Scriptural Enquiries As To The Doctrine Of Atonement, In Reference To J. P. Ham's Theological Tracts

I now turn to your statements on Christ’s death; and if your error as to this is more important even than that which I have already noticed, so also your mis-statement of the contents of scripture is proportionately bolder.

I would set out by saying, that it was God’s free and perfect love which gave Christ for us, and which is the sole source of our salvation. Those who deny atonement (for you do deny it) in vain claim to be the only ones who believe in this love. Secondly, I should not deny that the way in which the gospel has been sometimes stated has obscured it; that is, that the effect has been, that God has been considered as simply a righteous being, and that Christ has died in love and propitiated Him. I say the effect; for those who preach in the most defective way on this point do not in the least deny that God’s love is the source of all this; though practically their manner of putting it obscures this blessed truth—that for wretched, lost, unhappy man, God has in infinite, compassionate, perfect as well as tender, love, given His Son, that whoever believes on Him may not perish, but have everlasting life. Blessed be God! He has done so; He has seen our need and visited us in it, and accomplished the perfect work needed to deliver us, and made sinners, through Christ, partakers of His glory. He calls us from sin and ruin by His testimony of His love in Christ.

But love is not exalted by denying that righteousness which must display itself in wrath against sin. The only effect of such a denial is to destroy the sense of our need of this love, and in the same proportion (and that is indeed entirely) the sense of it, and the real restoration of the soul to God by it; that is, to destroy the knowledge of God. If my sins were such that the death of the divine Son of God was needed—if God was so holy that He could not receive me unless my sins were washed away—put away out of His sight, how great was that love which would look in mercy on a mere defiled, worthless, and ungrateful sinner that, in his horrible pride, had thus offended Him, and had given the Son of His love for such! How great that which could willingly undertake such a task, saying, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God! “How great the peace, too, when—in the perfect certainty that my sins are put away, and judged by God to be put away in the presence and by the act of God’s righteousness, according to God’s own mind and holiness—I can stand in the presence of that love without fear, and in the knowledge that it has done that which has brought me there according to its own perfectness. It is not a false, unholy love which slurs over the evil, but one which proves the love of the Holy One in putting it away.

But let us examine your use of scripture. You are unknown to me; but surely you must be very inexperienced in the use of it, and quote it hastily, or I should not know what to think of your application of it, or your assertions about it. But I will examine them.

I will take one of your “Leaves for Truth Lovers” entitled “The Death of Christ.” You say, “Fear or dread of God very often arises from not understanding the meaning of those expressions which state that Christ suffered for us, and shed His blood, or died for us.” Now I should have thought that that which would have produced fear or dread would have been such passages as “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God “(Ps. 9:17). They “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints and to be admired in all them that believe” (2 Thess. 1:9, 10). “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). “Our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever” (Rev. 14:11). And such like.

The death of Christ indeed gives the serious conviction of the solemn truth of the righteousness of God, in the “wrath of God revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18), and that it is impossible that sinners, if not justified from their sins, should escape, since Christ could not when He took them. But while Christ’s suffering for us thus confirms this most solemn truth, that there is and must be judgment against sin, still it carries with it the value of Another’s taking it on Himself, and brings hope and encouragement by the love shewn in it, if not perfect peace yet. It makes us, if believed in, hate the sin that has made One who has so loved us suffer for it, and ourselves for it; but it is not dread it inspires.

But I continue. You say, “They think that God is so severe that He would not pardon mankind without inflicting a most awful punishment either upon them, or upon Jesus Christ His Son as their substitute. But this is not the meaning of Christ’s sufferings and death. Christ came into our world to assure us that God loves us dearly, and that He is ready to pardon and justify… Now in shewing mankind this lovely image of God, He fell a victim to the wickedness of self-seeking men, who put Him to a violent death. In this way He suffered and died for us. Some persons say, that Christ’s sufferings and death were a payment to God to liberate mankind from the charge of sin. But this cannot be true, because we are told by the apostle Paul, that ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself [not reconciling Himself unto the world], not imputing their trespasses unto them.’ If God does not impute or reckon men’s trespasses unto them, He could not be supposed to have made Christ suffer by way of reckoning for them. Besides, God says, ‘I will be merciful to their unrighteousness [not I will exact satisfaction] and their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more.’ God forgives sin, and therefore cannot have received any compensation for sin. If it were written in the Bible, instead of Christ suffered for us, Christ suffered as a punishment for us, then such doctrine would be clear; but no such language occurs anywhere in the Bible. This doctrine of satisfaction for sins represents Christ as having stood in our place to do something for us to God; but the true doctrine is, that Christ was in God’s place to do something for God concerning us. Thus ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them’ (2 Cor. 5:19). ‘We pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.’”

