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made atonement only for the elect. For if Christ merited salvation for all for whom he died, then God is obliged, in point of justice, to save all for whom he died; and if he died for all, then he is equally bound, in point of justice, to save the whole human race. This is a just and conclusive way of arguing; and therefore many who argue in this way, justly conclude that Christ died only for the elect, because they suppose that only the elect will be saved. Those who call themselves very strict and genuine Calvinists, have long maintained that Christ died and merited salvation only for the elect. It must be allowed that they draw a just conclusion from their premises, and have good ground to maintain their darling doctrine of a limited atonement. But how they can reconcile the universal offers in the gospel of salvation to sinners with their notion of particular redemption, it is not easy to see.
Another error to which the phrase, the merits of Christ, leads, is the false notion of imputed guilt and imputed righteousness. Those who hold that Christ literally purchased, bought, ransomed and redeemed mankind by his obedience and death, suppose that his sufferings are imputed to believers for their pardon, and his obedience is imputed to them for their justification, or title to eternal life. This is the same as to suppose that Christ's sufferings and obedience are transferred to believers, and become their sufferings and obedience, which is absurd.
Nor is this all; the phrase, the merits of Christ, leads many professed Calvinists into the gross error of Antinomianism, or ihe doctrine of an appropriating faith. Many who believe that Christ merited salvation for the elect only, suppose that saving faith essentially consists in a person's believing that Christ died and merited salvation for him in particular, and that the merits of his death and obedience have been imputed to him, and have released him, in point of justice, from the wrath to come, and entitled him to eternal life.
The phrase, the merits of Christ, leads some to deny that God offers salvation to all men without distinction or limitation. As they suppose that Christ merited salvation only for the elect, so they naturally suppose that God offers salvation to none but the elect. But the plain truth of fact is, that God does offer salvation to all ages, classes and characters of men; which proves that Christ did not merit salvation any more for the elect than for the non-elect, nor indeed for any of mankind. If Christ merited salvation for the elect, then it is absurd to suppose that he offers salvation to them upon the terms of repentance and faith; or if Christ merited salvation for all men, it is absurd to suppose that he offers salvation upon any terms
whatever; for justice requires him to save all, whether they comply or do not comply with any terms proposed in the gospel. It is not strange, therefore, that the phrase, the merits of Christ, has actually led men to irnagine that all mankind will finally be saved. The scripture plainly declares that Christ did suffer and die for all mankind; and if his sufferings and death did merit salvation for all men, it necessarily follows that all men must be saved. If men would only understand, as they ought, what the scripture says concerning Christ's purchasing, buying, ransoming and redeeming mankind by his sufferings and death in a figurative, and not in a literal sense, they would clearly see that there is no foundation in scripture for the phrase, the merits of Christ, and of course that there is no foundation in scripture for the doctrine of a limited atonement, or for the doctrine of an appropriating faith, or for the doctrine of universal salvation. The phrase, the merits of Christ, which is such a fruitful source of errors and absurdities, ought to be entirely laid aside.
2. Jf what Christ did and suffered for sinners did not merit salvation for them, then the doctrine of justification through faith in Christ is perfectly consistent with full atonement for sin. Some imagine that the free grace of God, in converting and pardoning sinners, cannot be reconciled with the full atonement which Christ has made to divine justice, by his vicarious sufferings on the cross. But this supposed difficulty of reconciling these two doctrines arises entirely from a misapprehension of the real nature and design of Christ's atonement. The nature and design of Christ's atonement was merely to display the vindictive justice of God, and not to pay the debt of suffering which sinners had incurred by their transgressions of his holy law. Consequently, God displays the same free and sovereign grace in the conversion and salvation of sinners through the atonement of Christ, as if no atonement for sin had ever been made. So Paul thought and said in his epistle to the Romans. Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness," or vindictive justice, " for the remission of sins to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." He conveys the same sentiment in similar language in his epistle to the Ephesians. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved,) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kind
ness towards us, through Christ Jesus.” In these passages, the apostle expressly declares that God displays his grace, even the exceeding riches of his grace, in the conversion and justification of sinners, through the blood or atonement of Christ; which amounts to saying that the free grace of God in the pardon of sin is perfectly consistent with a full atonement for it.
