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making in humanity the due moral and spiritual atonement for sin; and this perception, once reached, would have commanded for the truth the assent both of the understanding and the conscience, and would have claimed for it all the varied expressions of Scripture on this subject as what, however they had clothed another conception in men's systems, belonged of right to it, and expressed it—and it alone—naturally and truly.
It would be a suitable and satisfactory sequel to what I have now presented to the reader's attention, to - examine all those portions of Scripture which are most identified in men's minds with the conception of the atonement as penal suffering endured by Christ as our substitute, and shew how much more naturally they express a moral and spiritual atonement, and how they are by the conception of such an atonement filled with light; but I must satisfy myself for the present with what I have incidentally done in this way already. Nor, assuming the view expounded to be truth, can the reader who has fully received it have difficulty in doing this for himself. Of the passages to which I refer, those as to which I would most urge the reader to engage in this task, are those in which the death of Christ is made the measure of the evil of sin; earnestly desiring as I do that His death may be that measure to our spirits, and feeling that it never can be so as God has intended, unless we are understanding our calling to die to sin in the fellowship of His death, unless to us, as to the Apostle, to "win Christ, and be found in Him, not having our own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,”—be identified with “knowing Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death.”
COMPARATIVE COMMENDATION OF THE VIEW NOW TAKEN
OF THE NATURE OF THE ATONEMENT AS TO (1) LIGHT,
M Y conception of the nature of the atonement, and N1 of its relation to the remission of sins and the gift of eternal life, being now before my readers, I might stop here, and leave it to receive that measure of consideration which, in the naked statement of it, it may be felt to claim for itself. If it come with that self-evidencing light to others, with which it has come to me, it will not only commend itself as the truth, but also, by its light, reveal the root of error in any erroneous view which it may find in possession of the mind. Yet I cannot conclude without pointedly directing attention to some of the aspects in which it contrasts with the system with which it will be most compared.
1. Understanding the words, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God,” to be the key to the atonement, and to contemplate that Eternal Will of God, in respect of the nature of which it is true that “God is love;" and that therefore the doing of this will by Christ is to be seen in this, that love was the law of the spirit of the life that was in Him; which took form in its outcomings according to its own nature, and as the path in which the Father led Him gave it development and manifestation,—the conception of the atonement received in tracing the work of redemption, has been full of light.
For, however imperfectly I have executed the high task which I have attempted, I hope it has been felt
that the path in which I have led the reader has been one in which the mind has advanced in conscious light. I do not, of course, mean the light of the conviction that what I have set forth as the atonement, has been the atonement; this has been my own consciousness, and may, I trust, have been that of many of my readers: but I mean a conviction distinct from this, and which, I hope, has been felt even when that further conviction may not have been imparted, viz. the conviction that all the elements of the work of Christ stated, were really present in that work; are seen clearly to have arisen out of the life that was in Him; and are all what, in the light of that life, we can as to their nature understand, though their measure be beyond the grasp of our capacity. For this has been so, whether these elements in the work of Christ do, or do not, constitute its atoning virtue.
Now this is an important point of contrast between what has now been taught, and the conception of the atonement as Christ's being, in respect of the imputation of our sins, the object of the Father's wrath; and So bearing, as our substitute, the punishment of our sins. Whatever light may be recognised in that system as shining from the work of Christ as a whole, the great central fact in it is so represented, as to remain necessarily shrouded in darkness. But what our Lord would feel in bearing our sins as His doing so has now been represented, we can in measure enter into; and that, too, a measure which must enlarge, as the life of Christ progresses in us : while, as to its fulness, as it is our blessedness, in contemplating the work of our redemption, to be occupied with the height, and depth, and breadth, and length of a love which passes knowledge; so is it also to an experience of suffering and self-sacrifice on our behalf, which passes knowledge, that our faith is directed; the measure as the nature of Christ's sufferings being that of the divine love which experienced them.
But the difference is immense, even the difference between light and darkness, between knowing in measure what passeth knowledge, and not knowing at all : and this, and nothing less, is the difference between knowing, as to their nature, the elements of Christ's sufferings, being ourselves called to the fellowship of them, and knowing nothing of their nature at all. And, assuredly, whatever elements of Christ's sufferings are still held to be what we are to understand, and to share in, that special suffering which was proper to the assumed consciousness of having our sin imputed to Him, and its punishment inflicted on Him; that which is represented as the personal sense of the Father's wrath coming out on Him personally,— the wrath of God coming forth on the Son of His love: this is, and must be to us, simply darkness—a horror of darkness, without one ray of light.
The conception that Christ suffered as our substitute -so by His suffering superseding the necessity for our suffering, itself implies that the sufferings of His which such expressions contemplate, must remain in their nature unknown to us; an experience in our Lord's humanity which, though it has been an experience in humanity, we have not been intended to share in: a conception that seems to me improbable in the bare statement of it. For an experience of the Son of God in humanity not within reach of man's vision as partaking in the divine nature, is to me what there is a strong presumption against. How much that deeplymeditating believer in Christ, President Edwards, has ventured to expect in the way of understanding the elements of Christ's sufferings, we have seen above;
while we have also seen how unsuited to his conception of their being penal sufferings, the sufferings which he has specified are, though altogether in accordance with the conception of the atonement now advocated. But all beyond what he has thus specified, which the words “the Father's wrath,” may be expected to suggest, however awful it must be supposed to be, must be felt to remain—necessarily to remain-unconceived of. Men’s minds are indeed accustomed to this darkness as resting upon the central point in the great work of redemption. Yet surely it is a presumption in favour of the view of the atonement now taken, that it makes that central point no longer darkness, but light—the light of the life of Christ concentrated in His death; or rather present in His death, in a fulness which sheds back light on all His life.
2. The life of Christ being the light of life to us, and the atonement being the form of that life, it must needs be light, and not darkness. That which sheds light on all else must needs be light in itself, and be visible in its own light; as we not only see all things by the light of the sun, but also the sun itself. Further, that in the nature of the atonement, which imparts to it this character of light, also imparts that of simplicity and unity.
Although I have found it necessary to consider the work of Christ in the two aspects of a dealing with man on the part of God, and with God on behalf of man; and in the two references of a retrospective relation to the remission of sins, and a prospective relation to the gift of eternal life; I trust the unity and simplicity and natural character of a life has been felt to belong to all that has been thus traced. It is all grace reigning through righteousness unto eternal life. All is in harmony with the purpose, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O