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hand, divine love could not offer its blessings to the sinner, unless holiness was re-
vealed together with love. It was therefore necessary that suffering commensurate
with the apostasy of man should be endured, which men would impute to themselves
as their own. Such was the suffering, inward and outward, of the Redeemer. Two
things were necessary, 1. That those sufferings should correspond to (entsprechen)
the greatness of the sin of mankind ; 2. That the sinner could rightfully impute
them to himself" — Tholuck, Beilage ii., zurn Hebraerbrief, p. 104. There is more
real and precious truth, according to our judgment, in that short paragraph, than in
all Dr. Beman's book.



326 BEMAN ON THE ATONEMENT.

make intercession for him. Would this representation ever lead a
human being to imagine that Christ merely makes pardon possible
— that his death was a symbolical lesson to the universe ? Accord-
ing to Dr. Beman's theory, Christ is not a priest. We are under
no necessity of recognizing him as such, nor of committing our-
selves into his hands, nor of relying on his merits and intercession.
A mere possibility of salvation for all men is all that Christ has
accomplished. But does this make him a High Priest in the scrip-
tural and universally received sense of the term 1

A third method by which the scriptures teach us the nature of
the atonement, is by express declarations concerning the nature of
his sufferings, or the immediate design of his death. It is expressly
taught that his sufferings were penal, that he endured the penalty
of the law, and that he thus suffered not for himself but for us.
This is a point about which the're is so much strange misconcep-
tion, that it is necessary to explain the meaning of the terms here
used. The sufferings of rational beings are either calamities, hav-
ing no reference to sin, or chastisement designed for the improve-
ment of the sufferer, or penal when designed for the satisfaction of
justice. Now, what is meant by the language above used is, that
the sufferings of Christ were not mere calamities ; neither were
they chastisements (in the sense just stated), nor were they simply
exemplary, nor merely symbolical, designed to teach this or that
truth, but that they were penal, i. e., designed to satisfy divine jus-
tice. This is the distinctive character assigned to them in scrip-
ture. Again : by the penalty of the law is meant that suffering
which the law demands as a satisfaction to justice. It is not any
specific kind or degree of suffering, for it varies both as to degree
and kind, in every supposable case of its infliction. The sufferings
of no two men that ever lived, are precisely alike, in this world or
the next, unless their constitution, temperament, sins, feelings, and
circumstances were precisely alike, which is absolutely incredible.
The objection therefore started by Socinians, that Christ did not
suffer the penalty of the law, because he did not suffer remorse,
despair, or eternal banishment from God, w-as answered, by cotem-
porary theologians, by denying that those things entered essential-
ly into the penalty of the law. That penalty is in scripture called
death, which includes every kind of evil infficted by divine justice
in punishment of sin ; and inasmuch as Christ suffered such evil,
and to such a degree as fully satisfied divine justice, he suffered
what the scriptures call the penalty of the law. It is not the na-
ture, but the relation of sufferings to the law, which gives them their
distinctive character. What degree of suffering the law demands,
as it varies in every specific case, God only can determine. The
suflferings of Christ were unutterably great ; still with one voice,
Papists, Lutherans, and Rclbrmed, rebutted the objection of Soci-
nus, that the transient sufferings of one man could not be equivalent
to the suflferings due to the sins of men, by referring, not to the de-
gree of the Saviour's anguish, as equal to the misery due to all for



BEMAN ON THE ATONEMENT. 327

whom he died, but to the infinite dignity of his person. It was the
Lord of glory wiio was crucified. As the bodily sufferings of a
man are referred to his whole person, so the scriptures refer the
sufferings of Christ's human nature to his whole person. And he
was a divine, and not a human person ; but a divine person with a
human nature. This is an awful subject, on which all irreverent
speculation must be very offensive to God. Let it be enough to
say with the scriptures that Christ suffered the penalty of the law
in our stead, and that the penalty of the law was that kind and
amount of suffering, which, from such a Person, was a full satisfac-
tion to the divine justice. All that our standards say on this point,
they say wisely, viz., that the Saviour endured the miseries of this
life, the wrath of God, the accursed death of the cross, and conti-
nued under the power of death for a time. This was the penalty
of the law ; for the wrath of God,- however expressed, constitutes
that penalty, in its strictest and highest sense.

