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1) There are others who deny the necessity of atonement chiefly, it may be, through misapprehension. They suppose the necessity refers to the origination of love in the divine bosom. They properly deny that the atonement or anything else was necessary to excite the love of God. That love was in his heart from eternity, and the atonement results from it. There would have been no atonement without it. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” The mission of his Son was the effect of antecedent love. God loved us, and therefore sent his Son to be the ‘propitiation for our sins. But while the atonement was not necessary in the sense of originating the love of God to man, it was, for other reasons, indispensable to human salvation. We find a reason in the claims of the divine law. This law, with its penalty annexed to its violation, is “holy, and just, and good.” If so, holiness, justice, and goodness require an observance: of its precepts, and, in case of disobedience, the infliction of its penalty. Hence the necessity of an atonement clearly appears. The law having been transgressed restrained the exercise of mercy in man’s salvation, and called for the execution of its penalty. In order to the salvation of sinners, all expiatory measure must be introduced into the divine Government, to meet the claims of the law by preserving its honor, and vindicating its penal sanctions. The atonement of Christ was the measure divinely devised and introduced. It rendered satisfaction to the law, and removed the restraints which it had placed on the exercise of mercy. Now mercy triumphs in all its beauty, justice shines forth in all its majesty, and holiness appears in all Its glory.

In treating of the necessity of Christ’s atonement, it is generally deemed sufficient to refer to it as a transaction worthy of God, designed to satisfy the demands of his law. When this is done, the interests of truth are not likely to suffer. At times, however, it is well to go more thoroughly into the matter of necessity, and trace it from the penal claims of the law to the ill desert of sin, and thence to the nature of God. For if it be asked, why the divine law, when transgressed, needs satisfaction? the question finds its answer in the nature of sin, and in the nature of God. There is intrinsic demerit in sin which renders it deserving of punishment. To present the matter concretely rather than abstractly, I say that a sinner, because he is a sinner, deserves punishment. He is a rebel against the government of God, and justice requires that he shall pay the penalty of rebellion. Law and justice require that the transgressor shall be punished, on account of the ill-desert of sin that is to say, on account of his personal blameworthiness. The philosophy of punishment is susceptible of no other explanation. There is something in the nature of sin which calls for penal infliction on the sinner, and from the nature of sin the necessity of atonement may be traced to the nature of God. It can be traced no farther. All reasoning on the subject is destined to culminate at this point, and here to exhibit its supreme strength. For if we ask why the law of God is what it is, the answer is, because the nature of God is what it is. If we ask why sin is such an evil as to deserve punishment, the answer is, because it is antagonistic to the nature of God. Here, therefore,–in the divine nature,–is the field on which is to be decided the contest for or against the necessity of atonement; The Bible teaches that there is some thing in the nature of God, to which sin is so offensive, so infinitely hateful, as to excite his wrath. It may be said, too, that sin is the only thing which has ever excited the wrath of God. That moral quality of the divine nature which causes hatred of sin, excites wrath against sin, and therefore makes necessary an atonement, in order to the pardon of sin. If sin originates wrath in the divine bosom, it is morally certain that that wrath can never be turned away, unless some atoning provision is made for the forgiveness of the sin which originates it. What do the Scriptures say in regard to the wrath of God? Listen: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” “The wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience.” Here are several passages of Scripture which speak of wrath,. nor can it be doubted what wrath is meant. It is expressly termed “the wrath of God.” We are not to suppose that wrath in God is something similar to exasperated passion in man. It is not. God’s wrath is a holy and just indignation against sin. We are not left to conjecture whether this wrath exists; for it is revealed from heaven. It comes on the children of disobedience–abides on unbelievers–and believers are saved from it through Jesus Christ. Wrath against sin and love for sinners are perfectly compatible. The feelings of every good man may be appealed to in proof of this fact, and the fact itself receives its highest exemplification in God. He so loved sinners, and so hated their sins, as to send his Son from heaven “to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” that he might gratify the impulses of his love in saving sinners. In the cross God shows himself to the universe as the sinner’s friend, and the uncompromising eternal enemy of sin.

Some think that it detracts from the perfection of the divine character to speak of the wrath of God. Their view of wrath is that it is a resentful, vindictive passion. Such a passion is, they think, and properly too, unworthy of. God. But there is a vast difference between vindictive and vindicative; and while the wrath of God is not vindictive, it is vindicative of his justice, his law, his government. This is seen in the agony of Gethsemane, and in the tragedy of Calvary.

