WHETHER Christ died for all men, or for a part only? is a question which has been much agitated, since the Reformation, though, according to Milner, the Church, from the earliest ages, rested in the opinion that Christ died for all. He does not except even Augustine, whom Prosper, his admirer and follower, and a strict Predestinarian, represents as maintaining that Christ gave himself a ransom for all;1 so far, at least, as to make provision for their salvation, by removing an impediment which would otherwise have proved fatal. The early Christians seemed to go upon the principle, that as salvation was indiscriminately tendered to all, it must have been provided for all, and thus made physically possible to all, where the Gospel comes; otherwise, the Deity would be represented as tendering that to his creatures which was in no sense within their reach, and which they could not possibly attain, whatever might be their dispositions. Among those who leaned strongly to what are called the doctrines of grace, the maxim was adopted, “That Christ’s death was sufficient for all, and efficient for the elect” By which they seem to have intended, that while Christ’s death opened the door for the salvation of all, so far as an expiatory sacrifice was concerned, it was designed, and by the sovereign grace of God, made effectual, to the salvation of the elect. Their belief was, that Christ died intentionally to save those who were given to him in the covenant of redemption; but it does not appear that they supposed his death, considered merely as an expiatory offering, had any virtue in it, in relation to the elect, which it had not in relation to the rest of mankind. With respect to the ultimate design of this sacrifice, or the application which God would make of it, they doubtless supposed there was a difference; but in the sacrifice itself, or in its immediate end, the demonstration of God’s righteousness, they could see no difference. In this view, it was precisely the same thing, as it stood related to the elect and to the non-elect. The sacrificial service was one and the same, appointed by the same authority, and for the same immediate purpose, and performed by the same glorious Personage, at the very same time. It wanted nothing to constitute it a true and perfect sacrifice for sin, as it stood related to the whole world; it was but this true and perfect sacrifice, as it stood related to the elect. Any other view would have overturned its sufficiency for all mankind for it was not the sufficiency of Christ to be a sacrifice, but his sufficiency as a sacrifice for the whole world, that they maintained. And in perfect accordance with this, they held that this most perfect sacrifice was efficient for the elect. But how was it efficient? Not by its having in it anything in regard to the elect which it had not in regard to others; for, intrinsically considered, it was the same to both, a true and perfect sacrifice for sin; but it was the purpose of God, in appointing it, that it should issue in the salvation of his chosen. This was the use he intended to make of it; nay, it was a part of the covenant of redemption, that if the Mediator performed the sacrificial service required, he should see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied. There was, therefore, an infallible connection between the death of Christ and the salvation of his people; and, of course, his death was efficient in procuring their salvation, it being the great medium through which the saving mercy of God flowed, and connected both by the purpose and promise of God with the bestowment of that mercy.

But even all this does not suppose that the death of Christ, considered simply as a sacrifice for sin, had anything in it peculiar to the elect, or that in and of itself it did anything for them which it did not do for the rest of mankind. The intention of God, as to its application, or the use he designed to make of it, is a thing perfectly distinct from the sacrifice itself, and so considered, as we believe, by the Church antecedent to the Reformation. In no other way, can we see, how their language is either intelligible or consistent.

Whether the Reformers, as they are called, were exactly of one mind on this subject, is not quite so certain. But that Luther, Melancthon, Osiander, Brentius, Œcolampadius, Zwinglius and Bucer, held the doctrine of a general atonement, there is no reason to doubt. We might infer it from their Confession at Marpurge, signed A . D. 1529, as the expressions they employ on this subject are of a comprehensive character, and best agree with this sentiment. From their subsequent writings, however, it is manifest that these men, and the German Reformers generally, embraced the doctrine of a universal propitiation. Thus, also, it was with their immediate successors, as the language of the Psalgrave Confession testifies. This Confession is entitled, “A Full Declaration of the Faith and Ceremonies professed in the dominions of the most illustrious and noble Prince Frederick V., Prince Elector Palatine.” It was translated by John Rolte, and published in London, A. D. 1614.

“Of the power and death of Christ, believe we,” say these German Christians, that the death of Christ (whilst he being not a bare man, but the Son of God, died,) is a full, all-sufficient payment, not only for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world; and that he by his death hath purchased not only forgiveness of sins, but also the new birth by the Holy Ghost, and lastly everlasting life.” But we believe therewith, that no man shall be made partaker of such a benefit, but only he that believeth on him. For the Scripture is plain where it says, “He that believeth not shall be damned

It would be unnecessary to take up your time to show that the Lutheran divines, with scarcely a single exception, from that period to the present, have declared in favor of a universal atonement. It could scarcely be otherwise when we consider the great reverence in which they held their distinguished leader, who, on various occasions, expressed himself most decidedly upon this subject. To give but a single instance. While speaking of the blood of Christ, the inestimable price paid for our redemption, (in his commentary on 1 Peter, i. 18,) he remarks that no understanding or reason of man can comprehend it: so valuable was it, “that a single drop of this most innocent and precious blood was abundantly sufficient for the sins of the whole world. But it pleased the Father so largely to bestow his grace upon us, and to make such abundant provision for our salvation, that he willed that Christ his Son should pour forth all his blood, and at the same time to give this whole treasure to us.”