Were you really serious when you wrote all this? Did you really weigh your statements? For one hardly knows where to begin with such a multitude of mis-statements and errors. But, first, I shall separate out what is true in whole or in part.

First, I fully admit that “Christ came into our world to assure us that God loves us dearly, and that he is ready to pardon and justify us.” I might not thus express it perhaps, but in the main substance of the thought I heartily agree. I only desire in my own spirit and testimony to be able better to bring out, that Christ was in the fullest way God’s blessed witness of love to the world. Would to God it were more testified of, and more fully and freely, to this poor sinful and perishing world, which has such false ideas about God!

I regret that I should have to turn to errors, when I have touched on this blessed subject; but your leaf forces me to do so. Further, although persons often mean substantially right in saying so, it is not scriptural to say Christ reconciled God to man: that He made propitiation is, and that is doubtless what preachers mean when they say so: but it is an unhappy expression, because it gives the idea of love being in Christ, and that, by His work, He has turned the mind of God towards us, who did not love us: whereas, though the righteous majesty of God did require the expiation for sin, and that the sin should be put away, still it was His own love that gave Christ for it, and thus brought the renewed and repentant sinner back to Himself, according to the power of the redemption accomplished by Christ—his sins, his conscience, purged to enjoy the love witnessed in that redemption.15 Thus far, then, I am content to receive what you say: it is always well to clear our ground of that which is not in question.

But now let us ask, Have you told us all that is said of Christ’s death? Is what you have told us correct? Is it true that scripture does not say what you say it does not? Where you have quoted it, have you quoted it according to its intention as shewn by the context? We will examine these questions: I would take the second of your statements first, because it is a negative one.

You say, that no such language as that Christ suffered as a punishment for us occurs anywhere in the Bible. This connects itself with His bearing sin. But as to the fact: did you ever read Isaiah 53? Allow me to quote it: “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And again, “For the transgression of my people was he stricken… Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin,” etc. (Isa. 53:5-10). I thought this passage was well known to every one who reads the Bible. Does it not speak of punishment for us? You will remember that the apostle Peter applies it directly to Christ, quoting the words, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed “(1 Pet. 2:24). How could it be expressed more clearly that He suffered punishment for us? Stripes, chastisements, bruises, wounds, inflicted on Him, and that by Jehovah being pleased to bruise Him, surely speak of punishment, and punishment for us; for it was for our iniquities, our transgressions; and it was that which made our peace and healed us, if indeed we are healed. And this is the more distinctly and remarkably brought out, because it is in contrast with the false judgment the Jews had formed of Him—that He was stricken and smitten of God, as suffering under His disapprobation. “We hid as it were our faces from him; we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Now they found out He had borne their griefs, and carried their sorrows: and, lest the thought might stop short at His only bearing them (for He did so bear them in the sorrow of IDs heart), the Spirit in them adds, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities,” etc. And lest there should be any mistake as to whence this came, we read further, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief” (v. 10). Indeed it would be mere folly to say that the wicked Jews had wounded him for their iniquities; nor could they, nor would they, say they were healed by His stripes.

No, the language is as clear as God could make it for poor sinful man, for me, for you, if you do not persevere in rejecting it; and so truly sufficient, that this your sin against this wonderful testimony of divine goodness would itself be forgiven, if you turn to and trust in it. It is so for you, my reader; for, blessed be God! the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses from all sin: not because self-seeking men killed Him when He was manifesting God’s image; but because “he made his soul an offering for sin” and “God hath set him forth a propitiation through faith in his blood … to declare at this time his righteousness, that he might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25, 26). Why is it said “through faith in his blood,” if only suffering a violent death from wicked men, when in God’s place, declaring God’s love? That has happened to many saints. For the dignity of His Person does not effect this, if He be not a propitiation. You say, it has not this value at all. Was any one ever called to put faith in the blood of the saints? Would it not be monstrous? Why in Jesus’, if it was not a propitiation?

