(From the NEW PARK STREET PULPIT, Volume IV. pages 70, 71).
Edited THE SWORD AND TROWEL; Author of THE TREASURY OF DAVID; AN EXPOSITION OF MATTHEW; THE SOUL WINNER; MORNING AND EVENING; LECTURES TO MY STUDENTS; numerous other works.
There are in the world many theories of atonement; but I can not see any atonement in anyone, except in this doctrine of substitution. Many divines say that Christ did something when He died that enabled God to be just, and yet the Justifier of the ungodly. What that something is they do not tell us. They believe in an atonement made for everybody; but then, their atonement is just this: They believe that Judas was atoned for just as much as Peter; they believe that the damned in Hell were as much an object of Jesus Christ's satisfaction as the saved in Heaven; and though they do not say it in proper words, yet they must mean it, for it is a fair inference, that in the case of multitudes, Christ died in vain, for He died for them all, they say; and yet so ineffectual was His dying for them, that though He died for them they are damned afterward.
Now, such an atonement I despise I reject it. I may be called Antinomian or Calvinist for preaching a limited atonement; but I would rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than a universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of man be joined with it.
Why, my brethren, it we were only so far atoned for by the death of Christ that any of us might afterward save himself, Christ's atonement were not worth a farthing, for there is no man of us who can save himself no, not under the gospel; for if I am to be saved by faith, if that faith is to be my own act, unassisted by the Holy Spirit, I am as unable to save myself by faith as to save myself by good works. And after all, though men call this a limited atonement, it is as effectual as their own fallacious and rotten redemptions can pretend to be.
But do you know the limit of it? Christ hath bought a "multitude that no man can number." The limit of it is just this: He hath died for sinners; whoever in this congregation inwardly and sorrowfully knows himself to be a sinner, Christ died for him; whoever seeks Christ, shall know Christ died for him; for our sense of need of Christ, and our seeking after Christ, are infallible proofs that Christ died for us. And mark, here is something Substantial.
The Arminian says Christ died for him; and then, poor man, he has but small consolation therefrom, for he says, "Ah! Christ died for me; that does not prove much. It only proves I may be saved if I mind what I am after. I may perhaps forget myself; I may run into sin and I may perish. Christ has done a good deal for me, but not quite enough, unless I do something."
But the man who receives the Bible as it is, he says, "Christ died for me, then my eternal life is sure. I know," says he, "Christ can not be punished in a man's stead, and the man be punished afterwards."
"No," says he, "I believe in a just God, and if God be just, He will not punish Christ first, and then punish men afterwards. No, my Saviour died, and now I am free from every demand of God's vengeance, and I can walk through this world secure; no thunderbolt can smite me, and I can die absolutely certain that for me there is no flame of Hell, and no pit digged; for Christ, my ransom, suffered in my stead, and, therefore, am I completely delivered. Oh! glorious doctrine! I would wish to die preaching it! What better testimony can we bear to the love and faithfulness of God than the testimony of a substitution eminently satisfactory for all them that believe on Christ?"
I will here quote the testimony of that pre-eminently profound divine, John Owen:
"Redemption is the freeing of a man from misery by the intervention of a ransom. Now, when a ransom is paid for the liberty of a prisoner, does not justice demand that he should have and enjoy the liberty so purchased for him by a valuable consideration? If I should pay a thousand pounds for a man's deliverance from bondage to him that retains him, who hath power to set him free, and is contented with the price I give, were it not injurious to me and the poor prisoner that his deliverance be not accomplished? Can it possibly be conceived that there should be a redemption of men, and those men not redeemed? That a price should be paid and the ransom not consummated?
"Yet all this must be made true, and innumerable other absurdities, if universal redemption be asserted. A price is paid for all, yet few delivered; the redemption of all consummated, yet few of them redeemed, the judge satisfied, the jailer conquered, and yet the prisoners inthralled! Doubtless 'universal, and 'redemption' where the greatest part of men perish, are as irreconcilable as 'Roman' and 'Catholic.'
"If there be a universal redemption of all, then all men are redeemed. If they are redeemed, then are they delivered from all misery, virtually or actually, whereunto they were inthralled, and that by the intervention of a ransom. Why, then, are not all saved? In a word, the redemption wrought by Christ being the full deliverance of the persons redeemed from all misery, wherein they were inwrapped, by the price of His blood, it can not possibly be conceived to be universal unless all be saved: so that the opinion of the Universalists is unsuitable to redemption."
In the "Great Carrollton Debate," between J. R. Graves and Jacob Ditzler (Methodist), held at Carrollton, Missouri in 1875. Graves made the following remarks in his defense of the doctrine of Eternal Security:
"He (Christ) did not contract for the lost angels, nor for all men. He only took hold of the 'seed of Abraham,' not of Adam.
