Archive for the ‘The Distinction Between Atonement and Redemption’ Category


II. The Atonement of Christ.–From the fallen, depraved, and lost condition of man, arises the necessity of some method or plan, by which he can be cleansed from his pollution, and saved from the awful consequences of his guilt. He has violated the law, and incurred the displeasure of his Maker, and he must die. The decree has gone forth in righteousness and must be executed, unless justice can be satisfied, and God’s holy character vindicated. How can this be accomplished? Who will make satisfaction?  Will angels? If they would, they could not. They are created and accountable intelligences, required themselves, to love and serve their Great Creator, with all their power, and have, therefore, no surplusage of merit to bestow upon man.

“Call a bright council in the skies;
Seraphs, the mighty and the wise,
Speak, are you strong to bear the load,
The weighty vengeance of a God?
In vain we ask, for all around,
Stand silent through the heav’nly ground:
There’s not a glorious mind above,
Has half the strength, or half the love.”

Human reason can discover no way of escape for the sinner;  but infinite wisdom and goodness devised, and executed a scheme, in all respects suited to the occasion. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him ,would not perish, but have everlasting life.” Christ, the anointed, so pitied our condition, that he condescended to leave heaven, assume human nature, obey the law, and die to make atonement for our sins. The original Hebrew word for atonement, it is said, signifies covering, and which was early and aptly typified by the clothing or covering, which God provided for Adam and Eve after their fall, from the skins of beasts. The atonement signifies that satisfaction, or expiation, which was made to divine Justice, by the sacrifice of Christ, commencing with his birth, and ending with his tragical death upon the cross. This sacrifice, or atonement, was exhibited in the various sin offerings made under the Mosaic dispensation; hence, says the Apostle, “Christ was made sin.” (or a sin offering) “for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” The atonement of Christ and the redemption of sinners, though often used synonymously, should not be confounded. There is more than a shade’s difference between them. They stand related to each other as cause and effect; the atonement having reference to God, as its object, and redemption to man. Atonement is the price paid for our redemption. “He was wounded,” says the Psalmist “for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our ‘peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” And thus sang also the four and twenty elders that John saw fall down, before the Lamb. “Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof, for thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and nation.”[ Rev. v: 9.] Atonement conveys the idea of expiation or satisfaction for sin; redemption of pardon and deliverance from punishment. “In whom we nave redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace.”–[Ephe. i: 7.].

Long, and violent, and we may add, unprofitable, has been the controversy among polemical divines, as to the extent of the atonement; some contending that the covering or propitiation thus provided, extended to the whole human family; and others, that It was limited to a definite number called the Elect; and that, Christ suffered just so much, and no more, with mathematical precision, as would atone for their sins only. May we not venture the remark, that the atonement is really both general and limited, as we may have reference in the expression to the particular application of our language. In regard to its sufficiency, it knows no limit: its provisions are adequate to the wants of every human being, and would all accept its provisions, the claims of eternal justice would be fully met, and satisfied. But that in its application, it really does cover the sins of all mankind, and thus screen them from punishment, is not true. Its benefits are limited to those who believe and obey the Gospel. Keeping up the distinction before made between the atonement and redemption, we conclude that the atonement, in its true signification is unlimited, being a provision for sinners generally; but that redemption can apply only to those who by faith embrace the Gospel scheme of salvation. In short, by this doctrine, we understand, that the cross of Christ furnishes ample satisfaction to the requirements of Divine justice, without the adventitious aid of human merit, whether in the form of obedience, penance or purgatory. As the result of the whole, therefore, we conclude, that as ministers of the Gospel, we should have no scruples whatever in inviting and urging all men, every where, to come and partake of the gracious provisions of mercy. relying at the same time upon the Holy Spirit to accompany the word and make it effectual in them that believe.

Addison Hall, “Christian Steadfastness,” The Baptist Preacher 3 (1844) : 201-203. [Some minor reformatting and underlining mine.]


In modern technology (which I approve) they only are said to be redeemed who are actually accepted in Christ: for all, atonement is made; to all, is it offered; the Spirit striving through the truth as extensively, as the sufficiency and applicability of the atonement are extensive. Still, to accept the offer and correspond with the offerer, is, in the very nature of things, the only way to be saved. Are all men saved? Yes–if all repent and believe the gospel! Do they this? He that believes men are saved in sin, or that all men renounce it, must have very strong faith! We however do not believe that the atonement was INDEFINITE in the sense of the Remonstrants of Holland or any other Arminians. God had a design in making it, which no event should frustrate. Christ eternally designed the salvation of the elect; and for these, in this sense exclusively, he gave his precious life. But this makes not the atonement less full, or alters its nature at all. When THE ELECT are all brought to piety and heavens by supposition, the OTHERS–whoever they are–have just as good an opportunity every way to realize the same blessedness, as all the world have on the theory that denies election. Election is one thing, atonement another. Election is all gain and no loss–and the reverse precisely is true of the error that denies election. See John, 6: 36-40, 44, 65. 10: 11, 15, 26-30. 17 : 2. Eph. 5: 25-27. Rev. 17: 8. Matt. 25: 34. Rom. 9: 29.

Samuel H. Cox, Quakerism Not Christianity: Or, Reasons for Renouncing The Doctrine of Friends (New York: Printed by D. Fanshaw, 1833), 666-667.


