Henry Clay Mabie.

How does the death of Christ save us? or, The ethical energy of the cross online

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"The hands upon that cruel tree,
Extended wide as mercy's span,
Have gathered to the Son of man
The ages past and yet to be.

One, reaching backward to the prime,
Enfolds the children of the morn;
The other, to a race unborn

Extends the crowning gift of time ! "






Being ready always to give answer
to every man that asketh you a
reason concerning the hope that is
in you, yet with meekness and fear.
i Peter 3 : 15.


American ptapttet publication S>octetp

Boston Chicago Atlanta

New York St. Louis Dallas



A CLQfli r

wO \J A vJand

TILD '; ions


Copyright 1908 by the
American Baptist Publication Society

Published April, 1908

jfrom tbe Society's own Prc8»



I A Question of Questions 7

II The Salvation Embraced in the

Forgiveness of Sin 12

III The Centrality of Christ's Death

in Salvation 22

IV The Nature of Christ's Death . . 27
V The Death Voluntary 31

VI The Death More than Physical . 38

VII The Death Involved the Resurrec-
tion 47

VIII The Death Involved the Ascension
and the Divine Enduement of
Power 63

IX The Death Implied a New Vital

Union with Christ 72

X The Death Implied the Renewal

of the Cosmos 82

XI The Ethical Values of the Atone-
ment 87

XII The Church's One Foundation . . 92

XIII The Sin of Contempt of Grace . . 99


[6] Contents


XIV The Power of the Cross not Out-
worn 103

XV Redemption and Stewardship . . 106

XVI Redemption Recovering from

Criminality 109

XVII Redemption Overcoming Heathen-
ism 114

XVIII The Sovereignty of Saviourhood 120

XIX Japanese Trophies of the Cross . 126

XX Power of the Cross Over a Hindu

Mob 130

XXI Testimony of Dr. Griffith John

of China 137

XXII The Cross the Soul's Last Re-
source 142

Appendix A The Atonement an Achieve-
ment 146

Appendix B The Point of View of the

Apostolic Testimony 150

Appendix C God a Sufferer 153

Appendix D A Penal Element in Christ's

Death 154

Appendix E The Offense of the Cross 156

Appendix F Falling Toward the Cross 158

How Does The Death
Of Christ Save Us ?

H Question of Questions

NOT long since a friend of the writer
propounded the above question to a
theologian of repute. The answer returned
was so hesitant and confused as to surprise
and disappoint the querist. The difficulty
implied in the question has perplexed many

In the recent book, " The Heart of the
Gospel," by Dr. James M. Campbell, the au-
thor has this reference to the so-called
" Moral Influence View " of the atonement,
as set forth by the late Prof. Geo. B. Stev-
ens, D. D., of Yale Theological Seminary:
" The main thing lacking in the view is that
it does not show how the work of Christ is
so related to sin as to be made effective to
salvation, nor does it tap the deep fountain


[8] Mow 5>oeg tbe Deatb

of motive from which the moral influence of
the Saviour's influence springs. It predi-
cates an effect without an adequate cause."
And yet this " Moral Influence View " of
the atonement is supposed by many to re-
duce to a minimum the difficulties in the ra-
tionale of the atonement — a conception with
which the present writer finds himself un-
able to agree.

The question of the method of salvation
deserves a better answer than is commonly
given to it; and certainly an answer that
does not destroy the atonement. Indeed
such an answer must be given, if the evan-
gelical faith is to stand, if our rational hold
on the grounds of salvation is to be main-
tained, and if we are to strengthen the faith
of others. It cannot be, that that Cross
which is declared to be "the wisdom of
God," will not commend itself as wise in the
method of its working, as well as effective
in power, to a spiritually taught insight. The
way of salvation must be supremely rational.
Customary as it is for many to say that they

of Cbtist Save TUs ? [9]

have " no theory " of the atonement, yet all
men who think about it at all, do have some
theory, whether they intelligibly define it or
not. This habit of speaking of having " no
theory " on the subject, while holding to the
saving value in the fact of Christ's death,
is the fashion of the hour. Sometimes it
would appear to be an unoffending way of
bowing out of the court elements embraced
in a Bible view of the subject which some
hesitate to acknowledge, and yet which
they do not quite have the frankness to dis-
claim. Doubtless some are in suspense what
to believe.