"If He had taken hold of the nature of the lost angels, they would all have been saved. If of the seed of Adam, all men would have been saved, and Universalism would have been the true doctrine. But he contracted as surety. Mediator, only for 'the seed of Abraham' the elect of mankind.
"I know this is death to Arminianism, the natural religion of all natural men. They want to believe that they elect themselves, and then Christ takes them into His Covenant. The Christian's will has been subdued to the will of God, and he is willing for God to be an absolute sovereign and in his own experience he knows it, if a Christian, and if not, he doesn't know it, and dislikes to receive it. We were made to love God because He first loved us. We elected or chose Him, because He first elected or chose us." (page 1136).
" 'It was owing to God's Sovereign love,' says an Evangelical writer, 'and mere good pleasure, that the elect, the seed of Abraham, and not others in the same condemnation, by the fealty of the first Covenant, were represented and contracted for by Jesus Christ in the second, that their names were put in the eternal contract, while those of angels and others were left out. They were the father's choice, and that was enough for Christ, and should be enough for us'. 'Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. "
"Infidels may wrest this hard doctrine, more fully developed by Paul than any other Apostle, to their own destruction, but a host of the best and clearest minds that have ever lived on earth have advocated it as Augustine, Calvin, etc., and Knox, Henry and it is crystalized in the creeds of Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, as well as Baptists. We see here no universal Atonement or Redemption." (page 1138).
Edited THE TENNESSEE BAPTIST: Wrote JOHN'S BAPTISM; SEVEN DISPENSATIONS; many other works.
(The following excerpts from SEVEN DISPENSATIONS. Chapter VII).
"If His atonement was limited, and to Adam's race only, did it include all or only a part of the human family? All denominations, with the above exception (Universalists) hold and teach that only a part, and comparatively a small part, of Adam's race will be saved; and if not, then must it not be because they were not included in the Covenant of Redemption, and given to Christ to save?"
"It is quite impossible to bring an unprejudiced, mind and a balanced reason to the examination of these questions. All Bible readers have taken position; and the verdict of the world is made up: and how difficult to reverse or modify it. They involve the sovereignty of God in the bestowment of His favors. All men are by nature Arminians; and the absolute sovereignty of God is a doctrine hateful to the natural and depraved heart. False teachers have taken the advantage of this natural feeling, and have for ages inflamed the prejudices of Christian men and women against any exercise of sovereignty on the part of God in this Covenant, either as to His determinate counsels,' His electing love, or His distinguishing grace. They presumptuously and impiously assert, that, unless God extended the same grace to all the lost that He did to those who are saved, He is justly chargeable with partiality and injustice, and, if He saw fit, in the dispensation of His grace, when none would, if left to themselves, accept or desire it, and, indeed, all have rejected it to so influence the wills of some that they would seek His grace, He is guilty of forcing some men to be saved, and others to be lost. But we know that the Omniscient God is incapable of doing wrong; and if it plainly revealed that He passed by all the fallen angels, who will charge Him with sin or wrong had He passed by all of Adam's race? How, then, can He be charged with injustice, if He saw fit to save a portion of it?"
"Now, will not, must not, all unprejudiced Bible-reading Christians agree to the following propositions?
"1. That the Son undertook and will save all that the Father, in the Covenant of Redemption, gave Him to save.
"2. Since all are not saved, as all evangelical Christians admit, we must conclude that all were not given to the Son.
"3. That the Father, in the Covenant of Redemption, gave some of Adam's race to His Son to be redeemed.
"Christ is pleased to allude to Himself as the Shepherd of Israel, chosen by the Father the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for His sheep, i.e., those the Father gave Him to redeem from among men. The shepherds of Palestine, as well as those of England and Scotland in our day, have the sheep counted out to them in the spring; and for the safety of these they become personally responsible: so that in the fall, when they are returned, they are counted back and they are compelled to pay for all they lose. The loss of a part of the flock is an implication of unfaithfulness or lack of ability on the part of the shepherd."
"Christ magnifies His office of Shepherd; He is faithful and true; He is omnipotent; no one is able to pluck the least lamb of the flock out of His hands. His sheep are those His Father gave to Him in the Covenant of Redemption. All these Christ, from the beginning, knew (John 6:64); and all these Will believe on Him, and come to Him; nor come unto Him, discover from this that they are, at least, not His sheep."
'"Then of this we may be confident all given to the Son by the Father will certainly come to Him and be saved."
"We must admit that not all of Adam's race were given by the Father to the Son to be saved, else all will be saved, as the Universal redemptionists falsely teach."
"Christ took hold of a special class, and a definite number, known by the Father, to succor and to save, and whom He calls the 'Seed of Abraham, 'His Seed;' 'His Sheep;' 'The lost sheep of the house of Israel.' To save none others was He specially sent into the world. 'I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'" (Matt. 15:24).