I add only the following quotations from the excellent Scott:-

It seems to be the decided opinion of his Lordship, (Bishop of Lincoln,) that the evangelical clergy, especially such of them as believe the doctrine of personal election, hold what is called particular redemption, whereas very few of them adopt it. The author of these remarks, (himself), urged by local circumstances rather than by choice, above twenty-four years since, avowed his dissent from the doctrine of particular redemption, as held by many professed Calvinists, especially among the Dissenters.

It is to be regretted that Mr. Scott used the term redemption here. He evidently regarded it as identical with atonement. This is not the case, however. Redemption is the effect of atonement. It is the actual deliverance of its subject from condemnation, sin, and misery, on the ground of the atonement-or the price of redemption paid by the Son of God. Redemption, therefore, must be particular; or, we must admit the unscriptural doctrine of universal salvation. This is, however, only a mistake as to phraseology, That Mr. Scott understood redemption in the sense of atonement, is manifest from the following passage:–

The infinite value and sufficiency of the atonement made by the death of Him who was God and Man in one mysterious person; the way in which the Scripture calls on sinners, without distinction, to believe in Christ; and every circumstance respecting Redemption, shows it to be a general benefit, from which none will be excluded, except through unbelief (Reply, &c., pp. 447,448.)

George Payne, Lectures on Divine Sovereignty, Election, the Atonement, Justification, and Regeneration (London: James Dinnis, 62, Paternoster Row, 1838), 222.


In denying that it was in itself efficacious, it was meant to affirm that the atonement was something which could be contemplated apart from the purpose to apply it; that it had a dignity and value which could not be adequately measured by its actual application; that it was in its nature applicable t1o any number of men; that if God had chosen to apply it to all the world, or to have greatly increased the number of the elect, the Redeemer would not have been required. to increase, renew, or prolong his sufferings. Its actual application to man was supposed to be the result of th good pleasure of God. It was supposed that there was a covenant transaction between the Father and the Son, assuring him that he should see of the travail of his soul and should be satisfied, and that his people should be willing in the day of his power. It was not supposed that the exact amount of this number was fixed by the nature of the atonement, but depended on the mercy and promise of God.

To the Redeemer’s sufferings and death contemplated apart from the actual purpose to apply His merits, I chose, in accordance with many writers, to apply the word atonement. The actual application of his work, I supposed might be appropriately expressed by the word redemption. It was not thought that this was a departure from Scripture usage. The word atonement occurs but once, as applicable to the death of Christ in the New Testament; the word redemption often, and this latter word it is supposed always with reference to the purpose to apply it. It did not seem then to be a gross violation of Scripture usage, to describe by the word atonement a thing which may and must be contemplated–the highest and best gift of God–the sufferer, the bleeding victim, the atoning sacrifice; still less can it be seen how this usage can be construed into an offence against the Confession of Faith. In all our standards of doctrine the word atonement never occurs. Nor is it the purpose of the standards to describe the thing which I wished to express by the word–the original independent applicability of the sufferings of Christ. The Confession of Faith states only its application. For that it uses the word redemption. It affirms of that, that it is limited, and was intended to be limited. That the Sermon never denied–and by what rule the Protestants have arraigned me, for using a word not in the Confession of Faith, and in a sense in which I chose to use it in accordance with the best writers; and used in describing a thing which the Confession does not profess to describe, but which it in no instance denies; how this can be a grave offence against our standards does not appear., If this is the measure by which justice is to be meted out every where, it will not be difficult to find crimes under the most orthodox exterior, and heresy, where any order of men may have an insatiable thirst to find it.

Albert Barnes, The Way of Salvation: A Sermon, Delivered at Morristown New Jersey, Together with Mr Barnes Defence of the Sermon, 7th ed. (New York: Leavitt, Lord & Co, 1836), 67-69. [Italics original; footnote mine; and underlining mine.] [Credit to Jim Beale for the heads up on Barnes.]


1The intent here is to further document the 19th century distinction and separation between atonement and redemption. One does not have to agree with, or identify with Barnes’ overall theology.


1) The Priestly Office of Christ is that office in both natures whereby He makes an atonement. In the same priestly office and in virtue of his atoning work his Intercession is maintained. Intercession belongs to Christ as priest: it includes his constant application of his sacrifice; or, generally, all his agency in redeeming mankind, in his glorified state. Of the two parts of Christ’s work as Priest Atonement and Intercession we speak here only of The Atonement.

I. Usage of the word, and of certain terms which cluster about it.

1. Of the terms Redemption and Atonement. Redemption implies the complete deliverance from the penalty, power, and all the consequences of sin: Atonement is used in the sense of the sacrificial work, whereby the redemption from the condemning power of the law was insured.

2. Of the terms Reconciliation and Atonement. Reconciliation sets forth what is to be done: Atonement, in its current theological sense, likewise involves the idea of the way, the mode, in which the reconciliation is effected that is, by a sacrifice for sin. Henry B. Smith, System of Christian Theology, 2nd ed., (New York: A.C. Armstrong and Son, 1884), 437. [Some reformatting; italics original; footnotes not included and underlining mine.]

2) [T]he truth of General Atonement says: The Atonement made by Christ is made for all mankind, is such in nature and design, that God can save all men, consistently with the demands of holiness, on condition of faith and repentance.

1. The distinction is to be made between Atonement and Redemption. Atonement is the provision.  Henry B. Smith, System of Christian Theology, 2nd ed., (New York: A.C. Armstrong and Son, 1884), 478. [Some reformatting and underlining mine.]

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