We know what the opinion of the Church of England was, by the language of her thirty-first article, which is in these words: “The offering of Christ once made, is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone;” and with this agree the words of the Heidelberg Catechism, in the thirty-seventh question, which state that “Christ bore, both in body and mind, the weight of the wrath of God, for the sins of all mankind” to the end that by his sufferings as a propitiatory sacrifice, he might redeem our bodies and souls from eternal damnation, and acquire for us the grace of God, justification and eternal life.”

We are well aware that many who have expounded this catechism, have adopted more limited views; and that towards the close of the sixteenth century, there was not a little zeal displayed, in some of the Reformed Churches, in Germany and Holland, and other parts of Europe, in defense of what was called particular redemption. Yet, in the Synod of Dort, there were many able advocates for the doctrine that Christ died for all, in the only sense in which it is contended for now, by that part of the Calvinistic school who plead for a general propitiation. The delegates from England, Hesse and Bremen, were explicit in their declaration to this effect. But all were not of the same mind; and, therefore, though they agreed upon a form of words, under which every man might take shelter, still it wears the appearance of a compromise, and is not sufficiently definite to satisfy the rigid inquirer.

But some may be curious to know in what light this subject was viewed by Calvin, a man who, from the extent of his erudition, and the vigor of his faculties, exerted a mighty influence over his contemporaries, and the generations which succeeded him. Seldom, indeed, has the world seen such a man. Fearless, as he was able, he examined every subject with care, and penetrated farther into the great doctrines of the Gospel, probably, than any other divine of that or of preceding ages. What did he think of the doctrine of atonement? Did he consider it in the light of a universal provision for the whole human race, or did he suppose it restricted in its very nature to the elect? In his Institutes, which he wrote in early life, and which display an astonishing measure both of talent and research, some have supposed that he favored the doctrine of a particular or limited atonement. The truth, however, is, so far as I can judge, that he carefully avoids committing himself on this point, and uses language on all occasions of such a general and indeterminate character, that it is not easy to discover what were his real sentiments. The probability is, that the subject had not then been much agitated, and that he thought it enough to keep to the language which was generally adopted by the Church. He often asserts that the death of Christ was a full and perfect sacrifice for sin–that it takes away sin–that he died for us–and that we are purged by his blood; but he does not teach that any man’s sins are put away until he believes, but he plainly teaches the contrary. Having occasion to quote these words of the Apostle, “Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood,” he remarks, “Here Paul celebrates the grace of God, because he has given the price of our redemption in the death of Christ; and then enjoins us to betake ourselves to his blood, that we may obtain righteousness, and may stand secure before the judgment of God.” But why betake ourselves to his blood, that we may obtain righteousness or justification, if his death, considered simply as a sin-offering, actually took away our sin, and reconciled us to God? For myself, I have no doubt that he considered the sprinkling of Christ’s blood as essential to a real and effective propitiation as the shedding of it. His blood shed was the meritorious cause of our reconciliation, or the grand means by which it was effected; but this effect was never actually produced but in cases where his blood was sprinkled or applied, and that this blood is applied in no case antecedent to faith, and without faith. His doctrine, then, appears to me to be this: That Christ’s death was the only full and perfect sacrifice for sin; that as such, it laid the foundation for God to be propitious to a world of sinners, even the whole human family; but that it actually reconciled him to none, so as to take away their sin and entitle them to life, till they repented and believed; but that to all such there is an actual propitiation, an effective reconcilement or at-one-ment, because by faith they lay their hands upon the head of the bleeding victim, and his blood is sprinkled upon them or applied to their souls. But whatever might have been his opinions in early life, his commentaries, which were the labors of his riper years, demonstrate in the most unequivocal manner that he received and taught the doctrine of a general or universal atonement. This is distinctly asserted by Dr. Watts, and several striking examples of his interpretation given. But having examined for myself, I am prepared to say that he takes the ground of an universal atonement in almost every controverted text on this subject in the New Testament. Hear him on Matthew xxvi. 28: “This is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” “Under the name of many” says Calvin, “he designates not a part of the world only, but the whole human race. For he opposes many to one, as if he should say he would be the Redeemer, not of one man, but would suffer death that he might liberate many from the guilt of the curse. Nor is it to be doubted that Christ, in addressing the few, designed to make his doctrine common to the many. Nevertheless, it is at the same time to be noted, that in distinctly addressing his disciples in Luke, he exhorts all the faithful to appropriate the shedding of his blood to their own use. While, therefore, we approach the sacred table, not only this general thought should come into the mind, that the world is redeemed by Christ’s blood, but that every one for himself should reckon his own sins to be expiated.” He expounds John iii. 16 in accordance with the same views. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life/” By the world, according to him, we are to understand “genus humanum,” the human race collectively, and not the elect as a distinct portion of the world. God hath affixed, says he, a mark of universality to his words on this occasion, “both that he might invite all promiscuously to the participation of life, and that he might cut off excuse to the unbelieving;”and this universality is indicated, he tells us, not only by the term whosoever, but by the term world. “For though God finds nothing in the world worthy of his favor, nevertheless he shows himself propitious to the whole world, since he calls all men without exception to faith in Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.”

