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Besides these subtleties on ability, certain distinctions on the atonement have been resorted to, for the same purpose. There is so obvious an inconsistency in offering salvation to all, on the supposition that Christ did not die for all, that the man who ventures to connect these in the pulpit is more likely to excite contempt than to commend himself to the conscience. This is felt by Calvinists. Hence they distinguish between the atonement and the application of itbetween atonement and redemptionbetween the sufficiency of the atonement and its efficiency.

Two or three examples may suffice. The first we shall select from Mr. Payne’s Lectures on Divine Sovereignty, referred to at the commencement of our discussions. He affirms that,

while, on the one hand, the Savior cannot have intended to secure the salvation of all men by the act of offering himself up a sacrifice for sin; yet that the sacrifice must, on the one hand, have been in itself adequate to the salvation of all men, so as to become a suitable foundation for the general and unlimited calls of the gospel. There is a broad line of distinction between the sufficiency of the atonement of Christ and its efficiency, or rather, as I would say, the sovereign purpose of the sacred three, in reference to its efficiency; that is, in reference to the exertion of that holy influence upon the minds of men, which secures to them the enjoyment of the blessings which flow through the channel of the atonement. It may be true (whether it is or not we shall inquire presently, my present object is merely to illustrate the difference between the two things) that Jehovah did not intend to put forth that influence which would render the atonement the means of securing the salvation of all men; though, as it was to become the basis of moral government, it was essential that it should be of infinite worth, and so in itself adequate to the salvation of all men. This I have long regarded as the true state of the case.–p. 209.


If the question be ‘Did Christ die with the design of laying a foundation of salvation for all men, or for some men?’ I answer, that, in this sense, he died for all men. If the question be ‘Did he die with the design of rendering the means effectual to the salvation of all men, or of some men?’ I answer, that, in this sense, he died for some men only.

I believe in the unlimited, universal, infinite sufficiency of the atonement of Christ–I believe it was the intention of God, as the moral Governor, in giving his Son as a sacrifice for sin, to provide a general remedy commensurate with the disease. I believe, on the other hand, in the limited application of the atonement. I believe it was the intention of God, as a sovereign, to render the remedy effectual, by special and sovereign influence, in the case of certain individuals only who are affected with the general disease, so that the intention of God as a sovereign, and as a ruler, in reference to the atonement, is different, the one being general, the other particular.–Ibid.

We have the sentiments of Dr. Cox, on this subject, in the appendix to his work on Quakerism. He remarks,

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, 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–if all repent and believe the gospel! Do they all 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 could 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.–p. 667.

The reader will readily perceive, that, notwithstanding all that is said in these passages of a ” full,” “unlimited,” “universal” atonement, the writers hold most tenaciously to the great Calvinistic principle, which limits the provision for salvation to a definite and favored number. The atonement was adequate to the salvation of all men. It justifies the general and unlimited calls of the gospel. But it is not indefinite, in the sense in which Arminians understand it, which, we apprehend, is the sense in which it is generally understood. Christ eternally designed the salvation of the elect; and for them, in this sense exclusively, (in the sense of designing their salvation,) he gave his precious life. ” The Savior cannot have intended to secure the salvation of all men,” &c. “It was the intention of God to render the remedy effectual in the ease of certain individuals only.” “The atonement was for all, but the elect only are said to be redeemed.”

It may serve to illustrate more vividly and impressively the effect of these distinctions, if we furnish an example of the manner in which they are applied,–first, for the purpose of preaching a free salvation, and secondly, for the purpose of securing the system of Calvinism.

In Mr. Barnes’ sermon, on “The Way of Salvation,” there is a most eloquent assertion of the doctrine, that salvation is free for, and sincerely offered to all. The passage alluded to, is in the style of the most high-toned and uncompromising Arminianism. He writes:–

The atonement was for all men. It was an offering made for the race. It had not respect so much to individuals, as to the law and perfections of God. It was an opening of the way for pardon-a making forgiveness consistent–a preserving of the truth–a magnifying of the law, and had no particular reference to any class of men. We judge that He died for all; He tasted death for every man. He is the propitiation for the sins of the world. He came, that whosoever would believe on Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

The full benefit of the atonement is offered to all men. In perfect sincerity God makes the offer. He has commissioned his servants to go and preach the gospel-that is, the good news that salvation is provided for them–to every creature. He that does not this; that goes to offer the gospel to a part only; to elect persons only; or, that supposes that God offers the gospel only to a certain portion of mankind, violates his commission, practically charges God with insincerity, makes himself ‘ wise above what is written,’ and brings great reproach on the holy cause of redemption. The offer of salvation is not made by man, but by God. It is his commission; and it is his solemn charge, that the sincere offer of Heaven should be made to every creature. That all creatures have not heard it; that every heathen man, every Indian, African, and Islander, have not heard it, has been owing to the unfaithfulness of ministers–to the avarice of the church-to the want of proper zeal among Christians, and not to the command of God, or any want of fulness in the atonement.