That the scriptures do teach that Christ's sufferings were penal,
has already been proved from those passages in which he is said
to bear our sins, that our ini({uitics were laid upon him, that he suf-
fered the chastisement of our peace, and that as a sacrifice he en-
dured the death which we had incurred. The same truth is ex-
pressed still more explicitly in Gal. iii. 13. The apostle thus
argues. The law pronounces accursed all who do not obey every
command ; no man has ever rendered this perfect obedience, there-
fore all men are under the curse ; but Christ has redeemed us from
the curse of the law, having been made a curse for us. There can
be no doubt what the apostle means, when he says, that all men
are under the curse ; nor when he says, cursed is every one who
continucth not in all things written in the law to do them ; neither
can it be doubted what he means when he says, Christ was made
a curse. The three expressions, under the curse, accursed, and
made a curse, cannot mean essentially different things. If the former
mean that we were exposed to the penalty, the latter must mean
that Christ endured the penalty. He hath redeemed us from the
curse by bearing it in our stead.*

To the same effect the apostle speaks in Rom. viii. 3. What
the law could not do (i. e., effect the justification of men) in that it
was weak through the flesh, that God did, having sent his Son in
the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, or as a sin-oflering, he con-
demned, i. e., punished sin, in the flesh, i. e., in him, who was clothed
in our nature. This passage agrees, as to the principal point, with
the one cited from Galatians. The sentence w-hich we had incur-



* In this interpretation every modern commentator of whom we have any know-
ledge concurs, as for example, Koppe, Flatt, Winer, Usteri, Matthias, Riickert, De
Wette. What the apostle adds in the next verse, " For it is written, cursed is every
one that is hung upon a tree," is evidently intended to justify from scripture the use
of the word curse. Those publicly exposed as sutfering the sentence of the law,
are called cursed ; hence, since Christ, though perfectly holy, did bear the sentence
of the law, the word may be properly applied to him.



328 BEMAN ON THE ATONEMENT.

red was carried into effect upon the Redeemer, in order that we
might be delivered from the law under which we were justly con-
demned. In 2 Cor. v. 21, the apostle, in urging men to be recon-
ciled to God, presents the nature and mode of the atonement, as
the ground of his exhortation. " For he hath made him to be sin
for us, who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness
of God in him." The only sense in which Christ, who was free
from all sin, could be made sin, was by having our sins laid
upon him ; and the only way in which our sins could be laid upon
him, was by his so assuming our place as to endure, in our stead,
the penalty we had incurred. " God made him to be sin," says De
Wette, " in that he laid on him the punishment of sin." Here again
we have precisely the same doctrine, taught under all the other
forms of expression already considered. Christ was made sin, as
we in him are made righteousness ; we are justified, he was con-
demned ; we are freed from the penalty, he endured it ; he was
treated as justice required the sinner to be treated ; we are treated
according to his merits and not our own deserts.

Fourthly, there are various other forms under which the scrip-
tures set forth the nature of Christ's death, which the limits of a re-
view forbid our considering. He has redeemed us ; he has pur-
chased us ; he gave himself as a ransom, &c. It is readily admit-
ted that all these terms are often used in a wide sense, to express
the general idea of deliverance without reference to the mode by
which that deliverance is effected. It cannot, however, be denied
that they properly express deliverance by purchase, i. e., by the
payment of what is considered equivalent to the person or thing
redeemed. In the Bible it is not simply said that Christ has deliver-
ed us ; nor is it said he delivered us by power, nor by teaching, but
by his death, by his own precious blood, by giving himself, by being
made a curse for us. Such representations cannot fail to convey
the idea of a redemption in the proper sense of the term, and there-
fore teach the true nature of the atonement. We are redeemed ;
that which was given for us was of infinite value.