Another passage shews how unfounded your assertion is. In Galatians 3:13, it is written, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” Were they man’s curses that fell on the blessed Jesus on the cross? No: turn to Deuteronomy 20:23, and you will find that “he that is hanged is accursed of God,” for the believer can say, “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6).

Further, if you wish to see the connection of bearing sin in Isaiah 53:12 with the punishment due to it, you have only to compare Leviticus 5:1, 17; ch. 17:16; ch. 20:19; ch. 24:15; Numbers 5:31; ch. 9:13; ch. 14:34; ch. 30:15; in all of which you will see it signifies coming under all the consequences of the sin committed, to be answerable for it before God. So it is spoken of particular sins, as idolatry, Numbers 14:33, Ezekiel 23:35, and in this case clearly in its consequences on the people (so see Job 34:31). Scripture does then speak most clearly of punishment for us; unless chastisement, stripes, a curse inflicted by God, be not punishment.

But there are a multitude of texts which shew what is the meaning of Christ’s suffering for us; which prove that the way in which Christ’s death is carefully, constantly, systematically presented in scripture, is quite different from the way in which you do—that the opposite is true. I have quoted some, I will now adduce others. We have already seen Him spoken of as a propitiation for sin; that we are to have faith in His blood; that it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; that the Lord has laid our iniquity upon Him. He has made His soul an offering for sin; He, His own self, bore our sins in His own body on the tree. I proceed: He “gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6). “Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26). He “hath once suffered for sins” (1 Pet. 3:18). Now, from the hands of man He suffered for righteousness only; from God He suffered only for sins. “We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). “He offered himself through the eternal Spirit to God” (Heb. 9:14). God “hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin: that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). That is, His death was not merely the effect of the wickedness of self-seeking men, but He offered Himself as a sacrifice to God. He was made sin there—He bore our sins there—He suffered for sins there—the Lord bruised Him there—and put Him to grief. Wicked men had nothing to do with this, save as ignorant instruments of the outward act.

You forget, in stating that Christ presented God’s love to man, the numberless passages which shew Him suffering under God’s hand on the cross. What was His sorrow in Geth-semane? Sufferings from wicked men in glorifying God were cups He never asked to pass; but God’s wrath to the object of His eternal love was another thing. Was it mere dying and going to paradise He so feared as to sweat great drops of blood? Then indeed others have borne a happier testimony. Or was it death as the wages of sin—as the wrath of God? He was then to be made sin. He meets the troop come out against Him in peace, and they fall to the ground. Was their violence there His terror or agony on the cross—was it then all His suffering? Was what He describes of these dogs and bulls of Bashan that surrounded Him its only source? No; He was sensible of it all. But in it He looked away, to say, “Be not thou far from me, O Lord”: but He was: and the Blessed One had to say in the midst of it all, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Ps. 22). Was this suffering from self-seeking men? In what way did this shew the love of God to men, unless it was His own blessed Son suffering wrath for them? Why was He abandoned of God? He had done no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth; yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him. Why? Had you never any conscience of sin which needed it? Are you too righteous to be willing that God should set Him forth to be a propitiation through His blood? /am sinner enough to be glad that God’s love was so great that He should put away the sin, which He could not—ought not—to bear, by the sacrifice of His own blessed Son: are you not? Have I less learnt love by this? “Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). The willingness of Christ to do it and suffer was the same divine love which gave Him for us. Then said He, “Lo, I come… to do thy will, O my God” (Ps. 40).

Let us consider a little the nature of sacrifice. “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7). Now, how was this done? Was it by simply shewing love to Israel, in that there was One willing to suffer in this work of love? Nothing of the sort. God was going through in judgment to smite the guilty. Why should not Israel be smitten? They were guilty; they had even fallen, as Ezekiel 20 shews us, into the idolatry of the Egyptians. They were to put the blood on the doorposts, that, when judgment passed, they might be safe. “When I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” That is, the blood of the slain victim—the figure of the true Lamb—secured them from judgment. Do you deny that Christ was our true paschal Lamb?