His remarks on 1 Corinthians viii. 11, 12, are still more decisive. ” And through thy knowledge shall thy weak brother perish for whom Christ died.” Here the question is, what is meant by the weak brother perishing? Calvin’s paraphrase is, “If the soul of every weak person was the purchaser of the blood of Christ, he that for the sake of a little meat plunges his brother again into death who was redeemed by Christ, shows at how mean a rate he esteems the blood of Christ.” His observations on Hebrews x. 26, are of the same decisive character. Paul declares “that if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins.” This Calvin interpreted of those who openly apostatize from the truth and renounce their Christian profession–and to such, he says, there is no more a sacrifice for sins, because they have departed from the death of Christ and treated it with sacrilegious contempt–but to sinners of any other description, even to lapsed Christians “Christ daily offers himself, so that no other sacrifice need to be sought for the expiation of their sins.”

It is obvious that Calvin considered apostates as standing in a different relation to the death of Christ from what they once did, and different from that of other sinners under the dispensation of the Gospel. That once his death might be regarded as a sacrifice for sin, available for them, but now it was otherwise; having despised him and being rejected of God, there remained to them neither this sacrifice nor any other, but only a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall consume the adversaries.

Again, on 1 John ii. 2, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.” Here,” says Calvin, ” a question is raised, how the sins of the whole world were atoned for? Some have said that Christ suffered for the whole world sufficiently, but for the elect alone efficaciously. This is the common solution of the schools, and though I confess this is a truth, yet I do not think it agrees to this place.”

See also on 2 Peter ii. 1, “There shall be false teachers among you who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” Upon this, Calvin remarks, “Though Christ is denied in various ways, yet, in my opinion, Peter means the same thing here that Jude expresses, namely, that the grace of God is turned into lasciviousness. For Christ has redeemed us that he might have a people free from the defilements of the world, and devoted to holiness and innocence. Whoever, therefore, shake off the yoke and throw themselves into all licentiousness, are justly said to deny Christ, by whom they were redeemed.”

To the same purpose are his remarks on Jude, verse fourth: “Turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” “His meaning is,” says Calvin, “that Christ is really denied when those who were redeemed by his Hood again enslave themselves to the devil, and as far as in them lies, make that incomparable price vain and ineffectual.”

It is but candid, however, to allow that in some passages where the word all is brought into question, this writer supposes that it signifies all of every kind, or all sorts, rather than all, every one. But this he might easily do and consistently maintain as the doctrine of the New Testament, that the death of Christ was a full and perfect sacrifice for the sins of all men absolutely. This doctrine he most certainly did maintain, as several of the extracts from his writings now presented clearly evince. We need not be afraid, therefore, that our Calvinism will be essentially marred by holding the doctrine of a general propitiation, unless we wish to be more Calvinistic than John Calvin himself. But as we should call no man master, upon earth, but examine for ourselves, and take our opinions from the living oracles, let us hear what the Scriptures say upon this subject.

To facilitate our inquiries, I propose to consider the truth of the following positions:

First. That the death of Christ was a true and proper sacrifice for sin.

Second. That though his death was of vicarious import, as were the ancient sin-offerings, yet it was not strictly vicarious.

Third. That this sacrifice bore such a relation to the sins of men, that a way was thereby opened for the restoration of the whole human family to the favor of God.

Should these propositions turn out to be true, we shall be at no loss how to answer the question which stands at the head of this lecture.

