As to the EXTENT of the atonement, we believe that it was for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. Those in general who hold that theological system which is called generically Calvinistic, and who hold it perhaps with equal decision and sincerity in common, though palpably not with equal correctness in degree, are divided here, some holding the fullness of the atonement for all men; others, the limitation of its nature, as atonement, to all the finally saved. The issue is joined–and while human imperfection continues in the church, controversy will not cease to be the consequence. Any thing almost is better than stagnation and a dead calm; just as a living dog is better than a dead lion. Besides, if brethren would–as they could and as they ought–debate honestly and in a manly way, without acerbity or impeaching motives, or personalities of unkindness, why should it be deprecated or avoided? Such are the prejudice, the ignorance, the selfishness, and the indolence of poor human nature, and the miserable and guilty remains of these even in the faithful, that controversy often becomes necessary as the alternative of what is infinitely worse–dereliction of duty, truth, and hope! we therefore contend for the fullness of the atonement, and with full conviction of what the truth is, as well as with liberal and kind feelings, but no .servility or cowardice, towards those who differ from us. Indifference will not do, nor temporizing, nor ambiguity, nor tameness. Christ expects everyone of his ministers to do his duty-and there is no alternative, no succedaneum, no evasion, to be endured. As free, and not using our liberty for A CLOAK OF MALICIOUSNESS, but as the servants of God, let us vindicate the truth, and look to its Great Author for our reward!

The government of God is properly two-fold–moral and providential; the one of duties, the other of events; the one referring to law, to right, to goodness, the other to the economics of the whole; and both ordered with sovereign wisdom and eternal prosperity and glory. In proportion as the partialities of the mind are found to incline more to events than to duties, more to destiny than to accountability, more to our passive than to our active relations, the providential department of God fills the field of vision; and because the event is, that the elect, and they only, are saved, therefore we are apt to think and to favor the theory that the others were in no sense the objects of mediatorial mercy. It suits our wisdom then, to think the atonement as perfectly limited in its nature as it is in its applicationand we say Christ died for the elect alone. On the contrary, those who make room in their minds for the moral in the providential government of God, and see things as they are, find no difficulty, but the glorious reverse, in accrediting the fullness of the atonement.

Reasoning from facts to theories, and not from theories to facts, we ask, what are the revealed facts in the case? Is salvation in fact offered to the elect alone? or to a part, and not to all? to them that are saved only, or to them also that perish? Is there any offer, not on the basis of atonement? Is there any salvation to offer, save that of Christ? Is it not offered to every hearer of the gospel? Is it not commanded to be sped in all the world and to every creature? Are not the neglecters and the rejecters of the gospel, guilty of rejecting or neglecting the great salvation of Christ? Is not this their chief sin, and the allied or antecedent cause of all others? Are they not mainly punished for this crime? Is it not here by way of eminence incomparably the greatest of their offences against God, and so THE condemnation? And if so, then–how much transcendental ingenuity must it require to reconcile these plain facts, with the theory that limits atonement, and all saving provisions in Christ, to the elect alone! Does God offer what has no existence? Or has he another gospel which is not ANOTHER for the non-elect?

The two theories differ also in the order of the divine purposes. The limitarian scheme has it thus apostasy; election; atonement for the elect alone; punish all the others; and accomplish the glorification of the elect. The true plan is–apostasy; the mission and the atonement of Christ for the whole world; the offer universal based on the atonement alone; the universal neglect and practical contempt of it on the part of men; election interposed to influence as many millions to accept it, as may consist with the practicabilities of the divine government in the case; their glorification accomplished; and the punishment of eternal justice executed on the others–mainly for the sin and the treason of rejecting Christ and his salvation offered to them.