"Those He foreknew He gave to His Son to save; and these Christ received, and is said to have written their very names in His Book of Life from the foundation of the world. (Rev. 13:8). These, given to Him by the Father, whose names He has written in His Book of Life, He also, as their High-priest, bears upon His shoulders, and upon His breastplate, as Aaron did the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, whom God, in Covenant, gave His Son. Various are the designations given these in the Scriptures: 'The Seed of the woman;' 'the seed of Abraham;' 'the Elect of God;' 'the Election;' 'Israel;' 'the seed of Jacob;' 'my People;' 'my Sheep,' when Christ is referred to as Shepherd; the Lamb's Wife;' 'Peculiar People;' 'Holy Nation.'
"These are those Christ represents in the Covenant of Redemption; for whom He died; for whom He intercedes, and will intercede: and His atoning work will go on until the last one shall have received the blessing of His atonement; and His work will not be finished until a whole world of sinners will be saved. We do not mean until all who are now living, or who have ever lived on this earth, will be saved, but until enough have been redeemed to re-people this entire earth when it shall have been redeemed a new heaven (Rom. 8; Rev. 22).
"The most unyielding Arminian must admit that the Omniscient Father foreknew, from the beginning; each man and woman, and therefore the entire number that would come to His Son and be saved; for 'the foundation of the Lord standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his;' and 'known unto God are all his works (and this must be true of His plans) from the beginning of the world.' But those of the race the Father gave to Christ, while known to Him, are unknown to me, and Christ, as Saviour, therefore is freely offered to all to whom the gospel is preached or the Bible sent."
"If any are saved, it must be because God, in the exercise of His sovereignty, willed, i.e. determined that some should be saved; and these He quickens from their death in trespasses and sins and gives to them repentance and the remission of sins. The Brazen Serpent was uplifted on the pole in the very midst of the camp, and the proclamation of life for a look was made, and urged upon all; and yet doubtless thousands died within sight of it through willful unbelief as sinners do now, with salvation's offer in their ears, and the Cross before their eyes.
" 'Who gave himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time' (I Tim. 2:6), should be interpreted by Christ's own words: 'Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.' (Matt. 20:28). And when Christ said, 'If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me' (John 12:32), He certainly did not mean every sinner of Adam's race; for it would be notoriously untrue: He meant all conditions and races of men, and, savingly, only all men given Him by the Father. Is not this His explanation of the phrase 'all whom the Father giveth me shall come unto me?' These are the 'all' from whom He gave himself a ransom to be testified in due time."
"It was for the 'all men' given by the Father that Christ savingly died; and it was for their justification He rose from the dead; and it was for these alone He prayed on earth, and intercedes in heaven.
"It must therefore be admitted that, if the Father had given all men to His Son, in the sense He did some men, then all men would come to Christ for salvation: but all do not come comparatively few do come; and these would not, unless graciously drawn to Christ by the Father. (John 6:44)."
"The Arminian, we know, will, plant the batteries of his rebellion against the sovereignty of God in man's salvation, as expressed in his prayer, and presumptuously charge his Creator with partiality and thus dealing with man, but he will effect no more than to discover the unsubdued rebellion of his own heart to the government of God. Why does he not charge God with partiality and sin in passing by the lost angels, and taking hold of men instead, an inferior order of beings? Why will not these Arminian professors charge God with the sin of partiality in not creating all men equal constitutionally and intellectually? Why in not offering to all nations, and all men in every nation, the same gospel advantages? God is as chargeable with sin, or blame, in the one case as in the other. We have no controversy with a sovereign God. Rom. 9:14-26."
Author of BAPTISM IN ITS MODE AND SUBJECTS; HISTORY OF PROVIDENCE; THE ATONEMENT and other works.
(The following from LIFE AND WRITINGS OF CARSON, Volume II. pages 159-163).
In the reading of the Scriptures nothing strikes us more forcibly than the sovereignty of Jehovah. Almighty power is, without doubt, in all things exercised in wisdom and justice. But the ways of God are too deep for us; we cannot fathom them. He gives no account of His matters; and in innumerable instances His conduct is not only utterly beyond the grasp of our conception, but is the very reverse of what we would expect. Every page of Scripture is written with this impression deeply marked on it. The book of God is everywhere stamped with the seal of sovereignty.
This is the more striking, as there is nothing more displeasing to the mind of man. The fanatic is still bolder than the philosopher in blaspheming this attribute; and the sanctified raver, with the boldness of an infuriated demon, will dare to denounce, as an Almighty tyrant, the Lord God who reveals himself the Sovereign Jehovah. Audacious man prescribes measures to Omnipotence, and will not trust sovereignty even to God. There is no degree of force which he will not employ to banish it from the Scriptures.