First. As to the first position, that Christ’s death was a true and proper sacrifice for sin, there will be no dispute,

as this is common ground to all Calvinists, and to all, indeed, who do not virtually give up the doctrine of atonement. Still it may be well to remark that the language of Scripture, on this subject, is clear and precise. Christ is called the Lamb of God, which takes away the sins of the world. He is said to have given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God. It is affirmed that he needed not, like the high priests under the law, to offer up sacrifice daily, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people; for this he did once when he offered up himself. He is expressly called the propitiation for our sins, and God is said to have sent him into the world for the purpose of making propitiation, and of making it by his death. The whole system of Jewish sacrifices, as well as Patriarchal, were but types of his one great sacrifice when he offered up himself, and demonstrate his death to be a true and proper expiatory offering. But this is a point on all hands conceded.

Second. Was his death, then, of vicarious import simply? or was it strictly vicarious?

That it was of vicarious import cannot reasonably be denied, if we compare it with the legal sacrifices, or attend to the express language of Scripture on the subject.

The victims under the law were vicarious offerings; they suffered in the room and stead of the offerer, and thus far there was a transfer, not of sin or guilt, strictly speaking, but of its penal effects; suffering and death, only, were transferred, and this is what is meant by putting the iniquities of the sinner upon the head of the victim, and of the victim’s bearing the iniquities of the sinner.

To suppose a literal transfer, either of sin or of punishment, would be to suppose something which is entirely unauthorized by the language of Scripture, and at the same time to involve the absurdity of making a man and even a beast guilty by proxy. Sin, guilt, ill-desert, are in the very nature of things personal; and punishment presupposes guilt, and guilt in the subject; neither the one nor the other is properly transferable. Or, to use the language of Magee: “Guilt and punishment cannot be conceived but with reference to consciousness which cannot be transferred.”

While we would maintain, therefore, that the sufferings of Christ were of vicarious import, because he suffered in the room of sinners, and bore the indications of Divine wrath for their sakes, we cannot subscribe to the opinion that they were strictly vicarious, if by this is meant that the sins of those for whom he suffered, their personal desert and their punishment were literally transferred to him. We maintain the doctrine of substitution, but not such a substitution as implies a transfer of character, and consequently of desert and punishment. This we think to be impossible; and unnecessary, if not impossible. It was enough that there should be a transfer of sufferings, and these, not exactly in kind, degree, or duration, but in all their circumstances amounting to a full equivalent in their moral effect upon the government of God. We hold that Jesus died in the room of the guilty, that though innocent himself, he was made sin for us, or treated as a sinner on our account, and in our stead; that the Lord laid on him the iniquities of us all, and that he bore our sins in his own body on the tree, by suffering what was a full equivalent to the punishment due to our offences. But this, we think, is all the substitution which the Scriptures teach, all that the nature of things will admit, and all that was necessary to effect the same moral ends in the government of God which would have been effected by inflicting on the transgressor the penal sanctions of his law. This brings us to our third position.

Third. That the sacrifice of Christ bore such a relation to the sins of men–that a way was thereby opened for the restoration of the whole human family to the favor of God.

I say the sins of men, for it does not appear that his sacrifice bore any specific relation to the sins of the rebel angels. For them no sacrifice was appointed, but justice seized at once upon its victims, and thrust them down to hell, where they are reserved in chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. And but for a sacrifice, which did honor to the Divine Law, and rendered it consistent for a holy God to treat with rebellious man, it is not easy to see why the arm of justice was not uplifted to avenge its insulted rights, in the immediate and interminable punishment of our apostate race. Be this, however, as it may, it is an undeniable fact, that Jesus took not on him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham, and was in all things made like unto his brethren of the human family. In that very nature in which the law of God had been broken and dishonored, did Jesus appear to put away sin, by the sacrifice of himself. But this, it will be said, it behooved him to do, if he were to expiate the sins of his people only, and if his death had not the remotest reference to the sins of the finally lost. Granted: but must it not also be allowed, that if he had intended to make provision for the whole human family by pouring out his blood, it behooved him neither to be nor to do anything more than he actually did? As a Person of infinite dignity, he accomplished that very service in that very nature, and in all those circumstances of touching interest, which alone would have been requisite had he intended to make atonement for the whole world absolutely. This is so obvious as generally to be admitted. It is allowed on all hands, that he atoned for all sorts of persons, of all nations and all ages of the world; and that the sacrifice he offered was of sufficient value to have redeemed the whole human race. But how did he atone for any, but by obeying the law in that very nature in which they had disobeyed it, and by suffering in that very nature, a moral equivalent to the evil which they had deserved to suffer, as the just award of the same righteous law? But this nature, let it be remembered, is the common nature of man, and if by rendering a service in this nature would amount to an atonement for one, why not for another, and another, until the whole were included? That such might be the case, it is easy to see; and that such, in fact, was the case, it would be very natural to presume.

