2. Principal Theories of the Sacrifice of Christ.
In the sketch I have given of the history of opinion on the subject of the atonement, I have endeavored to indicate the different views which have been advanced on this head, and their position relatively to each other. The two great antagonist theories are, on the one hand, that which regards the work of Christ as being designed to effect reconciliation between God and man by the offering of a legal satisfaction for man’s transgression; and, on the other, that which resolves the effect of Christ’s work into its moral power in moving man to seek reconciliation with God. Of these, various modifications have been advanced by different writers and accepted by theological schools of greater or less importance.
To examine all these in detail would require more time than we have at our disposal, and therefore I shall content myself with stating the leading opinions on both sides, and offering such remarks as may serve to indicate the worth of each. After noticing some of the more recent speculations which have been advanced on the subject in this country and America, I shall endeavour to lay down those principles which seem to me to be essential to our reaching a just view on this subject, and which seem to conduct to the view I am prepared to advocate.
Beginning with those who look upon the atonement of Christ in the light of a legal satisfaction or judicial expiation, I remark that all agree in thinking that the work of Christ derives its worth from the union of the divine and the human natures in His person, and all admit that worth to be not only supreme, but infinite. There is a difference, however, between certain schools or classes of them as to the nature of the compensation rendered to the divine government and law on our behalf by Christ, His special purpose and intention in offering it, and the consequent extent to which His work was designed to be sufficient. Of these varying shades of opinion we notice the following:–
(1.) That of the Hyper-Calvinists,–a name which has been given, not because those to whom it is attached are regarded as having gone beyond Calvin in their doctrine, but because they carry the views of Calvin on this head to their utmost extent, and hold them with unbending rigidity.