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 t1o 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 th 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 offence 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 describe 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–and by what rule the Protestants have arraigned me, for using a word not in the Confession of Faith, and in a sense in which I chose to use it in accordance with the best writers; and used in describing a thing which the Confession does not profess to describe, but which it in no instance denies; how this can be a grave offence against our standards does not appear., If this is the measure by which justice is to be meted out every where, it will not be difficult to find crimes under the most orthodox exterior, and heresy, where any order of men may have an insatiable thirst to find it.
Albert Barnes, The Way of Salvation: A Sermon, Delivered at Morristown New Jersey, Together with Mr Barnes Defence of the Sermon, 7th ed. (New York: Leavitt, Lord & Co, 1836), 67-69. [Italics original; footnote mine; and underlining mine.] [Credit to Jim Beale for the heads up on Barnes.]
1The intent here is to further document the 19th century distinction and separation between atonement and redemption. One does not have to agree with, or identify with Barnes’ overall theology.