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believe the gospel, that the seed of the serpent spit out all their venom. p. 38.
In this part of his Sermon, we take pleasure in finding Mr. Spring on the right side of the question above stated; but when he is good, he is too good. He ascribes, exclusively, to election some things, for which we are not willing altogether to neglect the consideration of Christ's death for our redemption. He had told us, page 6, “ the doctrine of atonement and election, are two distinct things.” And as he declares, in this place, that to one of these distinct things, “ministers owe all their encouragement to preach, and sinners all their encouragement to repent and believe the gospel,” the other of these distinct things, is entirely excluded. We cannot but consider this exclusion as extravagant; and, for ourselves, we had rather take some encouragement, from the cross of Christ, both for our faith and repentance : for we know assuredly, that the apostle Paul derived some of his encouragement, in preaching the gospel, from this very source.
I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Upon the latter part of the above quotation, we have also to make another remark. It is one of Mr. Spring's finest efforts in oratory; and, although the sentiment is not strictly true, it will pass with some readers as an elegant specimen of pulpit declamation. Besides its inaccuracy, in excluding, from the immediate consideration of the pastor and the people, the doctrine of the death of Christ, we deem the conclusion rather unjustly harsh. However decidedly we are ourselves opposed to Arminian tenets, we would not think it becoming to class all men, who disagree with us upon the doctrine of election, among the venomous seed of the serpent. The judgment of men's persons and state belongs to God. We think it, therefore, at least indecorous in the preacher, to designate, not only such men as Episcopius and old John Goodwin, but also John Wesley and Adam Clarke, and the great body of respectable men, who are associated, in so many benevolent institutions, along with himself in this city, as“ the seed of the serpent spitting out their venom," because they do not recognize his doc
trine of election. While, with all our talents, we oppose their doctrines, whereinsoever we think them erroneous, we esteem it altogether improper to hold up their persons in such an execrable light, and disgusting attitude, to public detestation“the seed of the serpent spitting out venom.”
The author of the Sermon appears to us to be also self-contradictory in recording his opinions of the extent of the object for which the Redeemer laid down his life.
On this very important question in Theology, he is, at different times, on two different and opposite sides. At one time we are told, that Christ died equally for all mankind. At another time, we are told that he died for the elect given him in covenant, as, exclusively, the reward of his death.
First. He teaches that Christ died for every sinner of mankind.
'It has never yet been proved that Christ died exclusively for the elect. If language has any meaning, we are bound to be. lieve that he tasted death for every man. God has provided a full and complete atonement for all their sins. The atonement was made, not for the elect or non-elect, as such, but all men as sinners. pp. 6, 10.
Second. The Preacher, in contradiction of these opinions, teaches that Christ died for the elect, given him in covenant, as exclusively the reward of his death.
• He (God) does not intend that they shall rob him of his glory, nor his Son of the reward of his death. Some he saves. This number is definite. He does not sanctify and save one part of mankind rather than another, because one part is better than another. The elect are no more worthy of being made the objects of regenerating and redeeming grace, than the non-elect. The elect are said to be chosen in Christ. In other places they are said to be Christ's seed. In others they are represented as given to him by his Father. When in the covenant of peace be engaged to lay down his life for the sins of the world, a stipulated number was given him as his re. ward.' Pp. 11, 12, 13.
Now, although there is a double entendre in some parts of this quotation, and its connexion in the discourse, it is easy to see that the opinions, uttered in it, are inconsistent with the idea of
Christ's death being equally intended for the benefit of all mankind. Mr. Spring had previously admitted, page 10, that the effectual application of the atonement is limited to the elect by the divine purpose; and that, without this, Christ is dead in vain. Here he seems to us to admit that the elect are exclusively “ the stipulated reward of Christ's death,” the only objects of “ redeeming grace," for whose salvation alone Christ died. He admits that all this was settled in the purpose of God," and in the “ covenant of peace” with Jesus Christ. It would, moreover, seem to us to follow necessarily, from these admissions, that “ they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ; neither are any other redeemed by Christ but the elect only. That Christ did in due time die for their sins; and by his obedience and death fully discharge their debt, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to his Father's justice in their behalf” exclusively.