The leading circumstance which constitutes the connection between Christ and those for whom his sacrifice is available, is that he obeyed the law in their nature; and in the same nature suffered its penalty, or that which was equivalent. All had reproached or dishonored God alike, by trampling upon the authority of his law; Christ assumes their nature, and by his obedience and sufferings magnifies the law and makes it honorable, They with one voice had proclaimed that the law was not good, nor God worthy to be obeyed. Christ reverses this statement, and proclaims in the ears of the universe the purity of God’s character, and the excellence and importance of his law. Nay, he condemns sin, vindicates God’s holiness, and shows his unalterable determination to uphold the authority of his government; since, in the very expedient he has adopted for dispensing mercy, he will not forgive sin, without an adequate satisfaction to the right of his injured majesty, considered as the moral head of the universe. All this Christ did in man’s nature, and with reference to the sins of men, and more than this he need not do, and could not do, by offering himself a sacrifice for sin. What is there, let me ask, in the nature and circumstances of this great sacrifice, which should limit its availableness to a part of the human race? Did it not bear sufficiently upon the conduct of the whole? Did it not condemn sin all sin the sin of one man as much as the sin of another? Did it not vindicate the Divine holiness, and the purity and excellence of that law which man had broken? Did it not evince God’s determination to sustain the authority of that law, while it exhibited his boundless compassion towards a world of rebels? What more would we have in it, or what other or greater moral influence would we have it exert, had it been designed as a sacrifice of expiation for the whole human family? As for ourselves, we regard the whole scheme of atonement in the light of a remedial law; that it was adopted to counteract the ruins of the fall and that in its very nature it contained a provision coextensive with those ruins though in its application, for wise and holy purposes, an important difference will be made. But here we shall be told, that if we have not left out of our statement, we have not sufficiently exhibited one all-controlling circumstance, to wit: the actual substitution of Christ for, and in behalf of, those for whom he suffered; that to constitute his sufferings an available sacrifice, it was necessary not only that he should die in the nature, but in the room of sinners; and that he might die in their nature without dying in their stead.

Our reply is, that we consider the death of Christ as a vicarious sacrifice, and offered in behalf of all men; because, from the very nature of the case, it could scarcely be otherwise, he dying in their nature, and in circumstances equally fitted to make him the substitute of all. He did and suffered what he must have done, had he been the substitute of all, and so far as we can discern, nothing less or more; what he did and suffered, bore the same relation to sin and holiness, to the law and government of God, as it would have done, had he offered himself for all; nay, we consider it impossible that he should, by his obedience and death, have condemned sin and magnified the law, and this in man’s nature, without doing it with reference to every man’s sin, and the dishonor which every man had cast upon the law. His sacrificial service was open and public, performed in the face of the universe, and gave out a testimony which was heard through all worlds, and a testimony which bore as strongly upon one man’s sin as another’s, and upon the righteousness of God, in his condemnation. Nay, whatever was the language of this solemn transaction concerning God or man, equally respected all men, and God in relation to all. We could not doubt, therefore, that so far as Christ was the substitute of any man, he was the substitute of all men, were we to look only at the nature of his sacrifice, and the purposes it was immediately designed to answer in the moral administration of God. But the Bible has not left us to general principles here; it has furnished us with facts and declarations upon the subject which we think ought forever to put this matter to rest.

Look a moment at the doctrine of sacrifice taught from the beginning, but with more explicitness under the dispensation of Moses. For certain transgressions, and some of them of a moral character, every sinner among the Israelites was required to bring a victim, over whose head he was to confess his sin. This victim was afterwards to be slain, and offered by the priest as a sin offering unto the Lord, for the purpose of making an atonement for the soul. The life of the victim was accepted for the life of the sinner, the victim being always regarded as his substitute. Where the service was performed, agreeably to God’s appointment, an atonement was made, and sin forgiven, so far, at least, as to release the sinner from the penalties and disabilities incurred under the Jewish law. But the victims slain on these occasions were types of Christ, a nobler victim hereafter to come into the world. This, so far as I know, is universally admitted. But what follows? Why, most certainly, unless the Jewish law was deceptive, the type being the substitute of the sinner, the antitype must be his substitute also; for it looked to him, and derived all its significancy and efficacy from him. A typical offering would be but a mere mockery of the Divine justice and holiness, considered in any other light than as a prefiguration of the glorious Antitype. Of necessity, therefore, they must be regarded as closely conjoined. Admit, then, that every man in the Jewish nation, good or bad, elect or non-elect, when he brought his sin or trespass-offering to the Lord, was taught, by the very nature of the institution, that his offering or victim was his substitute, could he avoid the conclusion that a greater and infinitely more precious victim was his substitute also? Could he understand the nature of this sacrificial service, without perceiving that the type pointed to the Antitype, and that, by the appointment of God, both stood in the same relation to him, as a gracious medium through which pardon was to be obtained, and the Divine favor secured?