The God of the Scriptures stoops not to satisfy his impertinent demands. He speaks as a sovereign, and deigns not to smooth the way to the reception of His testimony by removing difficulties to faith; but in almost everything that He teaches, He leaves something to manifest disaffection where it exists. There is not a doctrine in Scripture which perverse ingenuity has not found something at which to cavil, in the manner of its exhibition in the words of the Holy Spirit. No man would have written, if left to his own wisdom, as God has written, the Bible. The style of it is indeed truly in wisdom, but it is in sovereign wisdom." It strikes continually at the pride of man. God sends the message of mercy in such a way that many cry out that they will rather expose themselves to his wrath than receive such a forgiveness.
Even the rejection of revelation will not relieve from the evidence of the sovereignty of God. The ways of the God of Providence are in sovereignty as well as those of the God of the Bible. It is impossible to deny sovereignty, consistently with the admission of perfect power and wisdom in the Ruler of the world.
That misery exists is a fact that cannot be denied, whatever account the vanity of human wisdom may be inclined to give of its origin. Why did an Almighty, All-wise God permit sin and misery to enter? Human wisdom, or folly, has always been employed in giving an answer to this question. But it will always remain unanswered. The human faculties cannot grapple with the subject. It must be left with divine sovereignty. How the existence of sin and misery is consistent with omnipotence, wisdom, goodness, etc., the intellect of man cannot perceive.
The sovereignty of God is most illustriously displayed in the gospel. It meets us at the very threshold, in the fact that Christ interposed for man and not for fallen angels. Why did he not rather take on Him the recovery of the superior nature? Why did He not save both? To ask such question? with the impression that an answer is either necessary or possible for man, is most audacious arrogance. Can human ingenuity find out what God has concealed? We know nothing about redemption but what God has revealed. No absurdity can be greater, than in the matter of redemption to go beyond revelation.
In the redemption of sinners, sovereignty offends human wisdom with respect to its extent. Why are not all men actually saved from hell? Acres of paper have been wasted in attempting to account for this, independently of the divine sovereignty. Men may attempt to impose on themselves with words. But after considering everything that human wisdom can allege, have we got an answer which enables us to acquiesce with satisfaction in the eternal misery of either angels or men? We have no relief but by unreserved acquiescing in the sovereignty of God.
The sovereignty of God is so offensive to the proud heart of man, that every expedient of artifice has been employed to banish it from the Bible. But no expedient has ever succeeded no expedient ever will succeed. The sovereignty of Jehovah meets us in every page of the Bible.
Nothing more strongly shows the enmity of the human heart to this part of the divine character than the forced attempts of learning and ingenuity to expel it from the ninth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. Every engine of torture has been employed to make the apostle retract, prevaricate, or soften. But all in vain. The obstinate witness, after every sinew is cracked, after every joint is dislocated, still cries:
"Sovereignty, sovereignty, not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God who showeth mercy."
Even the Christian, if he will listen to his own wisdom, will not admire this feature in the divine countenance, and will not be indisposed to throw it into the shade. He will talk like a sage, in the language of science, and adopt as an improvement the criticism that makes God less hateful in the wisdom of man. But after all that human ingenuity can allege, the only reason that keeps any man from seeing a sovereign God in this chapter is that he does not like a sovereign God.
The sovereignty of God is seen in the substitution of Christ to bear the curse of the law in the room of his people. Sin is often represented in Scripture as debt. The representation is true, but it does not give the full character of sin. Sin must be viewed as crime as well as debt. In the payment of a debt justice can make no difference, whether it comes from the debtor, or from any other who is willing to advance it. Justice cannot refuse to accept payment from any substitute.
But it is not so with crime. The sheriff could not execute another who should present himself in the room of the prisoner. An absolute sovereign might in His sovereignty accept such substitution. God, then, in accepting the substitution of Christ, acts in sovereignty, and provides what the law has not provided. Had it been possible for man to have presented a substitute able to make atonement for transgression, God might have rejected him. The law under which man was made knows nothing of fulfillment by substitution. The acceptance of Christ as our substitute is in sovereignty. "This," says God, "is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Here is a declaration of the Father's acceptance of the Son in the room of the guilty.
There is sovereignty not only in God's choice of His people, there is sovereignty also in His conduct toward them. Even to them He gives no account of His matters. One He places in affluence, another in poverty; to one He gives much knowledge, to others very little; to some He gives health, others have scarcely a day free from pain. They all have troubles, but some have troubles beyond others. Sometimes He continues the least distinguished of them to the utmost term of human life, while the most talented are cut off in the midst of a glorious career of usefulness.
In ten thousand ways the Lord shows His dealings with His people to be in sovereignty as well as in mercy. They must not presume to question His comparative treatment of them. That He does all things well, they must believe on His own testimony.