If the scriptures thus teach that Christ saves us by bearing our
sins, or being made a sin-offering in our place, then the more
general expressions, such as he died for us, he gave himself for us,
we are saved by his death, his blood, his cross, and others of a simi-
lar kind, are all to be understood in accordance with those more
explicit statements. To the pious reader of the New Testament,
therefore, the precious truth that Christ died as our substitute, en-
during in his own 'person the death which we had incurred, re-
deeming us from the curse by being made a curse for us, meets him
upon almost every page, and confirms his confidence in the truth
and exalts his estimate of its value, by this frequency of repetition
and variety of statement.

Fifthly, there is still another consideration in proof of the unscrij>-
tural character of Dr. Beman's theory, which is too important to
be overlooke I. The apostle, in unfolding the plan of redemption



BEMAN ON THE ATONEMENT. 329

proceeds on the assumption that men are under a law or covenant
which demands perfect obedience, and which threatens death in
case of transgression. He then shows that no man, whether Jew
or Gentile, can fulfil the conditions of that covenant, or so obey the
law as to claim justification on the ground of his own righteous-
ness. Still, as this law is perfectly righteous, it cannot be arbitra-
rily set aside. What then was to be done ? What hope can there
be for the salvation of sinners ? The apostle answers by saying,
that what the law could not do (that is, save men), God has ac-
complished by the mission of his Son. But how does the Son save
us ? This is the very question before us. It relates to the nature
of the work of Christ, wliich Dr. Bemnn has undertaken to discuss.
Paul's answer to that question is, that Chiist saves us by being made
under the law and fulfilling all its demands. He fulfilled all right-
eousness, he knew no sin, he was holy, harmless, and separate of
sinners. He bore our sins in his own body on the tree, and thus
endured the death which the law threatened against sin. He has
thus redeemed us from the law ; that is, we arc no longer under
obligation to satisfy, in our own person, its demands, in order to our
justification. The perfect righteousness of Christ is offered as the
ground of justification, and all who accept of that righteousness by
faith, have it so imputed to them, that they can plead it as their
own, and God has promised to accept it to their salvation. We
can hardly persuade ourselves that any ordinary reader of the
Bible can deny that this is a correct representation of the manner
in which Paul preached the Gospel. It is the burden of all his
writings, it is the Gospel itself as it lay in his mind, and as he pre-
sented it to others. It is the whole subject of the first eight chap-
ters of his Epistle to the Romans, and of all the doctrinal part of
his Epistle to the Galatians. In the former of these epistles, he
shows that there are but two methods of justification, the one by
our own righteousness, and the other by the righteousness of God.
Having shown that no man has or can have an adequate right-
eousness of his own, he shows that the Gospel reveals the right-
eousness of God, that is, the righteousness which is by faith in
Jesus Christ, and which is upon all them that believe. This
righteousness is so complete, that God is just in justifying those
who have the faith by which it is received and appropriated. He
afterwards illustrates this great doctrine of imputed righteous-
ness by a reference to the case of Adam, and shows that as on
account of the offence of one man a sentence of condemnation
passed on all men, so, on account of the righteousness of one man,
the free gift of justification has come upon all. As by the disobe-
dience of one the many were made sinners, so by the obedience
of one the many are made righteous. It is involved in all this, that
we are no longer under the law, no longer subject to its demand
of a perfect personal righteousness, but justified by a righteousness
which satisfies its widest claims. Hence the apostle so frequently
asserts, ye are not under the law, ye are free from the law. But



330 BEMAN ON THE ATONEIVIENT.

how ? not by abrogating the law, or by dispensing with its right-
eous claims, but legally, as a woman is free from her husband, not
by deserting him, not by repudiating his authority, but by his ceas-
ing to have any claim to her, which continues only so long as he
lives. So we are freed from the law by the body of Christ, i. e.,
by his death. He was made under the law that he might redeem
them who were under the law ; he hath redeemed us from its
curse by being made a curse for us, he has taken away the hand-
writing which was against us, nailing it to the cross. There is,
therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,
because we are by this Gospel freed from the law and its condem-
nation. Hence Paul teaches that if righteousness (that is, what
satisfies the demands of the law) could have come in any other
way, Christ is dead in vain. How exclusively this righteousness
of Christ was the ground of the apostle's personal confidence, is
plain from his pregnant declaration to the Philippians, that he
counted all things but dung, that he might win Christ, and be found
in him ; not having his own righteousness, but that which is through
the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.