Mr. Spring himself has, thus, furnished the means of testing the value of "the complete atonement” for which he contends. He has bimself described, upon his boundless map of indefinite atonement, lines which limit all the benefits derived from the death of Christ, within definite boundaries; and he pronounces all that is without these limits, to be ineffectual and unprofitable, vain and worthless. If the elect were exclusively the objects of redeeming grace, then there is no redemption for others. If to the elect alone, it was designed from eternity, to restrict the application of Christ's atonement, then there is no atonement in time for the benefit of others. In his death, we are told, Christ had the elect exclusively in view as his stipulated reward. Did he then die for others without any respect to that reward? We are told, however, that he made atonement for all mankind; and also told that it is adequate, full, and complete ; and yet we are told that, beyond the limits of the covenant, beyond the limits of election, it is without a drop of mercy, without a spark of grace, ineffectual and vain. It will naturally occur to the reader to ask, for what purpose does Mr. Spring contend for a universal atonement, which he declares to be complete, and proves to be
nugatory ? Cui bono ? The inquiry is reasonable. Is it for the purpose of glorifying God in the salvation of the elect? No. The redemption of the elect accomplishes that object. Is it for the glory of God in the condemnation of sinners ? No. Christ died that sinners might live : and the flames of Tophet ascend from the burning pile to the glory of punitive justice. For what purpose then, is the doctrine of indefinite atonement invented ? In order to afford encouragement to ministers to preach the gospel to all ? in order to encourage desponding Christians to pray? in order to encourage sinners to repentance or to faith in Jesus Christ? The preacher himself declares, most positively, that it is not. Hear his words, already quoted, referring to the doctrine, not of universal atonement, but of election, for all this encouragement—"this glorious truth-that gives ministers all their encouragement to preach, Christians all their encouragement to pray, and sinners all their encouragement to repent and believe the gospel."
Whatever, however, may be the design of urging so vague and vain an idea of atonement for sin, we are apprehensive the effect will be a bad one. Of all the various opinions, which have obtained in the Christian world, relative to the object of Christ's humiliation unto death, that which treats his atonement as indefinite, appears to us as calculated to lead most directly to the bold infidelity that entirely denies all atonement for sin. The doctrine of Universalists represents the death of Christ as effecting the salvation of all mankind. The doctrine of Arminians represents the sufferings of the Son of God as partly delivering men from their original sin and inability, to a certain degree of guiltlessness and power. The doctrine of the Bible represents the blood of Christ as actually purchasing the Church of God; but the indefinite atonement represents this precious blood of the everlasting covenant as effecting nothing at all for any individual of the human race. Upon the principle of such atonement, we entirely coincide with Mr. Spring, that “Christ is dead in vain,” as much as upon the principle to which the apostle Paul referred, when he uttered that expression as much as upon the principle,
that justification or “righteousness comes by the law." Between an atonement which is altogether vain in itself, and no atonement at all, we are not aware of any important difference. The effect of such representations, upon the minds of mere reasoners, cannot fail to be a belief in the opinion, that the atonement is figurative, and, in reality, nothing.
2. We will, now, make some extracts from the Sermon, in order to show, that the author does not take sufficient pains to express his ideas with due precision. From whatever cause, however, it may come to pass, that an orator is led to speak evasively upon any subject, we must always express our disa approbation of every instance, in which is introduced into the pulpit that figure of speech which is called the double entendre, as utterly unbecoming those who are appointed to declare plainly the whole counsel of God. We deeply regret that it so often occurs in the Sermon before us, and we would hope that it was undesigned. For examples, we might quote from many passages; but we confine our remarks to the first part of Head I. In this part of the Discourse, precision was peculiarly necessary, seeing that the preacher's avowed desigu is to separate, from the doctrine of election, ideas “foreign to the subject.” Of these, he enumerates five: and on each, he gives a little dissertation under a title printed in Italics. We follow him in order.
1. ' It is no part of the doctrine of election that God created a part of mankind merely to damn them.'
This, however, is not the proposition which the preacher discusses. Indeed, there was no need of discussion; for every man will admit that damnation is no part of election to eternal life. Mr. Spring's real object is to show, that the doctrine itself, " that God created a part of mankind merely to damn them," is not true. By playing too, upon the word merely, he does injustice to the cause of truth, and leaves the objection, which he would seem to obviate, in all its force: for the objection is not, that God created some men merely, but at all, in order to damn them.