But we refer to the volume of Dr. Beman for a discussion better suited to enlighten the reader; merely premising here, that, if the Savior died, designedly and in a way peculiar, positively to save his own elect people, the question still remains, as a matter of revealed fact, did he in no sense die to save others also? Are not others placed by his death in a state or in relations as salvable, that is, in which their salvation is just as practicable, really and absolutely, as were the whole world without such peculiar and positive design? Does saving some through his blood, offered alike to all, prevent the others or any of them, from accepting it to their own salvation? If it includes effectually HIS OWN, does this obstruct the way to others–or shut the ever-open door–or hinder, or other than facilitate and attract, the entrance of the others? Atonement is one thing–the providential design to save definite millions by its means is another. The provision is ample, the remedy sufficient; but it is actually apprehending and accepting it, that makes the essential difference: and if the piety of one is no obstacle, but only a facility to the piety of others, then the executed purpose of Christ, living, dying, rising, and reigning forever, to secure their piety and salvation, who are thus saved, is just the reverse of an obstacle, or prohibition, or exclusion, to others; who perish not because some are saved, but because they exclude themselves! He died indeed for his own peculiarlybut this is not the atonement, and not its limitation. The purpose of God is inclusive of his own, rather than exclusive of others. To urge, or influence some to enter an open door, where all are invited, with equal reality and equal sincerity, to enter, is no hindrance to others! It is a facility rather, and an increase of motives and means and helps to be resisted by others, who will not come. The true nature of atonement.1t as shown in this treatise, demonstrates this–and the Bible shows it so plainly, that it requires something like inquisitorial torture, or the allied tortuous hermeneutics of Socinianism, to make it speak a different language or to mystify its plenary and very intelligible meaning.

The fullness of the atonement is a grand and glorious truth; a rock impregnable, against which the surges of theory, and controversy, and prejudice, and party, have tossed and broke themselves for ages. But it is not so generally known or credited that the fulness of the atonement was held by CALVIN. That great and excellent man1 has been abused often, by some who had neither the sense, nor the candor, nor the learning, to understand him.

It is rather surprising to see certain limitarians sometimes arrogate to themselves, at least by implication, the honor of exclusive Calvinism, as well as exclusive orthodoxy. They are certainly in an error there, if what Calvin believed and taught may be viewed as the criterion of what Calvinism is. In his INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, written (when about 25 years of age) in his theological youth, although they were less express on the point than his subsequent writings, I recollect no sentence which determines any thing in favor of restrictive views of the nature of atonement. In his COMMENTARY, which was his maturer work and the rich mine whence many modern writers have taken their second-hand wisdom, and which has never (so far as I know) been rendered into English and published, his sentiments are full, frequent, conclusive, in favor of a full atonement. It may be well to transcribe a few of these. I could easily give more.

1 John ii.2, where Christ is said to be “the propitiation- for the sins of the whole world.” Calvin says indeed, that “he would not stoop to answer the ravings of those who hence declare all the reprobate and even the devil himself to be the ultimate subjects of salvation. A position so monstrous deserves no refutation. But others, who have no such purpose, affirm that Christ suffered sufficiently for all men j but efficiently for the elect alone. And this solution of the matter is commonly received in the schools. I question however its relevancy to the present passage, while 1 confess its absolute truth.” Hence (1) Calvin believed the fullness of the atonement, and made it a part of his Christian confession. (2) Just as obviously is it no modern speculation; since it had obtained in the schools of protestant orthodoxy, even commonly, three hundred years ago. I subjoin his own words.Sed hic movetur quaestio, quomodo mundi totius peccata expientur. Omitto phreneticorum deliria, qui hoc praetextu reprobes omnes, adeoque Satanam ipsum in salutem admittunt: tale portentum refutatione indignum est. qui hane absurditatem volebant effugere, dixerunt; Sufficienter pro toto mundo passum esse Christum: Bed pro eleetis tantum efficaeiter Vulgo haec solutio in scholis obtinuit. Ego quanquam verum esse illud dictum fateor; nego tamen praesenti loco quadrare..

2 Pet. ii. 1. “Even denying- the Lord that bought them.” He says–”those therefore who despising restraint, have abandoned themselves to all licentiousness, are deservedly said to deny Christ by whom they were redeemed. Moreover, that the doctrine of the gospel may remain safe and entire in our hands , let us fix it in our minds that we have been redeemed by Christ to this very cud-that HE may be at once the Lord of our life and our death: and so let us propose to ourselves this end, that to him we may live, and to him we may die.” His words are–Qui igitur excusso freno in omnem licentiam se projiciunt, non immerito dicuntur Christum abnegare a quo redempti sunt. Proinde ut salva et Integra evangelii doctrina apud nos maneat, hoc animis nostria infixum sit, tedemptos esse nos a Christo ut vitae simul et mortis nostrae sit Dominus: itaque nobis hunc finem esse propositum ut illi vivamus ac moriaraur.