I assume the free and full offer of the gospel to all men, to be one of those cardinal points of the system by which I gauge all my, other views of truth. It is, in my view, a corner stone of the whole edifice; that which makes it so glorious to God, and so full of good will to men. I hold no doctrines, and, by the grace of God, never can hold any which will be in my view inconsistent with the free and full offer of the gospel to all men; or which will bind my hands, or palsy my tongue, or freeze my heart, when I stand before sinners to tell them of a dying Savior. I stand as the messenger of God, with the assurance, that all that will may be saved; that the atonement was full and free; and that if any perish, it will be because they choose to die, and not because they are straitened in God. I have no fellow-feeling for any other gospel; I have no right hand of fellowship to extend to any scheme that does not say that God sincerely offers all the bliss of heaven to every wandering child of Adam,–be he a Caffrarian, a Hindu, a man of China, or a Laplander; a beggar or a king, a rich man, a learned man, a moral man, or an abandoned wretch of Christian climes.

The scheme of salvation I regard as offered to the world, as free as the light of heaven, or the rains that burst upon the mountains, or the full swelling of broad rivers and streams, or the heavings of the deep. And though millions do not receive it–though in regard to them the benefits of the plan are lost, and to them, in a certain sense, the plan may be said to be in vain, yet I see in this the hand of the same God that pours the rays of noonday on barren sands, and genial showers on desert rocks, and gives life, bubbling springs, and flowers, where no man is, to our eyes, yet not to his, in vain. So is the offer of eternal life, to every man here, to every man everywhere, sincere and full–an offer that, though it may produce no emotions in the sinner’s bosom here, would send a thrill of joy through all the panting bosoms of the suffering damned.

Such is the manner in which this eloquent preacher sometimes takes occasion to assert the fulness and freeness of the atonement, and the universality and sincerity of the gospel offers of eternal salvation. This passage, taken alone, is sufficient to make the heart of the Christian or the penitent leap within him. And who that is unacquainted with the turnings, and windings, and diversified subterfuges of New Divinity, would suppose, for a moment, that the author of these glowing paragraphs is a firm believer in the Calvinistic doctrines respecting predestination and election? He not only affirms that salvation is provided for, and offered to, every creature, but denounces with great severity the opposite doctrines. If an Arminian were disposed to speak in terms severely condemnatory of Calvinism, it would be difficult for him to find language better suited to his purpose than that used by Mr. B. This sermon gave dissatisfaction to some of his brethren, as might have been expected, and he was put on the defense of his orthodoxy. Let us see how he proceeds. In his answer to the protest against his sermon, he makes the following explanations.

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 to 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 the 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 offense 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 decide 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.”–Defense, p. 69.

The whole secret of this matter is now laid open. The word atonement, it is said, occurs but once in the New Testament as applicable to the sufferings of Christ. It represents the original independent applicability of the sufferings of Christ. It was in its nature applicable to any number of men, and if God had chosen greatly to increase the number of the elect, no additional suffering on the part of Christ would have been requisite. But there is a distinction between the atonement and the application of it. The atonement without the application is not adequate to the salvation of any one; the application is absolutely necessary. It is the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; and it would be infidelity itself to suppose that a sinner can be saved whom Christ has not redeemed. But the application of the atonement, or the redemption, is by no means coextensive with the atonement. It is determined by the good pleasure of God, and by a covenant transaction between the Father and the Son, in which the exact number to whom it is applied is fixed. It is limited to the elect. Mr. B. claims to agree with the Confession of Faith on this subject. The Confession of Faith says nothing about atonement, it 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

This distinction, and the doctrine based upon it, are thus stated in his Introduction to Butler’s Analogy,

But still there are two points in the atonement so well substantiated, and yet so apparently contradictory, that it becomes an interesting inquiry, whether both positions can find an analogy in the course of events. The first is, that the atonement was originally applicable to all men-that it was not limited by its nature to any class of men, or any particular individuals-that it was an offering made for the race, and is, when made, in the widest and fullest sense, the property of man; and the second is, that it is actually applied to only a portion of the race, and that it was the purpose of God that it should be so applied.