Since Christ's obedience was necessary to qualify him to make atonement for sin, we may see why the sacred writers sometimes represent his atonement by his obedience, and sometimes by his death, his blood, his sacrifice, or his sufferings. His obedience was inseparably connected with his death. Hence the apostle said to the Philippians, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Wherefore he says again, “For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." And by the prophet, Christ is called the Lord our righteousness." Though the inspired writers do not always make a distinction between the obedience and sufferings of Christ, yet they let us know that this distinction is always to be understood, by their so often ascribing his atonement to his death, his blood, his sacrifice, or once offering up himself as a lamb without blemish and without spot, for all. The apostle has clearly shown that Christ made atonement for all mankind, not by his obedience, but by his blood, his suffering, his death on the cross.
4. It appears from what Christ did and suffered to make atonement for sin, that God can consistently forgive or justify all penitent believers, entirely on Christ's account; but that he cannot consistently reward them for their sincere obedience, on any other than their own account. Christ suffered and died in the room of sinners, in order to make atonement for their sins, and thereby lay a proper foundation for God to exercise pardoning mercy towards all who repent, and believe the gospel. But he did not obey in the room of sinners, in order that God might consistently reward them for their obedience, after they were pardoned or justified through the atonement of Christ. Though God cannot consistently forgive sin, yet he can consistently reward virtue, without an atonement. All the sincere obedience and good works of believers deserve the divine approbation and gracious reward, solely on account of their intrinsic and moral excellence. True holiness in saints is as really amiable and praise worthy, as is true holiness in angels, or as true holiness in Adam was before he sinned. God may therefore as consistently reward all true believers for their holiness on their own account, as he could have rewarded Adam for his holiness if he had never transgressed, or as he can reward angels for all their holy services in this world, on their own account, or without an atonement. There is a wide difference between rewarding goodness, and pardoning mercy. The inspired writers clearly and repeatedly point out this distinction. They expressly declare that believers are pardoned or justified by free, sovereign grace, through the redemption or atonement of Christ, and that they are rewarded according to their obedience or good works. Those who have clear and just views of the nature and necessity of Christ's atonement, can easily see the propriety and consistency of God's pardoning believers solely on Christ's account, and his rewarding them solely on their own account.
5. Since Christ has done and suffered so much to obtain eternal salvation for believers, they cannot do too much for him. He loved them before they loved him. He died for them while they were dead in trespasses and sins. He sent his Holy Spirit to convince and convert them, and to bring them out of darkness into marvellous light. What he has done and suffered to de. liver them from the condemnation of the law, the power and dominion of sin, and to restore them to the forfeited favor of God, lays them under the tenderest and strongest obligation to consecrate themselves wholly to his service. Hence the apostle,
. speaking in the name of believers, says, “ The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them.” Christ has much for his redeemed ones to do for him, while he is carrying on his great and gracious design in the work of redeeming love in this rebellious world. He employed saints, patriarchs and prophets, in former ages, as instruments of building up his spiritual kingdom; and in later ages he has employed apostles, preachers, and all his real friends, as instruments of promoting the great and good cause which lies nearest to his heart. These his redeemed and purchased servants ought to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of their Redeemer, knowing that their labor shall not be in vain, nor unrewarded. It is especially the duty and privilege of all the ministers of the gospel to feed the sheep and lambs of Christ, whom he hath purchased with his · own blood.
Finally, let all sinners, of every age, character and condition,
be entreated to come to Christ for salvation. He has made complete atonement for you, and removed an obstacle out of your way, which neither you nor any created being could have removed. He sincerely invites you to coine to him, weary and heavy laden and self condemned, and promises to give you pardon, and peace, and rest. The kingdom of heaven is come nigh to you, and life and death are set before you. If you choose life through him who has died for you, you shall live and reign with him for ever; but if you choose death, you will never see life, but the wrath of God will abide upon you both in this world and in the world to come. You must love or hate God; you must love or hate his law; you must love or hate holiness; you must love or hate heaven; you must choose or refuse to be holy and happy for ever; and your choice must fix your eternal state.