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GOD AS MORAL GOVERNOR
obstacles to any gracious communications from God to man, which sin had set up. There was doubtless a speciality of intention in reference to the individuals to whom the highest species of such communications should be made, but the breaking down of the barrier permitted the free access of mercy to every individual of the human family.
2. I ground my confidence that the atonement is in itself sufficient for the salvation of all men; or, in other words, a general remedy, co-extensive with the evil it was intended to remove, on the consideration that it seems impossible to vindicate the consistency and propriety of those exhortations and threatenings to which we have referred, unless this be the case. All men are invited and commanded to believe in Christ; it is promised, that all shall be saved who believe; it is threatened, that all shall be condemned who disbelieve, and condemned because they disbelieve. Now, how is it possible, let me ask, to reconcile these facts with the opinion, that there is not inherent sufficiency in the atonement to secure the blessings of salvation to all the world? How can we justify the propriety of beseeching numbers to be reconciled to God, to whom he has not been reconciled by the death of his Son-of proffering pardon to all men, when the atonement has virtue only to secure the pardon of some-of inviting the whole family of man to the gospel feast, when there is not a sufficiency of provisions for a part of the family? If such conduct would be mean and dishonourable on the part of man,—and who would venture to say it would not?—how can we impute it to the Great Eternal? I lack words to express my astonishment that persons should be found who can give credit to the monstrous proposition, that there are actually no provisions (which must be the case if the sufficiency of the atonement is limited) for multitudes who are, at the same time, invited to partake of them, and damned for rejecting them!
Will it be said that the atonement would have been sufficient for all, if God had determined that all should be saved by it, so that all may be invited to believe, inasmuch as it will be found sufficient for all who actually believe? I answer, in the First place, that it is absurd to rest the sufficiency of the
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atonement upon the Divine purpose in reference to its application. Its tendency to sustain the efficiency of the law, even while there seemed, in the pardon of transgressors, to be a practical denial of its rectitude and goodness, does not depend upon the mere will of God; or a man might have made an ample atonement. It springs out of the reason of the case. The atonement is, indeed, efficient, i. e., it becomes the means of actual salvation to certain individuals, because Jehovah determines that it shall be so. But had it not been sufficient, independently of Divine volition, to secure the object which it was designed to effect, it could not have been rendered efficient even in the case of one individual. And if it be sufficient in itself, it may be rendered (whether such be the determination of God is another question) efficient in the case of all. But I reply,
Secondly, that, if it were not absurd to rest the sufficiency of the atonement upon the Divine purpose, with regard to its application, yet, as that is done by supposition, and as that purpose is limited, the sufficiency of the atonement is, on the principles of my opponents, limited after all. It has no inherent power, as they conceive, to secure the blessings of salvation to any, save to those on whom the Father had previously determined to bestow them. And yet all men to whom the gospel comes, and by Divine appointment it is to be preached to the whole world, are invited, and, indeed, enjoined by God to seek these blessings on the ground of the atonement—are now condemned if they seek them not, and, persisting in their rejection, must bear, and on account of their rejection, the wrath of God throughout eternity!
If, to get rid of this difficulty, it should be said that no sinner knows but that Christ died for him, or does not know but that he is included in the atonement which he has made, and so may justly deserve punishment for not believing on Christ, I answer, that I find it utterly impossible to conceive that the ignorance of the creature should be the basis of the Divine government; or that it is befitting the Divine character to make it the ground of human obligation. On the principles opposed, viz., that there is a limited sufficiency in the atone-,
GOD AS MORAL GOVERNOR
ment of Christ, it is manifest that, if the fact that there are no provisions at the gospel-feast for many were known-and known by these many, they could not be honourably bidden to the supper; far less, condemned for not appearing at it.