Rom. v. 18. “Therefore, as by one offence [sentence came] upon all men unto condemnation, so by the righteousness of one [sentence came] upon all men unto justification of life.” Stuart’s translation. Calvin says, ” The apostle here makes it the common grace of all, because to all it is exhibited, though to all it is not realized in eventual fact. For although Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and to all without discrimination is he offered by the benignity of God, yet all men do not apprehend him.” His words are–Communem omnium gratiam facit,’ quia omnibus exposita est, non quod ad omnes extendatur re ipsa: nam etsi passus est Christus pro peccatis totius mundi atque omnibus indifierenter Dei benignitate offertur, non tamen omnes apprehendunt..

Matt. xxvi. 28. “For this is my blood of the New Testament, [covenant,] which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” He says, “Under the word many Jesus Christ designates not a part of the world only, but the total human race. Therefore, when we approach the table of the Lord, not only should this general thought occur to our mind, that the world has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but each for himself ought to consider that his own sins have been. expiated.” I give his words. Sub multorum nomine non partem mundi tantum designat sed totum humanum genus. Ergo dum ad suam mensam accedimus, non solum haec generalis cogitatio in mentem veniat, iredemptum Christi sanguine esse mundum; sed pro se quisque reputet peccata sua expiata esse.

In modern technology, which I approve, they only are said to be redeemed who are actually accepted III Christ: for all, atonement is made; to all it is. 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–lf 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 heaven, 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 vi. 36-40, 44, 65. x. 11, 15,26-30. xvii. 2. Eph. v. 25-27. Rev. xvii. 8. Matt. xxv. 34. Rom. ix. 29.

The gospel ought to be offered to all, and pressed powerfully on each to accept it. Its offers, though made ministerially by men, are made morally by God himself. And is this a fact? Is it divine reality? What an intrinsic and perfect proof of its consistency, its sincerity, its adaptation, its trust-worthiness, and the infinite obligation there devolved on men to accept it! men are not machines, but moral agents. They are not passive receivers, but active architects–under God–of their own destiny. Till they accept the salvation of Christ, they do nothing acceptable to God-they are not forgiven-they are fit neither to die nor to live–they may enjoy pleasure, but they are strangers to happiness–they are blinded and deceived by their own hearts and the devices of the devil-and they are growing worse and worse, more and more criminal, and with less and less probability that they will ever return and be saved.

The Westminister Assembly of divines are very far from excluding the non-elect, any farther than they exclude themselves by their voluntary neglect or rejection of the gospel. In answer .to the sixty-seventh question of the Larger Catechism, on EFFECTUAL CALLING, they well and wisely say–“All the elect, and they only, are effectually called; although others may be and often are outwardly called by the ministry of the word, and have some common operations of the spirit; who, for THEIR WILFUL NEGLECT AND CONTEMPT OF THE GRACE OFFERED TO THEM, being justly left in their unbelief, DO NEVER TRULY COME TO JESUS CHRIST.” Now, we inquire, Is this offered grace founded on the atonement, or not? If not, what basis has it, and what kind of ‘grace’ is it? If it is, then there is provision for all men in the atonement–Q.E.D.–or, the offer can be made on another basis, which is not atonement; and if so, how are Socinians so wrong in the matter, who disown and deny all such basis?

If the offer of salvation can be divinely made to sinful man not on the basis of atonement, then why might it not be realized to him in the same way? If the one may consist with the moral government of Jehovah, why not both? The offer implies all, and the reality enjoys no more. Here then we come to the charmed precincts of infidelity and pandemonium, and It is not being farcically quasi baptized that can make such principles sound or safe, for SOCINIAN ex professo, or for us by witless implication. The plain fact is that the atonement is full; that it is the real basis of every offer of God; that every man is supremely bound to accept it; and that the philanthropy of God is none the less full-orbed, luminous, sincere, and rich in glory; because men doubt it, cavil at it, reject it; and so often perish forever.