In the following pages I shall attempt an
answer to the question, " How does the
death of Christ save us ? " The difficulty in
the case is to show the ethical energy resi-
dent in Christ's death as it takes effect upon
us : to show how the work accomplished in
the death of Christ is so related to sin — to
our sin — as to become effective to our sal-
vation: so as to engender motive and im-
part dynamic to ultimate holiness of life.

[iq] tlow 5)oes tbe Beatb

Doubtless to most Bible-believing Chris-
tians, it is enough that the Bible teaches, as
assuredly it does, that the death of Christ
in some way saves. Such do not care to go
behind the simple fact. For them, unvexed
by speculative questions, this may be well.
In the case of others, however, in whom
doubts have arisen, and who yearn for a
definite intellectual basis for their belief, it
is important that the grounds in a matter so
central be pointed out.

While none can hope fully to explain the
relation of an event so transcendent as the
death of Christ to human salvation, yet we
believe that it can be so cleared of some con-
fusions that have attached themselves to it,
as greatly to simplify the matter. Souls
earnest and thoughtful enough to raise the
question deserve all the help possible to its
answer ; while any hesitation to attempt that
answer, on the part of one interrogated, both
betrays feebleness of grasp on the realities
of salvation and causes the weak to stumble.

At the very root of the difficulty implied

ot Cbrist Save ins ? [«]

in the question is a confused understanding
of the terms employed. Neither what the
death is, nor what " save " means is clear.
The term " save," or salvation, first needs
to be explained. Salvation may signify the
work of justification merely, wherein we are
forgiven through the redemptive sacrifice
of Christ; it may mean salvation in the
more vital sense of a renewed inner life ;
or it may comprehend the full fact of sal-
vation, embracing that of body, soul, and
spirit, the full life-career, and the renewal
of the cosmos, of which we form a part
from our creation to the final consumma-
tion. Salvation is a large word. It im-
plies being recovered from certain lower re-
lations and being instated in certain other
and higher relations. It is a question also
of personal relationship to other personali-
ties in this universe — personalities divine,
human, and satanic.

At this point, therefore, it is important to
clear understanding, that we should speak
of that initial salvation which on the ground

Q] Mow 5)oes tbe 5)eatb

of Christ's death is embraced in the pro-
vision for the forgiveness of sin.


ttbe Salvation Embraces in tbc
tfovQivencss of Sin

FROM the beginning of the Christian
era, the death of Christ has been be-
lieved to be fundamentally related to the
moral possibility of justification and for-
giveness of sin on the part of a holy God.
Throughout the Scriptures this is also
uniformly implied. The death of Christ has
never been taught by representative evan-
gelicals to be necessary to secure a disposi-
tion in God to save, that is, to make God
willing to save. It is rather because of deep
willingness eternal in the very nature of
God, that he provided to give his Son so
that he might righteously forgive.

The moment we see this in God, another
step in thought easily follows ; namely this,

of Cbrist Save TUs? [13]

that the atonement death as timeless in
God's heart and purpose, rendered divine
forgiveness a potential reality, even ante-
cedent to man's experience of it. Of
course, this forgiveness could not go into
effect or become a conscious realization in
any until believed and voluntarily appropri-
ated. From God's point of view, however,
every sinner in principle — in his moral
status — is forgiven from the beginning, and
the basis of the fact is, that God, in Christ
from eternity himself became responsible for
the foreknown sin of man whom he was to
create. An amnesty was proclaimed, like
that at the close of the Sepoy rebellion in
India, or like that at the end of our late
Civil War, in which the government prom-
ised a full and free pardon in advance of
the cessation of opposition to the govern-
ment's authority. On account of God's
work in Christ he provided, and in various
ways proclaimed pardon for all who would
receive it. In this view the world is a for-
given world, whether it knows it or not.