Now let me ask, whether it is reasonable to suppose that such a doctrine as this should be held forth in the Jewish sacrifices, if, in truth and in fact, Christ is the appointed substitute for the elect only? I know it is sometimes said, that the Jewish people were a typical nation, and that they properly prefigured the true Church of God, or the whole body of the elect, and, therefore, that their sacrifices for themselves typified Christ’s sacrifice for his people. But this by no means avoids the difficulty. The Jewish sacrifices had a language which was distinct and appropriate, and that language was, that every man’s victim brought by God’s appointment, was a vicarious offering, accepted in behalf of the guilty offerer; that this offering was a type of Christ, and of his great sacrifice, to be made once in the end of the world; and consequently that Christ, thus prefigured, stood in the same relation to the offerer as did the prefiguring victim, to wit, as his substitute, and the only piacular sacrifice on which his faith ought ultimately to rest. This, we have no doubt, is the true state of the case. But to show how perfectly futile the attempt to escape from this argument is, by resorting to the notion that the Jewish nation typified the Church, let us look back to the patriarchal ages, where no such refuge will be found.

It is the common belief of Christians, supported by the clear indications of Holy Writ, that sacrifices were instituted by God immediately after the fall; that these sacrifices were expiatory, resembling, in all important particulars, the sin-offerings under the law. But if these early sacrifices were of God’s appointment, it will not be doubted that they were obligatory upon the whole human family during the patriarchal ages, nor that they were typical, bearing the same relation to the promised seed of the woman, and to his sacrifice, which the Mosaic sacrifices afterwards bore. What then do we find in this ancient sacrificial service? Why that God required every man, as he did Cain and Abel, to bring their victims, at the appointed time, and sacrifice them at his altars. Were these victims, then, the substitutes of the offerers, life being accepted for life? There is no room to doubt. Did these victims typify the Savior, and his sacrifice of expiation? Most certainly they did, or they were an unmeaning and unprofitable service. But if typical of Christ, and the substitutes of the offerers, then Christ himself was exhibited as the substitute of the offerers, unless you break up the connection between type and antitype. To him these offerings pointed, and the worshipers were directed, through the medium of these emblems, to the great sacrifice which he was to accomplish when he should come to break the head of the serpent, and procure the means of deliverance to a ruined world.

Here was instruction which God himself imparted, and it exhibits, with the light of a sunbeam, two important facts, to wit: that the victims employed in animal sacrifice were the appointed substitutes of their respective offerers, and that, being types of Christ, they show him to be the substitute of the offerers also. Now, as the rite of sacrifice was universal–instituted for the whole family of man–how can we escape the conclusion, that a foundation was laid for this universality by appointing the Mediator to appear in human nature, and to offer a sacrifice in behalf of the whole human family. Allow a substitution thus universal, and all appears plain; say, with the Apostle, that Christ is a Mediator between God and men, and that he, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man; give these expressions their full and unrestricted import, and there is no difficulty in allowing that the ancient victims were the real substitutes of those who offered them, and at the same time types of the Lord Jesus, who, in his sacrificial character, sustained an important relation to the entire family of man. But deny a substitution thus universal, and you are plunged into impenetrable darkness.

We have dwelt the longer on this point, because it is vital to the controversy. If Christ were a substitute for all men, or died in the room of all, then it cannot be denied that his sacrifice bore such a relation to the sins of men, that a way was thereby opened for the restoration of the whole human race to the favor of God. And on the other hand, if no substitution of this universal character existed, I do not see but that we must restrict the availableness of Christ’s death to the elect only. But our brethren of the opposite school will probably rejoin: “If Christ died in the room of all, why are not all saved? And again, if he died for, or in reference to all, why the specialty sometimes indicated in regard to the object of his death: he is said to lay down his life for his sheep, for his friends, for the Church?