With this representation of the plan of salvation. Dr. Beman's
theory is utterly irreconcilable. According to his theory, the de-
mands of the law have not been satisfied. The relation of the
sinner to the curse which this law pronounces against the trans-
gressor, is legally — not evangelically — ^just the same that it was
without an atonement. " The law has the same demand upon
him, and utters the same denunciation of wrath against him. The
law or justice, that is distributive justice, as expressed in the law,
has received no satisfaction at all." — P. 133. What then has
Christ's atonement done for us ? He has simply opened the way
for pardon. " All that the atonement has done for the sinner,"
says Dr. Beman, '• is to place him within the reach of pardon." —
P. 137. " The way is now open. Mercy can now operate. The
door is open." — P lOG. The atonement " was required and made
in order to open a consistent way for the publication of pardon, or
for the exercise of grace to sinners." — P. 124.

This theory directly contradicts the apostle's doctrine; 1. Be-
cause he teaches that Christ was made under the law for the pur-
pose of redeeming them that are under the law, and that he was
made a curse for us. We are therefore delivered from the law,
as a covenant of works, and are not subject to its demands and its
curse when united to him. 2. Because it virtually denies that
Christ wrought out any righteousness which is the ground of our
justification. He merely makes pardon possible, whereas Paul
says that by his obedience we are made righteous, that we become
the righteousness of God in him. On this new theory, the lan-
guage of the apostle, when he speaks of not having his own right-
eousness, but the righteousness which is by faith of Jesus Christ,
is unintelligible. 3. It destroys the very nature of justification,
which is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our



BEMAN ON THE ATONEMENT. 331

sins and accepteth us as righteous in his sight only for the right-
eousness of Christ, imputed unto us and received by faith alone."
But according to this theory there is no such thing as justification ;
we are merely pardoned. In scripture, however, and in all lan-
guages, the ideas of pardon and justification are distinct and in a
measure opposite.* If we are justified, we are declared righteous.
That is, it is declared that, as concerns us, on some ground or for
some reason, the law is satisfied ; and that reason Paul says must
either be our own righteousness, or the righteousness of Christ.
Dr. Beman's theory admits of no such idea of justification. The
sinner is merely forgiven, because the death of Christ prevents
such forgiveness doing any harm. This is not what the Bible
teaches when it speaks of our being made the righteousness of God
in Christ ; or of his imputing righteousness to us ; or of our re-
ceiviufT the gift of righteousness. This is not what the convinced
sinner needs, to whom, not mere pardon, but justification on the
ground of a righteousness which, though not his own, is his, as
wrought out for him and bestowed by the free gift of God, is neces-
sary to peace with God. — Rom. v. 1.

4. It destroys the nature of justifying faith and deranges the
whole plan of salvation. In accordance with the scriptures, faith
in Jesus Christ is, in our standards, declared to be a saving grace,
whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he
is offered to us in the Gospel. This is perfectly natural and intelli-
gible, if Christ is our righteousness. If his work of obedience and
death is the sole ground of justification before God, then we under-
stand what the Bible means by believing upon Christ, putting our
trust in him, being found in him ; then the phrase, faith of Christ,
which so often occurs as expressing the idea of a faith of which
he is the object, has its appropriate meaning. Then too we under-
stand what is meant by coming to Christ, receiving Christ, putting
on Christ being in Christ. Upon Dr. Beman's theory, however,
all this is well nigh unintelligible. We admit that a vague sense
may be put on these expressions on any theory of the atonement,
even that of the Socinians. If the death of Christ is necessary to
salvation, either, as they say, by revealing the love of God, or as
Dr. Beman says, by revealing his regard for law, then to believe
in Christ, or to receive Christ, might be said to mean, to believe
the truth that without the revelation made by his death, God would
not forgive sin. But how far is this from being the full and natural
import of the terms ! Who would ever express mere acquies-
cence in the fact that Christ has made salvation possible, by saying,
'* I would be found in him not having mine own righteousness, but
the righteousness which is by faith of Jesus Christ ?" The fact is,
the Socinian view is in some respects much easier reconciled with
scripture than that of Dr. Beman. The passage just quoted, for

* " The word SiKatovv," says De Wette, " means not merely negatively to pardon ,
but also affirmatively to declare righteous.'"



