Shedd on 1 John 2:2

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in 1 John 2:2

1) “The human conscience is the mirror and index of the divine attribute of justice.  The two are correlated.  What therefore God’s justice demands, man’s conscience demands.  ‘Nothing,’ says Matthew Henry, ‘can pacify an offended conscience but that which satisfied an offended God.’  The peace which the believer in Christ’s atonement enjoys, and which is promised by the Redeemer to the believer, is the subjective experience in man that corresponds to the objective reconciliation in God.  The pacification of the human conscience is the consequence of the satisfaction of divine justice.  God’s justice is completely satisfied for the sin of man by the death of Christ.  This is an accomplished fact: ‘Jesus Christ the righteous is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.’ (1 John 2:2). The instant any individual man of this world of mankind believes that divine justice is thus satisfied, his conscience is at rest.  The belief is not needed in order to establish the fact.  Whether a sinner believes Christ died for sin or not will make no difference with the fact, though it will make a vast difference with him: ‘If we believe not, yet he abides faithful: he cannot deny himself’ (2 Tim. 2:13).  Unbelief cannot destroy a fact.  Should not a soul henceforth believe on the Son of God, it would nevertheless be a fact that he died an atoning death on Calvary and that this death is an ample oblation for the sin of the world.  But it must be remembered that the kind of belief by which a man obtains a personal benefit from the fact of Christ’s death is experimental, not historical or hearsay. And a sinful man may have no skeptical doubt that the death of Christ on Mount Calvary has completely expiated human guilt and may even construct a strong argument in proof of the fact and still have all the miserable experience of an unforgiving sinner, may still have remorse and the fear of death and the damnation of hell. Whenever there is an experimental belief of the actual and accomplished fact of Christ’s atonement, there is a subjective pacification of the conscience corresponding to the objective reconciliation of divine justice.  But this subjective effect of Christ’s death is neither the primary nor the whole effect of it.  It presupposes the objective satisfaction or propitiation. In this instance, as in all others, the object is prior to the subject and determines its consciousness.” Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 2:409-11.

2) In the third place, an atonement, either personal or vicarious, when made, naturally and necessarily cancels legal claims. This means that there is such a natural and necessary correlation between vicarious atonement and justice, that the former supplies all that is required by the latter. It does not mean that Christ’s vicarious atonement naturally and necessarily saves every man; because the relation of Christ’s atonement to divine justice is one thing, but the relation of a particular person to Christ’s atonement is a very different thing. Christ’s death as related to the claims of the law upon all mankind, cancels those claims wholly. It is an infinite “propitiation for the sins of the whole world,” 1 John 2:2. But the relation of an impenitent person to this atonement, is that of unbelief and rejection of it. Consequently, what the atonement has effected objectively in reference to the attribute of divine justice, is not effected subjectively in the conscience of the individual. There is an infinite satisfaction that naturally and necessarily cancels legal claims, but unbelief derives no benefit from the fact…

This reasoning applies to vicarious atonement equally with personal. Justice does not require a second sacrifice from Christ, in addition to the first. “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many,” Hebrews 10:28 [sic]. This one offering expiated “the sins of the whole world,” and justice is completely satisfied in reference to them. The death of the God-man naturally and necessarily cancelled all legal claims. When a particular person trusts in this infinite atonement, and it is imputed to him by God, it then becomes his atonement for judicial purposes as really as if he had made it himself, and then it naturally and necessarily cancels his personal guilt, and he has the testimony that it does in his peace of conscience. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 2:437, 438.

3) The Christian gospel–the universal offer of pardon through the self-sacrifice of one of the divine persons–should silence every objection to the doctrine of endless punishment.  For as the case now stands, there is no necessity, so far as the action of God is concerned, that a single human being should ever be the subject of future punishment

“For the Scriptures everywhere describe God as naturally and spontaneously merciful and declare that all the legal obstacles to the exercise of this great attribute have been removed by the death of the Son of God ‘for the sins of the whole world‘ (1 John 2:2).  In the very centre of the holy revelations of Sinai, Jehovah proclaimed it to be his inherent and intrinsic disposition to be ‘merciful and gracious, long-suffering, forgiving iniquity and transgression’ (Exod. 34:6-7). Shedd, Dogmatic Theology 2:749

4) But, secondly, there are degrees of mercy. Because God does not show the degree of it to a particular sinner, it does not follow that he does not show him any at all. He may grant him the mercy of common grace, and which this is resisted and nullified by his hostile self-will arid obstinate love of sin, he may decide not to bestow the mercy of special grace, and yet not be chargeable with destitution of love and compassion towards him.1 Any degree of love is love; and any degree of compassion is compassion. To contend that the Divine love must be of exactly the same degree towards all creatures alike or else it is not love, is untenable. It is certain that God can feel love and pity towards the souls of all men, as his creatures and as sinners lost by their own fault, and manifest it in that measure of grace which “leads to repentance” (Rom. 2:4), and would result in it if it were not resisted, and yet not actually save them all from the consequences of their own action. This Scriptures plainly teach that God so loved the whole world that he gave his only-begotten Son to make expiation for “the sins of the whole world;” and they just as plainly teach that a part of this world of mankind are sentenced, by God, to eternal death for their sins. The Arminian and the Calvinist both alike deny the doctrine of universal salvation, yet believe that this is compatible with the doctrine of God’s universal benevolence. Both deny the inference that if God does not save every human being, he does not love the soul of every human being; that if lie does not do as much for one person as he does for another, he is merciful towards him. It is a fallacy to maintain, that, unless God does all that is possibly can to save a sinner, he does not do anything towards his salvation; as it would be fallacious to maintain, that unless God bestows upon a person all the temporal blessings that are within his power, he does not show him any benevolence at all. This fallacy lies under the argument against preterition. It is asserted that if God “passes by” a sinner in the bestowment of regenerating grace, he has no love for his soul, no desire for its salvation, and does nothing towards its welfare.

Footnote 1: Man is compelled to speak of God’s decision or decree in this way, though strictly there is no before or after for him. All his decrees are eternal and simultaneous. Yet there is an order of nature. Special grace supposes the failure of common grace.

William G.T. Shedd, Calvinism Pure and Mixed (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1893), 45-46.

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One comment


Updated Shedd on 1 John 2:2. See #4 above.

April 16th, 2009 at 2:21 pm

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