He then attempts an analogy between these doctrines and the provisions of nature, in the course of which he remarks, “We defy the most acute defender of the doctrine of a limited atonement, to produce an instance in the provisions of God where there was a designed limitation of the thing.” Again: “But still it was the purpose–the decree of God, that this atonement should be actually applied to but a part–we believe ultimately a large part of the human family. By this we mean that it is in fact so applied, and that this fact is the expression of the purpose or decree of God.”

Mr. B. here gives an example of the limitation which he so confidently denies. For if that provision is not limited, the benefits of which are applied, by the decree of God, to but a part of mankind, we have yet to ascertain the meaning of the term.

It is in immediate connection with the foregoing passage that he makes this remark, to which the attention of the reader has already been called. “We interpret the decrees of God, so far as we can do it, by facts; and we say that the actual result, by whatever means brought about, is the expression of the design of God.” So that if any one is damned, the “result” proves that it was the “decree” or ” design” of God, not only that the atonement should not be applied in his case, but that damnation should be his eternal lot, notwithstanding all that might be done, professedly, for his salvation.

From these quotations it appears that Mr. B. considers the full, free, and sincere offer of salvation–of all the bliss of heaven–to every creature perfectly compatible with the supposed fact that the atonement, the application of which is absolutely necessary to the salvation of a sinner, is applied to only a part of mankind, and that but a part of them are redeemed: so that while it would bind his hands, and palsy his tongue, and freeze his heart, to be required to believe and preach a limited atonement, his hands are perfectly free, and his tongue is as the pen of a ready writer, and his heart warm when he comes to preach a dying Savior to sinners whom that Savior never redeemed, to whom the atonement is destined by the decree of God never to be applied, whose damnation was decreed from eternity, and who, consequently, have no more opportunity of salvation than the devils in hell.

We confess that if this be Mr. B.’s commission, we have not a very exalted opinion of it; and we must go elsewhere than to his theory for a satisfactory illustration of the sincerity of God.

Mr. B. anticipates an objection to his doctrine of limited redemption. “But it is still said that it is unreasonable for men to suffer in consequence of not being put in possession of the universal atonement; and that Christianity affirms there is no hope of salvation but in the Son of God. So it does. But the affirmation is not that men are guilty for not being acquainted with that scheme, but that they lie under the curses of the antecedent state before mentioned, from which Christianity came to deliver.”–p. 45.

According to this, sinners are not condemned for failing to avail themselves of the provisions of salvation, but for the antecedent guilt which renders the means of salvation necessary.

It is remarkable, however, that this argument does not touch the question of the sincerity of God in offering salvation to those whose damnation he has decreed. It is designed to vindicate his justice in withholding what is absolutely necessary to salvation. We care not to dispute this point at present. Admitting, then, for argument’s sake, that the justice of God is unimpeachable, we still ask, can he sincerely offer salvation to those from whom he withholds, in pursuance of his eternal decree, what is indispensable to their salvation? This is the point on which we would fix attention. Suppose that a large number of the subjects of an earthly sovereignty incur the penalty of death. Their sovereign feels the necessity of enforcing the claims of government, and yet is reluctant to cut off so many of his subjects. He devises a scheme by which he links the authority of government can be sustained, and the rebels pardoned. This scheme is equally applicable to all; but, as it is supposed that no injustice would be done to any by the execution of the penalty, he concludes to apply it to a certain number only, selecting the persons to be saved. So far, we allow, for the sake of argument, that all is right. But suppose that this sovereign were to commission his ministers to go and announce to these rebels the plan of mercy, and offer pardon to them indiscriminately, when it was his settled purpose, known to his messengers, that the scheme was intended to be made available only to a part of their number–suppose he were to hold those messengers punishable, as violaters of their commission, in case they should intimate that pardon was not equally the privilege of all–would that sovereign be lauded for his sincerity? Would that governor be deemed sincere who employs men to excite hopes of pardon in the breasts of criminals whom he has predetermined shall be executed? And yet this is the very course which New Divinity ascribes to the God of heaven. We would fain vindicate Him from the praise with which it dishonors him. We have no partiality for the Calvinism of the Westminster Confession of Faith, but we like it much better than New Divinity. It does not deceive by flourishes about a general atonement, while it holds to a limited redemption.

This distinction between the atonement and its application, apart from the use to which it is applied, is, in our estimation, wholly untenable. Suffering alone does not constitute atonement. It must be suffering for that particular purpose. It must be suffering applied. The idea of atonement includes, essentially, the idea of its application. If there are those to whom the sufferings of Christ are not applied for the purpose of atonement, there are those for whom no atonement is made, whatever may be the case as to the mere applicability of his sufferings.