Nor are we here unmindful of the Spirit’s influence, which is always exerted through his own truth in it by it, for it; never against it, never without it. We are aiming wisely to subserve that previous influence in all this volume, and in all Our other ministrations, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the Word of God deceitfully; but, BY MANIFESTATION OF THE TRUTH commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. The views of many preachers touching this influence, and their own way of presenting them, are often most remarkably absurd and technically dark and confounding; away from the wisdom of the spirit, away from the examples of prophets and apostles. Is it not the best way to present the truth, to do it for the substance just as it is done in the volume of inspiration? to view that influence as coincident with the truth, subservient to the truth, potential by the truth, and triumphant in the truth? Only so far as the truth of the Spirit affects the human mind, perceiving, approving, accepting, and loving it, is the mind, or can it be, genuinely under the influence of the spirit. What a powerful motive to preachers, to malce full proof of their ministry, to be bold and aggressive, affectionate and earnest, faithful and wise, urgent and patient, in their holy and sublime vocation! Thus their work becomes appropriately, the ministration of righteousness and the ministratiun of the spirit.

Samuel Hanson Cox, “Introductory Chapter,” in Christ the Only Sacrifice or Atonement in its Relations to God and Man, Nathan S. S. Beman (New York: Published by Mark H. Newman, 1844), 16-27.  [Some spelling modernized; some reformatting; footnote value modernized; footnote content original; uppercase emphasis original; italics original; and underlining mine.]

[Note: Charles Hodge strongly criticised Beman for his views on the nature of the atonement. My intent here is neither to endorse either Hodge’s reading of Beman, or to defend Beman. What is of interest here is Samuel H. Cox’s position regarding the extent of the expiation. For sure, it is more than probable that Cox could not have shared Hodge’s concerns. What interests me here are 1) Cox’s overall arguments, 2) his use of Calvin and others, and 3) is an interesting (though perhaps naive) take on the Westminster Confessional documents.  Regarding which, Cox did not consider himself to be in conflict with because of his commitment to the distinction between “atonement” and “redemption.” For Cox, the WCF documents restricted the latter, but not the former.]


1A very respectable divine of the restrictive sympathy, lately conversing on this topic with the writer, occasioned the following dialogue, given in abridged form substantially as it occurred, in the presence of several other clergy men.

RESTRICTIONIST. You gentlemen of the full atonement plan, err, in my judgment, mainly because you so little or ill understand the science of interpretation.

PLENIST. That is strange. The divines of our way seem to have been the greatest and most distinguished in that department, both here and in Europe. Look at Barnes, Stuart, Dwight, and most of the divines of New England. Look at Jay, Raffles, Morison, Wardlaw, at Newton, Fuller, Hall, and in past ages, Doddridge, Watts, Howe, Baxter, and others back to CALVIN!

R. Oh! you misunderstand them, just as you do the Bible. General expressions such as the world, every man, all men, a.nd so forth, are not to be taken literally in every case.

P. Neither are they in every case to be restricted. God so loved the world–

R. Yes the elect world.–

P. Well–”that he gave his only begotten son [of the elect world]–

R. Right, you are improving now as an interpreter.

P. Let me see–that whosoever [of the elect world] believes in him–but, where are the others of the elect world? those infidel elect–are THEY saved in infidelity by the powers of election? or how? whosoever is a partitive, and implies each of a class as distinct from those of another class. Whosoever of the elect?

R. Oh! sir, you are too ultra in your views.–

P. Come we then to Calvin. He says that “Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world.–

R. Yes–of the elect.–

P. And by the benignity of God he is offered indifferently to all men.–

R. That is, to all of the elect.–

P. We shall see; his next words are –”all men, however, do not apprehend him.” If that means “all of the elect” do not, the proposition is plainly false, as we both believe. I must say, my brother, that you seem not to be the man to fault others for defects in the science of interpretation. It is plain that both the Bible and Calvin are against  you, while you restrict both in your impracticable scheme, by a way that I could not call an example of the SCIENCE of interpretation.

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