The first of these inquiries we answer by saying, that if Christ did die for all, so as to make his death available to their salvation, it will not follow as a consequence that all will actually be saved, and as to the indication of specialty in regard to the object of Christ’s death, such as that he died for his sheep, his Church, his friends, these are all explained by a reference to the ultimate object of his death. Doubtless, he died with an intention of saving those who were given him in the covenant of redemption; they were the seed to serve him, promised as a reward for his agony and bloody sweat, and he looked to their salvation as the fruit of his sufferings, and as the joy set before him. But such an ultimate design of his death, which included the application which should be made of it by the sovereign and discriminating grace of God, hinders not the availableness of his sacrifice in relation to all, nor throws the slightest suspicion upon the doctrine which we have advocated in this lecture. Because he died with the declared design of saving his people, does it follow that he had no other design? Because this was an ultimate end sought in his death, is it a just consequence that he could have had no other end, either immediate or ultimate? Doubtless, whatever follows as the proper result of his atoning sacrifice, he sought more immediately or remotely as an end of his undertaking in this infinitely solemn and amazing tragedy.

But we have not done with this article; that the sacrifice of Christ stood in suck a relation to the sins of men, as to open a way for the salvation of all.

We argue this from the parable of the marriage supper, where it is expressly said, all things are ready, and ready, too, for those who, it seems, in the event never came. * * * * We argue it from the indefinite tender of salvation made to all men where the Gospel comes. To us, no maxim appears more certain, than that a salvation offered, implies a salvation provided; for God will not tantalize his creatures by tendering them with that which is not in his hand to bestow. We argue it from the declared purpose of God in sending his Son into the world, and which he has expressed in such a manner as to leave no reasonable doubt that provision is made for all. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

By the world here, must be intended either the chosen vessels of mercy, sometimes called the elect world, or the world of mankind at large, without discrimination. Suppose we interpret it of the elect world. Then the sentiment will run thus: God so loved the elect world, that whosoever of the elect world shall believe in him. But such language is absurd upon the very face of it, and cannot be supposed to proceed from the lips of unerring wisdom. Besides, what follows fixes the sense and demands a different interpretation. “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” And again, “This is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light.” It is utterly contrary to the usus loquendi, to interpret the phrase, the world of God’s chosen people. It signifies often, mankind at large; sometimes the wicked part of mankind, as distinguished from God’s people; and not unfrequently the earth itself, with all that pertains to it. Nor is it doubted that it is sometimes taken for a part of mankind, instead of the whole, as when it is said, “the world is gone after him.” But it is nowhere used, that we have discovered, for the elect, the Church, or God’s redeemed ones, in distinction from others. Interpret this passage, then, according to its most obvious signification, and what do we find but a declaration of God’s love to the human race collectively, in the gift of his Son, which gift involved in it the means of their salvation. He sent his Son that they might be saved, not that they should infallibly be saved. His love was expressed in providing the means, and their destiny he has made to turn upon the use which they shall make of this inestimable provision of his mercy. And hence Christ himself says in the words immediately following: “He that believeth not is condemned already; because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Not because a way of salvation was not provided through means of this Son, (for that he had asserted in a verse or two preceding) but because he had not believed in the name of the only begotten Son, but despised and rejected him.

Here he assigns the true and only cause of condemnation to sinners under the light of the Gospel, namely, their unbelief. But how could unbelief be the cause, at least the principal cause, if no sacrifice has been offered for them, and no means of salvation provided? There would then be another reason for their condemnation, a reason far deeper and more controlling, to wit, no atonement, nor the means of one.

We call not your attention to the universal terms so often employed upon this subject, as that Christ is the Saviour of all men, that though he tasted death for every man, and gave himself a ransom for all, &c., not because we suppose these terms ought not to be understood in the widest sense of universality, but because this ground has been trodden over by the parties in this controversy. We ask you to consider some passages which we think far more decisive. Look at Hebrews x. 26, 27: “For if we sin willfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins; but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries.” It is agreed, on all hands, that the Apostle here describes such as openly and deliberately apostatize from the truth, and set themselves vigorously to oppose Christianity; men who are given up of God, and irrevocably sealed over to destruction, as a just judgment for their wickedness. Now, with respect to these men he saith, there remains no more sacrifice for sins. The original is peculiarly strong and determinate. Ouk eti peri hamartion leiphetai thusiaa sacrifice for sin no more, or no longer remains. What does this imply, but that antecedent to this apostacy, there was a sacrifice which might have availed to take away their sins. But now there is none. They are left without hope, because cut off, by the just judgment of God, from any connection with the only sacrifice which can take away sin. They have trampled under foot the blood of the covenant; and now, instead of pleading for mercy, it pleads for vengeance. But what propriety in this statement, if the blood of Christ was never an available sacrifice for them, and they never stood in any other relation to it than the apostate angels? it having, in no sense, ever been shed for them. Surely, it must be strange language, to say there remains no more a sacrifice to those for whom there never was a sacrifice. If this passage stood alone, on the subject before us, I should consider it as settling the question forever, that the death of Christ bore such a relation to the sins of men, as to open a way for the restoration of the whole human family to the favor of God. For, if it bore such a relation to any one soul who is finally lost, with what reason could it be denied with respect to others?

