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fulfilment of the divine counsel in ourselves can alone give, the excellence of that kingdom ordained in the hands of a Mediator, according to which eternal life in the Son is the Father's free gift. But this direct occupation of our own conscience with the elements of the blood of Christ, and with the nature of the hope in God in which He tasted death for every man, is a source of deep certainty as to the glory of God in our redemption through Christ, which exclusively belongs to the view of the atonement, according to which our trust in it is necessarily fellowship in it—that fellowship a light in which the sure grounds of our trust are ever more and more clearly seen. For this character can only belong to an atonement, whose nature admits of its reproduction in us, so that its elements become matter of consciousness to ourselves.
THAT GOD IS THE FATHER OF OUR SPIRITS, THE ULTIMATE TRUTH ON WHICH FAITH MUST HERE ULTIMATELY REST.
MTHAT natural relation of the atonement to Chris
1 tianity, on which so much weight has now been laid, is the full meeting of a demand which must be more or less felt in any deep realisation of the divine righteousness; the demand which is so far met when those who represent our acceptance with God as turning upon our trust in the merits of Christ's work, are still careful to illustrate the moral tendency of such trust, founding systems of “Christian Ethics” on the atonement; the demand which is recognised when those who regard the actual imputation of Christ's righteousness as what justifies us in the sight of God, are careful to deny the character of justifying faith to any faith that does not sanctify: for Luther alone have we found setting forth the excellent righteousness which is in the faith which justifies viewed in itself. In truth, all care to exclude antinomianism, in whatever way that care is expressed, is an indication of the depth and authority of the feeling which forbids our ascribing to the righteous God any constitution of spiritual and moral government, which does not contemplate results in harmony with the divine righteousness, and which has not its justification in these results. So that, though, in form of thought, a near approach is made to saying, that the great husbandman values the fruitful branch, not because of His delight in the fruit it bears, but because of His delight in the imputed excellence of the vine; still the real feeling of the heart is in harmony with the words of our Lord, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.” But, as these words, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit," indicate, we find that it is only in the light of the relation in which the scheme of redemption stands to the fatherliness of God that the necessity for a natural relation of the atonement to Christianity can be adequately conceived of.
The great and root-distinction of the view of the atonement presented in these pages, is the relation in which our redemption is regarded as standing to the fatherliness of God. In that fatherliness has the atonement been now represented as originating. By that fatherliness has its end been represented to have been determined. To that fatherliness has the demand for the elements of expiation found in it been traced. But the distinction is broad and unmistakeable between simple mercy proposing to save from evils and bestow blessings, and finding it necessary to deal with justice as presenting obstacles to the realisation of its gracious designs,—which conception is that on which the other view of the atonement proceeds; and this of the love of the Father of our spirits going forth after us, His alienated children, lost to Him, dead to Him through sin, and desiring to be able to say of each one of us, “My son was dead and is alive again, He was lost and is found.”
Not, indeed, that supposing the only elements of the divine character concerned in determining the nature of the atonement to have been mercy and righteousness, the conception to which I object, would meet the requirements of these attributes more adequately than that which I offer instead. On the contrary, the moral and spiritual expiation for sin which Christ has made, has dealt with the justice of God, whether con
templated as absolute or as rectoral, in a way infinitely more glorifying to the law of God, and more fitted to open a free channel for mercy to flow in, than an atonement consisting in the endurance of penal sufferings by the Son of God as our substitute, would have done. But while this lower ground is tenable, we should not be justified in coming down from the point of view to which the gospel raises us, to what, while true, is not the ultimate truth revealed. So to do, would be to forget that the gospel, and not the law, affords us full light here; the law being subordinate to the gospel, as our relation to God as our righteous Lord, is subordinate to our relation to Him as the Father of our spirits,
-the original and root-relation, in the light of which alone all God's dealings with us can be understood. How far, indeed, this subordinating of our relation to God as we are the subjects of His righteous rule, to our relation to Him as we are His offspring, is from depreciating that which is subordinated, has, I trust, been made abundantly manifest, seeing that it is the law of the spirit of the life that is in Christ Jesus, that is to say, sonship, in which alone the power is found to accomplish the fulfilment of the righteousness of the law in us, and that our being reconciled to God, whose law we have violated,—the writing of His law on our hearts, so that it becomes to us a law of liberty, is the result of revealing to us our Father in our Lawgiver, and shewing us the law of the Lawgiver in its fountain in the Father's heart.
But while to reveal the Father in the Lawgiver is that which reconciles us to the Lawgiver, the only adequate statement of the high result accomplished, is, that it is reconciliation to the Father, the quickening in us of the life of sonship. However high a conception it is that the “disobedient should be turned to the wis
dom of the just,” that alone is commensurate with the excellence of the salvation granted to us which is conveyed by the words, “ Following God as dear children walking in love."
As to the place now recognised as belonging to the fatherliness of God in the history of our redemption, viz. that it is the ultimate ground for faith, I would add to what I have urged above these two considerations: ist, It is a special glory to God that the fatherliness, which originates our salvation, and determines its nature—that it shall be the life of sonship—is itself that in which the saving power resides. For, as we have seen, the Son of God saves us by a work whose essence and sum is the declaring of the Father's Name. A result so high, accomplished by the power over our spirits found to be in the Name of God,—that is to say in what God is, is manifestly the highest glory to God. No result referable to simple Almightiness could be the same glory. That God should by a miracle change a rebellious child into a loving child, would be no such glory to God, as that the knowledge of the fatherliness rebelled against, should, by virtue of the excellence inherent in that fatherliness, accomplish this result. “We love Him because He first loved us.” The power to quicken love in us is here ascribed to the love with which God regards us, considered simply as love. For it clearly is not the meaning, that, because God loved us, He wrought a miracle of Almighty power to make us love Him. And do we not feel a special glory to accrue to the divine love from this, as the history of our love to God? a special glory which vanishes, whatever other manner of glory may be supposed to remain, the moment the fact of our loving God is resolved into a miracle of Almighty power. 2nd, But not only is this history of our being reconciled to God what is full of CAMPB.