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NO PROVISION FOR REPENTANCE.
wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth : so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Now the system of our opponents makes no provision for the communication of that sovereign influence, from on high, which is the exclusive cause of repentance in the heart of a sinner. They tell him--falsely tell him, as we have seen-that, if he repent, he shall be treated as though he had been innocent; but they do not tell him where, and how, he is to obtain repentance. They leave him to seek for salvation by the law of penitence~a law which cannot save him ; for, if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law," (Gal. iii. 21)—but they do not direct him to any assistance in fulfilling that law. They leave him, in short, to perform a task to which he is so thoroughly indisposed, as totally to forbid the hope that he will undertake
and a task which, if performed, would fail to secure for him the reward which they promise—would leave him for ever at a distance from the kingdom of heaven!
From the whole of these statements, the necessity of the atonement is obvious. It was necessary to remove the obstacles to the bestowment of pardon, and to secure the influence of the Spirit by which the heart is softened and turned to God, and the sinner is brought to the enjoyment of those invaluable blessings, for the communication of which the atonement of Christ presents an honourable channel.
THE MANNER OF THE ATONEMENT; ITS REALITY.
I HAVE followed Dwight in the phraseology of the first part of this division of the great subject, because there does not at present occur to my mind a better one, though I am not satisfied with it. The point to which I thought it advisable to devote a little attention, might perhaps be more appropriately designated the matter of the atonement, if so barbarous a phrase could be tolerated. The questions—“In what did the atonement consist, or what is to be regarded as constituting a part of it?" “ Are we to consider atonement for sin as having been made by the death of Christ exclusively? or, are the previous sufferings of his life, and the obedience he rendered to the Divine law, to be regarded as having entered into its essence ?"—will convey a tolerably distinct idea of the precise point to which I would, though very briefly, direct the attention of the reader.
A distinction has been made by divines between the active and the passive obedience of Christ, as they are called ; that is, his conformity to the precepts of the Divine law, and his endurance of the penalty to which we had exposed ourselves by our breach of it. Both of these, including under the phrase, “the passive obedience," the whole of the sufferings of his life, as well as the agonies which he endured upon the cross, are considered by many as having entered into the satisfaction for sin to which we are indebted for our salvation. And it is not uncommon for men who embrace this general opinion, to make a very nice distinction here ; and to ascribe
ATONEMENT, BY WHAT EFFECTED.
one part of our salvation to the active obedience, and another part to the passive obedience, of the Saviour. By the latter he redeems us, it is imagined, from guilt; by the former he merits for us the kingdom of heaven. By his death he restores us to the position which Adam occupied on his entrance upon his state of probation ; by his obedience he places us in the condition in which Adam would have stood had he resisted temptation to the end of his course, and thus entitled himself to all the reward which the dispensation under which he was placed, warranted him to expect. There are others, again, who maintain that atonement was made by the passive obedience of Christ exclusively; and some, I believe, who imagine that no sufferings but those which he endured on the cross had any influence in procuring our salvation. They admit the necessity of his active obedience,-since the death of a transgressor could have possessed no merit to atone for sin ;-but maintain that it was only requisite to enable him to present an acceptable oblation of himself upon the cross.
The opinions we form on this subject must necessarily be guided by our conceptions of the nature of the atonement. And there are no subjects on which it is more necessary, than on theological ones, to trace our opinions to the sources from which they spring. By this means error may be detected, of whose existence there had been no previous conception; and which by no other process could have been discovered. According to a celebrated maxim, “ To trace an error to its fountain-head, is to refute it.” “ The detection of a source of fallacy, is of more value than the refutation of a particular error. A truth is but half revealed, when it makes us know only that we have been in the wrong: the chief revelation is that which tells us of some principle within us that rendered the fallacy to us, for the time, a relative truth. We avoid only one error in knowing that we have been deceived; but we may avoid many errors in knowing how that one has deceived
If we conceive that the atonement proceeded on the principles of pecuniary transactions—or, if we imagine that Christ saves us by enduring the precise amount of suffering which we
ATONEMENT WAS MADE NOT MERELY BY SUFFERING. 177
must have sustained, we are driven to the necessity of embracing the latter of the opinions stated above; viz., that atonement was made by the passive obedience of Christ exclusively. But if, with Dr. Wardlaw, “we regard it as a grand general manifestation of the righteousness of God, by which the claims of justice are, in the spirit of them, fully satisfied, and the glory of this attribute thus maintained in the exercise of mercy;" or, if we take the view of it which has been presented in the preceding pages; i. e., if we consider it a scheme, devised by Divine wisdom and goodness, for the purpose of rendering the bestowment of pardon consistent with the honour and efficiency of the law, and the consequent safety of the government, it will be impossible to avoid arriving at the conclusion, that the atonement comprehended every thing which possessed a tendency to secure this important result. We shall feel compelled to acknowledge that the Saviour made atonement by obeying the precepts of the law, as well as by suffering its penalty ; because that obedience tended to honour the law; to show that its precepts are holy, just, and good; that the Lawgiver entertains the highest possible sense of its rectitude; and that, consequently, it cannot be violated with impunity.
That atonement was made by the passive obedience of Christ exclusively, appears to me an opinion so manifestly inconsistent with the view of its nature, which has been exhibited in the preceding pages, that I can scarcely persuade myself to believe it does not always originate from some of those mistaken conceptions, in regard to its nature, which have been already examined : at all events, it harmonizes with them. “ Christ has paid my debt,” says one, “and hence I am delivered.” Now what are likely to be the views of this individual in reference to what we have denominated the manner of the atonement? What idea is he likely to attach to the term debt? He owes, it is true, a debt of obedience to the Divine law; but, were he to include that debt in his conceptions, it would seem to follow, that he is personally released from all obligations to yield obedience to this law. He accordingly settles down into the conviction, that it was his debt of suf
ATONEMENT WAS MADE BY THE OBEDIENCE
fering that was paid by the Redeemer; or, in other words, that atonement was made by the death of Christ exclusively.
Again, if Christ rescues his people by enduring the exact amount of suffering which they must have sustained, there could manifestly be no atoning efficacy in any thing but his sufferings. The obedience which he paid to the law must, in that case, be regarded merely as a preparatory and necessary qualification for the great work of presenting to God a satisfaction for sin.
Atonement was, then, made by the obedience as well as the sufferings of our Lord; but the ascription of one part of our salvation to his obedience, and of another part to his death, savours too much of the technical theology of the schools. It is a distinction unsupported by any of the representations of the word of God. The general statements of the Scripture teach us to consider the obedience unto death of the Son of God (for he obeyed when he suffered, and suffered when he obeyed) -the fulfilment, by Him, of all righteousness during his lifethe sorrow and grief which pressed so heavily upon him from the manger to the cross—together with the bodily and mental agonies which he endured when he hung upon the tree, as constituting together that great work by which the Divine character is glorified,—the honour and efficiency of the Divine law sustained,—and the safety of the Divine government secured, while pardon is bestowed upon the transgressor who believes in him. It has been said, indeed, that the obedience of Christ vindicates the preceptive part of the law, and his sufferings, its penalty; as if the obedience did not vindicate the penalty, nor the sufferings the precepts ; neither of which is
And, with reference to the latter, it may be observed, that no vindication of the rectitude of the precepts of the law can be conceived of, more striking and conclusive, than that which was supplied by the death of our Lord. A penalty arising out of the breach of unrighteous precepts, would not have been endured by him. And it is merely because his death tended more eminently to honour the Divine law-to preserve its efficiency as an instrument of moral governmentthan either the obedience or suffering of his previous life, that