Look, again, at 1 Cor. viii. 11: “And through thy knowledge shall thy weak brother perish, for whom Christ died.” But how shall he perish? why, by being emboldened to eat those things which are offered unto idols, as the Apostle teaches us in the preceding verse, he shall be guilty of renouncing the living and true God, or which is equally fatal, confounding him with idols. The Apostle does not say he shall be injured, greatly injured, but he shall perish; using the very same word which Christ does, when he says that God gave his only begotten Son, that men need not perish, but have everlasting life; and the same word which Jude uses, when he speaks of those who perished in the gainsaying of Core [Korah]. It is perfectly idle to attempt to explain away the solemn and awful import of this word; and yet if it be allowed its proper signification–if to perish is to lose one’s soul–then men may be lost for whom Christ died; which concludes unanswerably in favor of our doctrine, that Christ died for all, or that his sacrifice bore a solemn and important relation to all.

We draw the same conclusion from 2 Peter ii. 1, where the Apostle speaks of some who privily bring in damnable heresies, denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. You have already heard the opinion of Calvin upon this text. And though our brethren of another school have often nibbled at it, and applied to it the various arts of criticism, still it stands as firm as the pillar of Hercules against the sentiment that Christ died for his people only.

If wicked men deny the Lord that bought them, doubtless they were bought, and bought by the price of that blood which alone is an adequate ransom for the soul.

But we are told that the Lord that bought them was not Jesus Christ, and of course, that they were not bought with his blood. Who, then, was this Lord, and how did he buy these wicked men? Why, the Lord is God the Father, the Sovereign Ruler of the world, and he bought these men as Jehovah bought the Israelites, when he delivered them from the bondage of Egypt. But when was this interpretation first introduced? Can it be found in any of the ancient scholiasts or glossaries? Its modern date shows its origin; that it has been resorted to, not from its obvious agreement with the words, but from the necessity of the case. It has been seen that the old interpretation would be fatal to a certain theory; the words of the Apostle, therefore, must speak something else than what the Church from the beginning has supposed them to speak.

But let us hear the defense of this novel interpretation. The word in the original, translated Lord, is despotes, and not Kurios, the more common appellation of Jesus Christ. This word, it is said, signifies Supreme Ruler, and is thus applied to God in several places in the New Testament. True; but is it not also applied to Christ, and even to men who sustain the relation of master to others as their servants? Whom does the Apostle mean by despotes in 2 Tim. ii. 21, where he says, “If a man purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the master’s use?” Whom does Jude mean by despotes in a passage strikingly parallel with that under consideration, where he speaks of “certain men crept in unawares, who were of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, even our Lord Jesus Christ” as it should be rendered. The best lexicographers tell us that this word has the force of dominus among the Latins, and may be applied to God as the Supreme Ruler, to Jesus Christ as the great Head of his Church, or to any head or master of a family. Nothing is therefore more futile than the attempt to escape the obvious construction of this passage by a criticism upon the word despotes, which in this very place, Schleusner tells us, is applied to Jesus Christ. But if God, the Supreme Ruler of the world, is here designated by despotes, I should like to know a little more definitely how he has bought these wicked men, who privily bring in damnable heresies? Will you say he delivered them from the bondage of corruption? This neither the text nor the context declares. But if it were so, what was the price which he paid for their deliverance? When he bought the Israelites, he paid a price for them, and a heavy price it was; he gave Egypt for them Ethiopia and Sheba for a ransom. Was there anything to correspond with this, when he bought the false prophets and false teachers spoken of in this text? According to our judgment, there was never a harder shift to blunt the edge of plain and pointed Scripture testimony. But we need not wonder, because as long as this text stands in the Bible, unperverted, it is entirely fatal to that scheme which contends that Jesus Christ was a sacrifice for the elect only.

Let me draw your attention to a single remark more. This important passage has always been considered as parallel with that in Jude, already mentioned. There is a striking resemblance in all the important points of character attributed to these wicked men by the two sacred writers, and an equally striking analogy in their doom. But what did they do, besides turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and leading a life of brutal sensuality? What did they do which in a peculiar manner irrevocably sealed them to perdition? Why, they denied the despotes, and by despotes Jude manifestly intends the Lord Jesus Christ.

James Richards, Lectures on Mental Philosophy and Theology (New York: Published by M.W. Dodd, 1846), 302-327.    [Some spelling modernized; italics original; footnote values modernized; square bracketed insert mine; and underlining mine.]    [Note: Richards was another very conservative New School Presbyterian.]


1Vol. II, page 445.

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