The text refers to “the adoption of sons,” but it is evident that the adopted are justified. It would not comport with the majesty of the lawgiver to receive as sons those resting under the condemnation of the law. The sentence of condemnation must be removed, guilt must be canceled, and the gracious act of justification must take place. There must be acceptance in Christ, the Beloved. The meritorious basis of all this is the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, gratuitously imputed and received by faith. This righteousness meets the demands of the law under which, the text says Christ was made, and he is therefore “the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” It is plain, then, that the atonement of Christ sustains a vitally important relation to the great doctrine of justification; for it removes all legal obstructions out of the way of a sinner’s reception into the divine favor. The act of justification is always accompanied by regeneration which removes the moral obstructions out of the ay of salvation. This great change is the process of spiritual filiation, by which ” children of he devil” are made “children of God.” Inseparable from it is “the adoption of sons” resulting from Christ’s mission; for the Father sent him “to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” It is to be remembered that Christ is in the highest sense of the words “the Son of God.” Not only so, but this phrase as applied to him has a meaning supremely peculiar. Hence he is called “the only-begotten Son of God,” and “the only-begotten Son, who is in. the bosom of the Father.” While therefore It is true that Christ is in the most exalted acceptation of the, language “the Son of God,” and while God is in a sense inconceivably sublime his Father, it is also a blessed truth that believers in Christ, the regenerate, the adopted, are, ill an inferior sense, sons of God, and God, in an inferior sense, is their Father. Union with Christ creates Brotherhood, and Brotherhood in Christ establishes Fatherhood in God. The Fatherhood is not through the first Adam, but through the second, the Lord from heaven. Inspiration therefore says, “Ye [ Christians] are all the children of God by faith , in Christ Jesus.” Faith is the bond of union between Christ and the saved. They are, as members of a large spiritual fraternity, allied to him as “the first-born among many brethren.” “For both he that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name to my brethren.” But as he, the “First-born,” is the Son of God, so his brethren are sons of God As God is his Father, so he is their Father. For this reason Jesus after his resurrection said to Mary, “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” These are great words, and because the risen Savior used them, Peter afterwards wrote–“PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE.” This does not of course mean partakers of the divine essence, which would be deification, and which is not true of the human nature of Christ, but it means partakers of the divine holiness ‘ which is the glory of the divine nature. I refer to the expression–“partakers of the divine nature”–to show the intimate union with God into which believers are brought through Christ. Can we not now see great force and beauty in the words of Jesus in his intercessory prayer?–”That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art one in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.” Observe, Christ is in his brethren–”I in them;” and the Father is in Christ–”thou in me.” Thus men are brought to God. It is through Christ. “No man comes to the Father but by me,” is the language of Jesus. God is accessible through the mediation of Christ alone, and most prominent in his work of mediation is the atonement made by his obedience and death. Through this atonement are accomplished the purposes of predestinating love.

Hence it is written, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ, to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace.” The divine program was arranged before the foundation of the world. Even from eternity the divine Intellect projected its thoughts into the distant future, contemplating the existence and the ruin of man, while the love of the divine Heart kept pace with the excursions of the intellect. Then was the purpose of God formed to reclaim out of Adam’s fallen race, and to adopt as children his chosen ones, all who will final1y be saved. The purpose was to do this in Christ, through Christ, and love was in blessed union with the purpose–the very love which reached its climax of manifestation, when Jesus poured forth his atoning blood on Calvary. Then it was that the voice of God, the Lawgiver, and Guardian of the rights of the divine government, was heard saying, “Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts; smite the Shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered.” Then was the Shepherd smitten that the flock might go free. Then did Jesus not save himself that he might save others. The smiting referred to by Zechariah is identical with the bruising mentioned by Isaiah, and it pleased the Lord to bruise the Messiah. How much this smiting or bruising implied, we shall never know. We know, however, that it was Judicially inflicted by the Lawgiver on Christ as the substitute for sinners. These two things were necessary to give to the sufferings of Jesus their atoning properties. He must suffer in the place of othersthat is with a view to satisfy the law in their behalf and the Lawgiver must approve the substitution, and inflict penal sufferings on the substitute. There are three epithets descriptive of all sufferings; namely, calamitous, disciplinary, and penal. Calamitous sufferings have no particular reference to sin; disciplinary sufferings are intended for the good of the sufferers; and Penal sufferings are designed to satisfy law and justice. It was is in the last sense that Jesus suffered. His sufferings were penal, because he endured the penalty of the law, and the law was so honored, so magnified, so glorified, by his atonement, that the Fatherhood of God, though of grace and not of works of law, is nevertheless consistent with law, harmonious With Justice, illustrative of love, and radiant with holiness. James M. Pendleton, The Fatherhood of God in Relation to the Atonement of Christ, (Philadelphia: The American Baptist Publication Society, 1876), 18-29. [Some spelling modernized; italics original; and underlining mine.]