This circumstance, that the blood was always presented to God, shews the true character of this suffering and death. It was sprinkled on the people, on the leprous man; but it was presented to God, not to the people. It was not something presented to the people, but something presented to God. On the great day of atonement it was sprinkled on the mercy-seat within the veil; on other occasions at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation; but always presented to God as the token that expiation had been made for sin. Now if it was merely a testimony from God to the people of love, what was the meaning of all this? If it was an offering for sin, an expiation made, then indeed it was to an offended God the blood was to be presented, that He might righteously bless without passing over sin as nothing—which would be real indifference to it. And this was what was done. In all cases it was presented, offered up to God; and without shedding of blood there was no remission. Certain purifications were made by water (for the Spirit and the word have their place in cleansing too); but there is no remission without blood. Hence Christ is said to have come “not by water only, but by water and blood” (1 John 5:6)—that is, to expiate as well as to purify.

Will you say, these are Old Testament figures? They are so. But figures of what? What is the answer to this universal conscience, that has introduced sacrifices all over the world; and which God has taken up and sanctioned as a great principle of truth in the Old Testament? Is it not Christ? Blessed be God, it is. He has appeared “to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26). If self-seeking men were the instruments of this wanton self-destroying wickedness, that their hatred to God and His goodness might fully come out, was it their thoughts and counsels that brought it about? No: “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). It was not their sin which was so determined; it was Christ’s death which was. Why did God predetermine this death of His Son? Had He no intention, no meaning in it? If it was merely to shew a love which would suffer on to the end, why was Christ abandoned on the cross? That abandonment was not the wicked men’s act.

The New Testament does not leave a shadow of doubt on the divine purpose of the passing shadows of the Old: the blood of bulls and of goats could not take away sin; but, instead thereof, Christ came, had a body prepared Him to do God’s will: “by the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). “Christ being come an high-priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:11-15). Now here the doctrine of the Jewish sacrifices is clearly applied to Christ’s death: He offers Himself to God. By means of death there is the redemption of transgressions; conscience is purged by this offering. “Nor yet,” adds the apostle, “that he should offer himself often … for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself: and as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment, so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:25-28).

The apostle explains this largely in the following chapter, of which I have already quoted some principal verses. “This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God” (chap. 10:12), as it is said in the beginning of the epistle, “When he had by himself purged our sins” (Heb. 1:3).

Now allow me to ask you, Have you read all this? Do you believe it? Has it nothing to do with Christ’s suffering for us? Is it only “His falling a victim to the wickedness of self-seeking men who put Him to a violent death?” Is it not an immensely all-important truth, giving a definite character to Christ’s sufferings; on which redemption, the purging of the conscience, putting away sin, purging our sins—in a word, all that reconciles us to God, and gives us peace—is made to depend? which is totally omitted in and set aside by the view you give of Christ’s sufferings, and the meaning of them. You may tell me it is suited to Hebrews and their thoughts. It is giving to Christians, who had been Jews, the true value of Christ’s death, and the real end and meaning of all their typical sacrifices.

But do other parts of the scripture not teach the same truth? We have already seen Peter declaring that Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree, and that by His stripes we are healed. So he tells them they were “redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:19).

Turn to John, one who peculiarly speaks of the manifestation of the love of God in Christ, who makes it, one may say, the very topic of his epistle, and who raises Christian doctrine to its highest tone of spirituality:—what does he say? “And he is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2). Again, in teaching us what this manifestation of love in God is: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Yes, that was love; it was not self-seeking men did that; it was (may I be bold to say it?) a man-seeking God who acted thus, one who gave His Son, and one who gave Himself. “God is love.” He proved Himself love, but in that which wrought out righteousness, and put away sin, and purged our consciences, and enabled us to enjoy His love, with the consciousness that sin is put away—being judged in all its heinousness. Does Paul differ from this? No: “in whom [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Eph. 1:7). “God has set [Him] forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood” (Rom. 3:25).

