul to whom the Gospel is preached. 1. The Gospel is for all. 2. Salvation is the privilege of all to whom the offers of the Gospel are made. 3. A saving faith in the redemption of Christ, is the duty of all who have the Gospel. These are undeniable facts of Scripture. Any logical mind, not warped and blinded by an unscriptural theology, will take the next step, - therefore, there is salvation for all.
It is simply undeniable that God commands all men to repent mid believe in Christ. He promises salvation to those who repent mid believe; He threatens damnation to them who do not. But according to Calvinism, both salvation the end, and faith the means are absolutely impossible to the non-elect. It would, therefore, have us believe that God will punish men eternally for not obtaining an impossible end (salvation) by an impossible means (faith). Out upon a scheme of thought which involves such wicked reflections against God!
g. From those Scriptures which show that men's failure to salvation is their own fault. "Because I have called, and ye have refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man hath regarded; But ye have set at naught all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh in the day of your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh" (Prov. 1: 24-26). "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?" (Ezek. 33: 11). "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not" (Matt. 23: 37). "And ye will not come unto me that ye might have life" (John 5: 40). "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Rom. 10: 13). It is needless to multiply quotations. The Scriptures constantly exhort men to obedience, reprove them for their folly, and threaten them with the penal consequences of their evil doings. It everywhere assumes that they have ability to obey. It must therefore be admitted that the sole bar to the salvation of those who are lost is in themselves, and not in any limitation of Christ's redemption that excludes them from mercy. Every Scripture which declares that a man's ruin is his own fault is a proof that the atonement of Christ has made salvation possible to every man. There is no inability, of any kind whatsoever, that makes it impossible for a man to make the choice of Christ and salvation. A man's own consciousness tells him so, and God fully declares it.
h. From those Scriptures which declare the will of God respecting the salvation of all men. "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye" (Ezek. 18: 32). "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live" (Ezek. 33:11). "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:3). "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (1 Peter 3:9). The teaching of these Scriptures is so unmistakable that comment is unnecessary.
We have now shown the universality of the atonement.
1. By those Scriptures which designate the objects of redemption by universal terms as "the world," "all men."
2. By those which represent the benefits of Christ to be coextensive with the effects of the fall."
3. By those which declare that Christ died for those who may perish.
4. By those which require the Gospel to be proclaimed through all the world, to every creature.
5. By those which require all men to repent and believe the Gospel.
6. By those which show that men's failure to be saved is their own fault.
7. By those which declare that it is the will of God that all men should be saved.