2) The sufficiency of the provisions of the atonement for the world’s salvation, is the only basis on which can consistently rest the universal invitations of the gospel. On this point I cannot express my views so well as Andrew Fuller has done in the following language: “It is a fact that the Scriptures rest the general invitations of the gospel upon the atonement of Christ. But if there were not a sufficiency in the atonement for the salvation of sinners without distinction, how could the ambassadors of Christ beseech them to be reconciled to God, and that from the consideration of his having been made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might he made the righteousness of God in him? What would you think of the fallen angels being invited to he reconciled to God from the consideration of an atonement having been made for fallen men? You would say, It is inviting them to partake of a benefit which has no existence, the obtaining of which, therefore, is naturally impossible. Upon the supposition of the atonement being insufficient for the salvation of any more than are actually saved, the non-elect, however, with respect to a being reconciled to God through it, are in the same state as the fallen angels; that is, the thing is not only morally, but naturally impossible. But if there be an objective fulness in the atonement of Christ, sufficient for any number of sinners, were they to believe in him, there is no other impossibility in the way of any man’s salvation, to whom the gospel comes at least, than what arises from the state of his own mind. The intention of God not to remove this impossibility, and so not to save him, is a purpose to withhold not only that which he was not obliged to bestow, but that which is never represented in the Scriptures as necessary to the consistency of exhortations or invitations.  James M. Pendleton, Christian Doctrines: A Compendium of Theology, (Philadelphia: The Judson Press, 1954), 242-243. [Some spelling modernized; italics original; and underlining mine.]

3) It will be inferred from the foregoing that I take an enlarged view of the atonement. The inference is correct. As to the sufficiency of its provisions for the salvation of the world, there can be no reasonable doubt. On this point there should be no controversy. If, as has been shown, the value of the atonement arises chiefly from the dignity of the Redeemer’s person, and if his dignity results by a sublime necessity from his divinity, how impertinent to attempt to limit its sufficiency! So far as the claims of law and justice are concerned, the atonement has obviated every difficulty in the way of any sinner’s salvation. In supplying an honorable basis for the exercise of mercy in one instance, it supplies a basis for the exercise of mercy in innumerable instances. It places the world, to use the language of Robert Hall, “in a salvable state.” It makes justification an attainable object; and this is probably Paul’s meaning when he teaches that, as through the disobedience of Adam, “judgment came upon all men to condemnation,” so through the obedience of Christ, “the free gift came upon all men to Justification of life.” That is, all men, in consequence of the atonement, occupy a position where saving influences can reach them. There is no natural impossibility in the way of their salvation, If it is asked, “Why, then, are not all men saved?” it is enough for me to say, that the answer is not to be sought in any lack of sufficiency in the atonement, but in the culpable unwillingness of sinners to be saved. Here the question is to be left, and here it ought always to have been left. James M. Pendleton, The Atonement, (Philadelphia: American Baptists Publications Society, 1885), 93-94.  [Some spelling modernized; italics original; and underlining mine.]

[Notes: 1) What is fundamental here is that for Pendleton, there is a correct connection between unlimited expiation, the removal of the legal barriers between all men and God, and the subscription to a proper concept of penal satisfaction and penal substitution.  2) Pendleton shows that it is not the case that one has to affirm that either Christ merely made the salvation of all men possible or that he Christ sustained a penal substitution for the sins of the elect alone.  This is a false either/or fallacy, also known as a false dilemma fallacy. 3) Pendleton shows us that in actuality, contrary to the claims of many advocates of limited expiation and sin-bearing, that there is indeed another theological model of substitution which combines the universality of Christ’s sin-bearing with the truth of vicarious representation. In other words, as Calvin says,’ Christ stood in the room of all sinners,’ thereby, as Obadiah Hughes says, ‘making all men savable.’  4) The net result is, like or not, there has existed in the Reformed theological continuum, an alternative version of substitutionary atonement which was universal in nature and extent.]

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