But it is useless to multiply the number of quotations. It has been abundantly shewn that He “gave himself a ransom.” According to the purpose of God, the Son became a man, not only to manifest God amongst men, which He surely did, but to suffer as a victim, to bear our sins, to make propitiation for sin, to put it away, and purge our conscience. It pleased the Lord to bruise Hun. He offered Himself to God, and entered into His presence for us according to the power and efficacy of that blood which He shed upon the cross. The scripture is as plain as plain as can be; it is so, not in an isolated sentence or two, but in multiplied passages in various ways. It is treated as a fundamental doctrine, nay, as vital: no forgiveness of sins without this offering. God from Adam’s time had been pointing to it; men’s consciences had taken it up everywhere; in the Jewish system it was elaborately developed, that its accomplishment in Christ might be fully understood. And in the New Testament it is explained both as a positive truth that our souls need, and that God is glorified by; and as the meaning of all the remarkable figures of the Old on the subject. Prophets proclaim it; Jesus announces it, saying, the Son of man was come to give His life a ransom for many; and, in instituting that which was to be so sweet and solemn a memorial of Himself, He tells them that the cup was the new covenant in His blood, shed for them and for many for the remission of sins.

What have you done with this maintenance of divine righteousness—this proof, above all else, of divine love—this subject of divine testimony in the willing, yet ordained, death of the Lamb of God? It is gone. There is left us but the act of self-seeking men putting Him to death when accomplishing His service; and thus He suffered for us. I must repeat, Have you ever read the New Testament? Do you believe it? What is your hope of forgiveness? Is it through the blood of Jesus? Do you believe in a propitiation through faith in His blood?

And allow me here to make a remark or two on Christ’s sufferings. The believer sees in the death of Christ the great and solemn work of expiation for sin; he sees Jesus drinking the cup which the Father gave Him to drink. When Jesus cries, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” he can tell, with his face between his hands, that it was because of our sins which He bore on the tree, to glorify God in putting them away. But this you do not admit; this is not the meaning of Christ’s suffering. He fell a victim to man’s wickedness, and “and in this way He suffered and died for us.” The believer in the atonement can at once understand His cry to God. He was indeed drinking the cup of wrath from God, having been made a curse, made sin for us. But you, who do not attach this meaning to Christ’s death, what do you make of this cry? His death, in your way of putting it, would be a far feebler testimony than that of thousands of saints. They, dying naturally or burning in the flames, have poured out their souls in triumph and in joy, assured that God never would, and finding He did not, forsake them, nay, gloriously sustained in the hour of trial. Was Christ in your mind in an inferior state to them? He declared He was forsaken of God. What testimony was this to God’s love or to His faith? How many have given a brighter one! If His death was atonement, this cry gives it all its value: it declares He did fully drink that cup, of which not one drop is left for me. He suffered, was forsaken, that I might be full of joy—assured that I never shall be forsaken. But the state of Christ in death, on your shewing, has no sense; nay, it has a contrary sense. It was a declaration that He was not sustained of God in going through the last act of faithfulness in service. No; there is no meaning in scripture if Christ’s death be not really His offering Himself, and an offering for sin; and so it was—He bare our sins in His own body on the tree. As the high priest confessed Israel’s sin on the scape-goat, so has Jesus confessed ours as His; as the blood of the other was sprinkled on the mercy-seat, so is His a witness before God that sin is put away.

I have reserved one or two passages till the close, because you quote them. “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Your comment is, “not I will exact satisfaction.” Allow me to give you the apostle’s, for he also has commented on this verse; “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us … and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,” etc. (Heb. 10:14-19). Here the apostle connects this blessed assurance with the offering of Christ. You tell us that there cannot be this satisfaction for sin, for it would not then be merciful— “He cannot as such receive any compensation for sin.” Compensation is an invidious word I should very much object to; but there is an efficacious offering which puts it away, and Christ was offered for sin, peri amartias (that is, an offering for sin), one who stood as the victim laden with the sins of another, of which He bore the judgment, and for which He suffered: “for Christ hath once suffered for sins” (1 Pet. 3:18). Were He only God’s witness put to death by wicked men, He would have suffered for righteousness; but He has suffered for sins. Paul’s reasoning on this passage, then, is exactly the opposite of yours. Would it not have been well to have looked to it? You say that that is impossible which he declares to be what gives peace to the conscience, and glory to God.