[14] IHow 5)oeg tbe 2)eatb

Alas, in large part it does not know it, and
where it knows it it is slow to believe it.
Yet it is forgiven in such a way as in the
end impliedly commits it to subjective per-
sonal holiness. For in justification the be-
liever is treated as righteous, as Doctor Du-
Bose has said, " Not on the ground of being
righteous, but on the ground of a certain
relation of faith to Christ's righteousness
upon which is laid the chief emphasis in St.
Paul's system." And to quote Prof. Ernest
D. Burton, " Such faith in itself is incipient
and germinal righteousness, since it is God's
will that man shall exercise faith toward
him ; it contained also the promise and po-
tency of complete and actual righteousness,
since it is the opening of the soul to God,
through which God enters never to depart,
and never to give over his work until it is
complete." Doubtless, the implied commit-
tal of the justified one to a sanctified life,
is the chief reason why mankind is so slow
to accept forgiveness and especially to seek
it. Evangelical justification, which indeed

ot Cbrtet Save xagl [15]

is a deeper matter than mere forgiveness,
has for its corollary a new voluntary sanc-
tification. Such a sanctification (whether it
be considered as a judicial setting apart to
be the obedient subject of Christ, or a pro-
gressive process of conformity to the will
of Christ) is impliedly to be entered upon
in the spirit of self-renunciation to Christ,
the master of the ransomed life.

Such a cost many are unwilling to pay.
Yet this cost in a life of self-crucifixion and
chastening is the only hope man has for
undoing the mischief of his sin, and regain-
ing the new spontaneous righteousness,
which the Holy Spirit yearns to make pos-
sible within him. " And every man that
hath this hope set on him, purifieth himself,
even as he is pure" (i John 3:3). Thus
upon the divine side, the atonement bore
upon God's being first, long before it ever
took effect upon any man, to bring him on
his own side, into personal at-one-ment with
God. God on his own behalf made propitia-
tion — though not in the pagan sense of that

[16] Mow Woes tbe Deatb

term — to himself, in a self-consistent way,
and proclaimed abroad his universal am-
nesty. He himself through self-sacrifice re-
moved all the disabilities on his own part to
the salvation of man. The justification and
forgiveness then are based upon God's own
act in that unique death of himself in Christ
which he tasted.

It has been a great misfortune to the
cause of evangelical truth that in that class
of representations made, for example, in
Edwards' famous sermon on " Sinners in
the Hands of an Angry God," a distinction
was not made between God's state of being
as a whole, and a mere relation of that being
on one side of it, that which is offended by
man's sin. Edwards depicts in a purely one-
sided way the manner in which because of
his sin, man stands exposed to the perils of
retribution, a retribution most luridly de-
scribed. He says that nothing but " the ar-
bitrary will of God," " His sovereign pleas-
ure restrained by no obligation," stands be-
tween God and the sinner's instant sliding

of Cbrtgt Save XUsT [17]

into hell. In a certain aspect of Edwards'
thought he is correct, namely in this respect :
that so far as the bearing on sinners of the
relation of holiness alone in God is con-
cerned, judgment must be conceived as im-
pending. If that were all there is in God,
Edwards would have been justified in his
position. But that is not all there is in
God. Edwards, in that famous sermon,
whatever his motive for it was, left out of
view an important part of God. There is
another relation in God, namely, his divine
graciousness, which is just as real as his
holiness. In this relation God himself has
become responsible for man's sin and guilt.
This being so, sinners are just as truly in
the hands of the eternally gracious God;
and every soul under the merciful aegis of
his potential redemption is momentarily
privileged if he will, to fall into the bosom
of God, and become a saved being. What
holds back the sinner from perdition is not
mere " arbitrary will " in God, but the gra-
cious restraints of clemency and long-suffer-

[18] Mow 5)oeg tbe 2)eatb

ing endurance, which have so profoundly-
expressed themselves in the work of Christ's
cross. With measureless long-suffering,
God waits for the sinner to respond to that.
At this point the sacrificial work of God-in-
Christ 1 enters, constraining as well as mak-
ing consistent and possible salvation. It is
here that the cross of Christ, in an important
respect, becomes the reconciliation — the rec-
onciliation of variant relationships in God,
which Edwards' sermon fails to bring out.
It is here also, that in a deep sense, there is
effected, personally, a reconciliation between
God and the sinner. It is here that judg-
ment needs to be expressed, and is ex-
pressed, so that the conscience of the peni-
tent sinner may find rest. So judgment here
also becomes grace, the only grace the Bible
promises ; and this is salvation.

In this work of Christ's cross, God shows
his righteousness (Rom. 3 : 25). He con-
demns sin, shows that he is not indifferent

1 It will be observed that throughout this discussion
every aspect of the saving work of Christ is represented
as the work of God-in-Christ.

of (Xbrfst Save XHs I [19]

to sin — does not legitimize sin — rescues the
sinner, and upholds the majesty of the di-
vine law. In order then that the state of
God's whole being, as opposed to a mere
relation in God, may appear, he needs to be
seen indeed in his relation to the just con-
demnation of sin, but also in the exhibition
of his supreme graciousness, and in the sac-
rificial work of his cross, wherein the recon-
ciliation of things antagonistic is effected.