Those who adhere to this distinction, will find themselves involved in this difficultyeither none of the great and varied blessings which are conferred on the ungodly, come to them through the atonement, or they receive those blessings in consequence of an atonement that has never been applied to them; or the atonement is, and is not applied to them, at the same time.

The state of the case is this–it is not the application of the atonement that is needed, to make the sinner a Christian, but the application of certain additional benefits procured by the atonement, the application of which depends upon our repentance and faith; such as pardon, adoption, and regenerating influences. The atonement itself is applied to all.

The distinction between atonement and redemption is also unwarrantable. Redemption includes the entire connection between the sufferings of Christ and our salvation. The great transactions of mercy which are represented by the word atonement are far more frequently represented by the word redemption. How, we ask, is atonement effected? By the sufferings of Christ. And are we not redeemed by the same means? “Ye are not redeemed with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

The New School men are great sticklers for the doctrine of free agency. One might suppose, from the manner in which they assert and contend for it, that they were specially set for its defense. But the freedom they ascribe to man is merely nominal. It is just such freedom as they can reconcile with the eternal and unalterable foreordination of every action and event. It is true, there is much dispute between the parties in the Calvinistic churches respecting predestination; but the controversy relates to the reasons bv which Jehovah was influenced in his predeterminations, and to the manner in which he brings them to pass. That he has, for some reason, foreordained, and that in some way or other he brings to pass, every event, they alike believe.

The means by which they attempt to reconcile these hostile tenets, consist in plausible definitions of the terms employed. But no matter how plentifully they use the terms which convey the idea of freedom, or how they define them, the freedom of the human mind, according to their system, is nothing more than the freedom of the different parts of a complicated machine to act according to the plan on which it is constructed, and in obedience to the impulses of the steam, or water power, by which it is put in motion. Says Mr. Payne, “Upon the whole, I have no hesitation in saying, that the utmost freedom, which a man possesses, or can possess, is liberty to act as he chooses.” We should consider this liberty enough for human beings, and a little too much, were we not also required to believe that every volition of the human mind is predetermined by God himself, and produced by means adapted and directed by him, to the production of the fore-appointed result.

So far as we are able to gather the New School philosophy of mental operations, and their connection with divine influence, from their theological writings, it appears to be this: the volitions are determined by the emotions, the emotions by the perceptions, the perceptions by surrounding circumstances, and the circumstances by God himself. When God would produce a certain class of actions, he surrounds the mind with the corresponding objects; these produce infallibly the required perceptions; the perceptions act upon the susceptibilities and produce the corresponding emotions; these cause the foreordained volitions; and the volitions are succeeded by the actions. In this way is God supposed to bring to pass both good and evil actions. The world of mankind is thus reduced to a vast theater of automata, consisting of corporeal machines, each including a spiritual machine. The internal machinery is acted upon by external influences, entering by certain avenues for that purpose. The internal puts the external machinery in motion. The great Author of nature acts as the wire-worker, who manages every movement. Sitting in the center of his vast resources of influence, he touches one cord, and men go to work ploughing, sowing, reaping, making books, preaching sermons, or killing each other, as may be ordained. He touches another, and some sit in grave council on the affairs of the automaton community. He brings to bear another class of influences, and they proceed to dispute whether they are free pr not, and to play off all the subtleties of theological controversy. This is the way in which, according to this theory, God is supposed to govern mind; and all these movements, we are assured, were predetermined by him before he originated this wonderful device.

Francis Hodgson, An Examination of the System of New Divinity or New School Theology (New-York: Published by George Lane. 1840), 386-399. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; italics original; and underlining mine.]

[Notes: 1. Hodgson was a Methodist theologian and opponent to Calvinism. His value here is that he correctly identified the New School / New Divinity distinction between Atonement and Redemption. Hodgson makes explicable, historically, the distinction made by both Shedd and Dabney, et al, between atonement and redemption. The failure to identify this distinction has led some to misread Shedd and Dabney on unlimited expiation. 2. To his credit, Hodgson is right to point out that the sharp dichotomy between atonement and redemption is unsupported in Scripture. For a more balanced treatment of this see Griffin. 3. One criticism of Hodgson, however, is that tends to blend and collapse New Divinity theology into New School theology, and vice versa. 4. I should say that contrary to superficial characterizations, what we now call New Divinity and New School theology, respectively, were quite complex and diverse, not every point of their respective distinctives should be given a blanket condemnation. I would say that in some critical regards they actually advanced our understanding of the satisfaction of Christ, and clearly these advancements were adopted by men such as C Hodge,  Shedd and Dabney (et al), all denials and denunciations of these facts notwithstanding.]

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