332 BEMAN ON THE ATONEMENT.

example, might have this meaning, viz., we must have, not the moral
excellence which the law can give, but that inward righteousness
of which faith in Christ is the source. This would have some
plausibility, but what "the righteousness which is by faith of
Jesus Christ" can mean, as opposed to our own righteousness, on
Dr. Beman's ground, it is hard to conceive.

Again : according to the Bible and the common doctrine of the
church, when a sinner is convinced of his sin and misery, of his
entire unworthiness in the sight of God, he is to be directed to re-
nounce all dependence upon himself and to believe in Christ, that
is, to place all his confidence in him. But if Christ has only made
salvation possible, if he has merely brought the sinner within the
reach of mercy, this is a most unnatural direction. What has the
sinner to come to Christ for ? Why should he be directed to re-
ceive or submit to the righteousness of God ? Christ has nothing
to do for him. He has made salvation possible, and his work is
done ; what the sinner has to do is to submit to God. The way
is open, let him lay aside his rebelhon, and begin to love and
serve his Maker. Such are the directions, which this theory would
lead its advocates to give to those who are convinced of their sin
and danger. This is not a mere imagination ; such are the direc-
tions, commonly and characteristically given by those who adopt
Dr. Beman's view of the atonement. Christ disappears in a great
measure from his own Gospel. You may take up volume after
volume of their sermons, and you will find excellent discourses
upon sin, obligation, moral government, regeneration, divine sove-
reignty, &c., but the cross is comparatively kept out of view.
Christ has no immediate work in the sinner's salvation ; and ac-
cordingly the common directions to those who ask, what they
must do to be saved, are, submit to God, choose him and his service,
or something of similar import. To such an extreme has this been
carried, by some whose logical consistency has overcome the influ-
ence of scriptural language and traditionary instruction, that they
have not hesitated to say that the command. Believe in Christ, is
obsolete. It was the proper test of submission in the apostolic age,
but in our day, when all men recognise Christ as the Messiah, it is
altogether inappropriate. We doubt not that thousands who agree
substantially with Dr. Beman, would be shocked at this language ;
nevertheless it is the legitimate consequence of his theory. If the
atonement is a mere governmental display, a mere symbolical
method of instruction, then the command to believe in Christ, to
come to him, to trust in him and his righteousness, is not the lan-
guage in which sinners should be addressed. It does not inform
them of the specific thing which they must do in oi'der to be saved.
Christ has opened the door, their business is now immediately with
God.

Again : can any reader of the Bible, can any Christian at least,
doubt that union with Christ was to the apostles one of the most
important and dearest of all the doctrines of the Gospel ; a doc-



BEMAN ON THE ATONEMENT. 333

trine which lay at the root of all the other doctrines of redemption,
the foundation of their hopes, the source of their spiritual life.
But according to the theory that Christ's death is a mere symboli-
cal method of instruction, an expression of a great truth, that it
merely opens the way for mercy, what can union with Christ
mean ? In what sense are we in him? how are we his members?
How is it that we die, that we live, that we are to rise from the
dead in virtue of that union ? What is meant by living by faith
of which he is the object? The fact is, this theory changes the
whole nature of the Gospel ; everything is altered ; the nature of
faith, the nature of justification, the mode of access to God, our
relation to Christ, the inward exercises of communion with him,
so that the Christian feels disposed to say with Mary," They have
taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him."

We do not believe there is truth enough in this theory to sustain
the life of religion in any man's heart. We have no idea that
Dr. Beman, Dr. Cox, or any good man really lives by it. The
truth, as it is practically embraced and appropriated by the soul
under the influence of the Holy Spirit, is the truth in the form in
which it is presented in the Bible, and not as expressed in abstract
propositions. It is therefore very possible for a man to adopt



Online LibrarySamuel John BairdTheological essays: → online text (page 42 of 90)