Such a synthesis of relations is necessary
in thought, in order that we may grasp the
kind of God we have, and the kind of a
moral order under which we live. This is a
potentially redeemed universe. This world,
since the work of Christ has been enacted in
it, is a forgiven world, so far at least as
God is concerned. But the world needs to
know it, to know also the grounds on which
it has become such ; and it needs to be
brought under its spell. Coming under this
spell, it shortly realizes not only the fact that
it is saved, but also how it is saved; and
it can give an intelligent account of it.

Qq] Mow 2)oe8 tbe H>eatb

In this light the question, " How can the
death of Christ save ? " becomes equivalent
to the question, " How can God be a sacri-
ficial God, a loving God, in the deep sense
that he can deal savingly with our sin and
guilt? There are no greater intrinsic diffi-
culties in thus thinking of God as self-sacri-
ficing, than in thinking of God as creative,
or as existing in any other way. Besides,
a sacrificial God is exactly the kind of God
that appeals to our need and hope. If God
can be at all, he can if he will be a sacrifi-
cial being, can incarnate himself in his Son,
can endure atoning suffering, and to save
us. " Yea, Father, for so it was pleasing in
thy sight" (Matt, n : 26).

Of course it would be vain to talk of sal-
vation in any further sense, did we not
first recognize that man as a transgressor
can be righteously forgiven. This forgive-
ness is the first step in salvation, and is basal
to all subsequent steps. It is here that the
justification of the sinner on the grounds of
Christ's atoning death, is directly related to

ot Cbrfst Save VXet [21]

forgiveness, and vice versa. This great
event of forgiveness as connected with God's
justifying grace, is wholly God's act, an act
predetermined as a judicial transaction,
showing forth divine righteousness, and oc-
curring " once for all " in the history of re-
demption. It presupposes a penitent re-
sponse on man's part. At this point, and in
this sense, salvation is entirely of grace: it
stands a work by itself, alone in kind, a di-
vine achievement. 1 Salvation, however, in
this initial sense is but partial, if it stops
there because, as Dr. W. P. DuBose in his
remarkable discussion on the " Gospel ac-
cording to St. Paul " has wisely said : " The
response of the gospel to the human sense
of actual sin and unattainable holiness is
not the half grace of forgiveness, but the
whole grace of redemption and deliverance."
It is a great moment in the life of the soul
when it realizes salvation in the sense of for-
giveness, when, as Doctor DuBose again says,
"in one ecstatic sweep of vision, it beholds all

1 See appendix A.

1>] Mow Does tbe H>eatb

God become human, his own righteousness
and life." It is such a moment of immediate
crisis of thought that St. Paul was contem-
plating in his discussion of justification in
the Epistle to the Romans that makes him
appear at a certain stage and phase of his
discussion to consider forgiveness alone as
the whole gospel. And yet this was not the
whole gospel in the thought of Paul. Sal-
vation in the sense of justification and for-
giveness has its corollaries, as we shall point
out that we may see what is meant by sal-
vation in its more composite and extended


XTbe Centralis ot Gbrtet's Bcatb
in Salvation

BUT if the Scriptures make plain that
salvation is wholly a matter of grace,
it is just as clear that in a broad understand-
ing of the term, the death of Christ in Scrip-
ture is made the ground of that salvation.

ot Cbrtst Save TUsl [23]

Observe how explicit the affirmations are.
At the beginning of his public ministry, at
the cleansing of the temple, Jesus said, " De-
stroy this temple — referring to the temple of
his body — and in three days I will raise it
up" (John 2 : 19), indicating that even
then his eye was clearly upon his coming
death. Later, he explicitly says, " The Son
of man came not to be ministered unto, but
to minister, and to give his life a ransom
for many" (Matt. 26 : 28). "The good
Shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep "
(John 10 : 11). "And I, if I be lifted up
from the earth, will draw all unto myself,"
to which John adds the striking comment,
" This he said, signifying by what manner
of death he should die" (John 12 : 32).
The consistency with which Christ was ever
referring to his " hour," proves that his eye
was steadily fixed upon his death, in some
understanding of the word, as the proximate
goal of his earthly life. True, Jesus in talk-
ing with his disciples nowhere entered upon
any formal discussion of his death as aton-