3. I ground my confidence that the atonement was a general remedy, co-extensive with the evil it was intended to remove, on the consideration, that the provision of such a remedy was, as far as we can judge, befitting the character of God as the moral Governor of the world. There is, I think, considerable reason to apprehend that too many of our evangelical divines partially forget, that Jehovah retains the character and office of a moral Governor, even under the present dispensation of mercy. At any rate, the sentiment, if it gains admission into their creeds, does not draw after it its legitimate consequences. They view the gospel too much as a system of pure benevolence, accomplishing its entire purpose by securing the salvation of those whom the decree of election had destined to be rescued from the ruins of the fall. When Adam had sunk into apostacy, and involved in the consequences of his transgression the whole of the human family, Jehovah, in pursuance of that sovereign decree to which we have referred, determined, they imagine, to appoint a Saviour specifically and exclusively for them, who should stand in the relation of a substitute and a surety for them; but sustain no relation to that part of the family which was not included within the range of the decree. For the purpose of bringing them to the actual enjoyment of the blessings of salvation, the glad tidings of the Saviour's atonement must be proclaimed to them; and, as they are mingled with the common mass of mankind, and cannot be distinguished from others by any eye but the eye of God, the gospel must be preached generally; its testimony, and promises, and threatenings, must be brought before the view of all men; but then the entire design of this proceeding is merely to bring in the chosen to salvation. No mercy would be offered to others, no gospel would be preached to them, no proffer of salvation through the blood of Christ would be made to them, were it not necessary to secure the intentions of sovereign mercy in reference to the
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objects of Jehovah's everlasting love. Now, if I do not call this a radically mistaken view of the nature of the present dispensation, I have no doubt that it is a radically defective one. It loses sight of the important fact, that though the gospel is the means of conveying distinguishing blessings to many, it is the instrument of moral government to all. According to the statement opposed, it is difficult to see how God can be said to sustain the relation of moral Governor to any. To the elect he bears the relation of the sovereign bestower of unmerited and infinite mercy; to the non-elect, rather the relation of executioner, than of judge, or governor. He is presented by it in the attitude of a being who delays, indeed, the infliction of the penalty incurred by the breach of the Adamic dispensation, for the attainment of an important end, but who offers no escape from it; does not set open the door of mercy to them, has no intention but to inflict the full penalty, and merely reserves them to the day of wrath, when the vengeance of a broken law shall be poured out upon their heads. Now, I cannot but regard these statements as conveying as incorrect a representation of the Divine plans and conduct, as can be given, without a relinquishment of the Scripture doctrine on the subject altogether. It is not true of any, under the gospel dispensation, that they stand in no relation to God but that of criminals, waiting the day of execution, without the possibility of escape. Have we not seen that mercy is offered to all, and that the condemnation of the finally impenitent will rest on their rejection of it? How, then, can we so far libel the Great Eternal, as to suppose that he invites sinners to leave their prison, and will condemn them hereafter for not doing it, if he has not set open the doors to permit their escape? In consistency with the facts of the case, it is imperative upon us to believe that, after the fall, Jehovah set open the door of mercy, not to some men merely, but to all men; whether he determined to impart to all a disposition to avail themselves of this mercy, is another question. And to open a way of escape to all, it was obviously necessary that the sacrifice, on the ground of which any receive pardon, should be in itself sufficient for the salvation of all. Such a
GOD AS MORAL GOVERNOR
sacrifice was provided; and its provision is highly honourable to the character of Jehovah, if not required by it, as the moral Governor of the world. Contemplate for a moment the relations which existed between God and man after the original transgression. The penalty attached to the first covenant had been incurred; because, in the view of the law, sin had been committed by all. Now, in our Lectures on Divine sovereignty, we admitted the difficulty which attaches to the conception, that any difference should exist in the conduct of God as a moral Governor or Judge, in reference to the various individuals who are involved in the same general sentence of condemnation. We admitted that justice did seem to require that all should be condemned, or all acquitted; but that it seemed to forbid that some should suffer, and others be permitted to escape, without the intervention of another dispensation, under which mercy should be accessible to all, so that their final state might be in accordance with the rule of that dispensation. Now, what was the case, according to those views of the nature and the extent of the atonement which have been developed in our previous Lectures? Do they not manifestly imply that there was no difference in the conduct of God, as a moral Governor, in reference to men? He determined to provide a sacrifice of infinite worth, and, therefore, in itself adequate to the salvation of all, and on the ground of that sacrifice to invite all to apply for pardon and eternal life, and to promise that all who complied with the invitation should enjoy the blessing. This was done partly in his character as a Sovereign, manifesting unmerited mercy-but still the same mercy, to all: and partly as a righteous moral Governor, grounding, indeed, his requirements in sovereignty; but still making the same requirements from all-and, therefore, as a moral Governor, dealing in the same manner with all, For, as it has been more than once observed, the provision of a Saviour, and the promise of mercy through him, was a virtual abrogation of the original curse. It was equivalent to a universal pardon. It presented spiritual blessings to the acceptance of all the children of men-blessings to be enjoyed in the same manner-by means of repentance, faith, and obe