[24] Mow Does tbe 2>eatb

ing; for the event was to be better ex-
plained after its enactment than before.
Hence also, when in the light of Pentecost,
its real place and importance were seen, then
the apostles were prepared to dwell upon it
understandingly, and to set it forth ad-

In the accounts given in the four Gospels,
all written several decades after Pentecost,
the evangelists together give more than one-
fourth of the space to the narrative even of
the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the
many discourses of the Acts (a score or so
of them), the resurrection is the central
note. It is such because it was seen to be
first, the seal of God's acceptance of the
sacrificial death, even of " Him that was
crucified " ; and because secondly, it was
seen to be the vital outcome of such a death
as Jesus died. 1

In St. Paul's thought, throughout his
Epistles, the saving power is always lodged
in the Cross. Paul's gospel was " the word

1 See appendix B.

of Cbrtst Save TUB? I>5]

of the cross" (2 Cor. 5 : 21). When he
refers to the pre-crucifixion life of Christ,
it is in order to lead up to his risen life —
that life which sprang out of the atonement-
dying and blossomed into resurrection, the
life which Christ now lives at the right hand
of God. This life it was which formed itself
within the apostle, and continues to form
itself in all believers, " the hope of glory."
And this death of Christ, in the Scriptures,
is always connected with salvation. He
" died for our sins " (1 Cor. 14 : 3). " For
if while we were enemies we were recon-
ciled to God through the death of his Son,
much more being reconciled, shall we be
saved by (or in) his life" (Rom. 5 : 10).
It is by the blood of Christ, regarded as the
symbol of the extremeness of his dying, that
we are justified, and have " the remission of
sins" (1 Cor. 14 : 3). In short, the death
of Christ with its implications is the ground
of all Paul's hopes as a Christian man, and
the sum and substance of his message to the

[26] Mow Does tbe 2)eatb

The author of the Epistle to the He-
brews epitomizes the intent of the incarna-
tion in this most explicit declaration : " That
through death he might bring to naught
him that had the power of death, that is the
devil, and might deliver all them who
through fear of death, were all their life-
time subject to bondage " (Heb. 2 : 14, 15).

The Apocalypse, in what Dr. James M.
Campbell has called " a flash-light view of
the new age of kingly power about to open,"
exhibits at the very center of this kingdom,
and on its throne " a Lamb standing as
though he had been slain" (5 : 6), but
who impliedly is alive again, and is now
lion-like in kingly power. The whole com-
pany of those who have become members
of that kingdom are described as " those
who have washed their robes and made
them white in the blood of the Lamb "

(7 : 14).

Indeed, the fact, the principle, and the
potency of the sacrificial work of God-in-
Christ are so woven into the whole warp

ot Cbttet Save VXb 1 [27]

and woof of the New Testament — aye, and
of the Old also — that they cannot be taken
out of either without destroying the fabric.
But there are deep reasons also why the
death of Christ is so central a thing in
Scripture. The death itself is of such a
nature — it stands in such relation to the
results to be effected — that its characteris-
tic elements in themselves considered, are
adapted to secure the reconstitution of the
soul in God.


TTbe mature of Gbrfst's Deatb

IF we cannot be satisfied with a narrow
view of salvation, neither can we justly
entertain a crude and narrow conception of
the death of Christ, which in the Scriptures
is correlated with it. The nature of this
death now needs to be shown, and its ade-
quacy to the production of the moral result
contemplated made clear. For so profound

[28] Mow Bocb tbe 2>eatb

an effect as salvation in the larger sense
there must be an adequate cause.

The notion commonly obtaining of
Christ's death, is that it was mere mortal
dying, the dissolution resulting from cru-
cifixion wounds — such a death as any mere
martyr might die under similar pains. If
indeed this were all, or were main features
in Christ's death, we should not wonder that
men have failed to see an ethical bearing of
such a death on ethical beings. One nat-
urally asks, " How can the mortal dying of
another individual outside one's self avail
for his immortal salvation ? " It is an at-
tempt to relate a physical event to a spiritual
state. There may be a nexus somewhere,
but it is not obvious. The difficulty in such
a conception, bears with special force
against the sufficiency of the " Moral Influ-

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