I turn to your second quotation. You deny the doctrine of satisfaction for sins, which represents Christ as having stood in our place, because it is said, that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. 5:19). “We pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” We have seen that Isaiah—that is, the Spirit of God—tells us we had all gone astray, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Now this is standing in our place. “The chastisement of our peace was upon him.” This is the same truth.

But let us examine the text you produce. Have you quite finished the passage? On what ground did the apostle pray them to be reconciled to God? What ground had he to take which could assure them that, in returning to God, all would be right? Was it that He was so merciful He would not impute sin to them, and therefore could not to Christ? Is that his ground for beseeching sinners to be reconciled to God? It is yours. Far from it; he takes exactly the ground you reject in the passage you quote for so rejecting it. “We pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

Forgive me if I say your quotations of scripture astonish me. Are these the passages you quote for proving that Christ did not make atonement for sin on the cross? On one of which the apostle remarks, that He offered His body once for all, and perfected us for ever by that one offering for sins; and in the other, lays as the ground for his exhortation to come to God, that Christ had been made sin for us.

Is it not plain to you that 2 Corinthians 5:19— “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” —depicts Christ’s work, when in the world? God was in Christ down here—not in judgment, but reconciling the world, not imputing their trespasses. But how was He received when He so came? Did the world receive His overtures? No; they rejected Him, put Him to a cruel death, proved that they hated both Him and His Father. They were in sin, and shewed their enmity against God. What was to be done? His seeking them was useless. Man cared not for Him. His people did but cumber the ground. How could men be brought to God? Christ is made sin for them. Thus they can be entreated by others, as His messengers, to be reconciled to God. This was done by Christ in Person, while He was here; but when made sin, He had to undergo death. Hence, raised and glorified, He commits to others the ministry of reconciliation; and that ministry is founded on the thing you reject. Those who have received it entreat sinners to be reconciled to God, because Christ has been made sin for us. Without that, how would the sinners who had rejected and crucified Him venture to return to God? But this sin had, through Christ’s death, become the occasion of the display of the greatest mercy, linked with perfect righteousness.

You say, in another of your “Leaves,” that God was already reconciled. It is hard to know what this means. I have spoken of the term already. God was not already reconciled. What had done it, if it was so? He was acting in love to reconcile man, in His own sovereign goodness in which He gave Christ; but there is such a thing as putting away sin before Him who is of purer eyes than to behold it.

Further, you say “Christ’s death was to propitiate man.” What does this mean? Are you really serious? Has God to propitiate man? Where it is said, He was a propitiation for our sins, was it man was to be propitiated for our sins? No doubt the true love of God in this attracts man by grace, but that is not the meaning of propitiation. I propitiate an offended superior, or render him propitious to me. Does God do that to man? To whom, as the offended person, was the blood always presented and offered? It is revealed to man, that it has been presented to God, and accepted; so that we may come boldly to God through faith in it. But it never was presented to man. Mark that. God says, “When I see the blood, I will pass over.” We are justified freely by His blood. If Christ came to reconcile men to God (if that is the whole meaning of propitiation), that was true when His blood was not shed. Why then is it attributed to His blood? Does propitiation mean to beseech man to return to God? You know it does not. Where is propitiation used in this sense? Have you a single passage?

Propitiation is found three times in the New Testament. In one it is ilasterion, that is, mercy-seat, on which we know the blood was sprinkled before God (it was His throne of judgment, the footstool at least of it, where He sat between the cherubim); to that man might approach, because the satisfaction for iniquity was offered. In the two others, Christ “is the propitiation for our sins “(1 John 2:2)—a passage which has no sense whatever if it means to propitiate man. How is he to be propitiated for his sins? It is mere nonsense so to talk. The other is, He “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Here again it is for our sins, shewing the well-known scriptural use of the word, God sending His Son as an ilasmon peri ton amartion emon, can by no possibility be referred to propitiating man. Indeed it is foreign to every thought of scripture—the use made of the blood—Him to whom it was presented—and the whole order of ideas about propitiation. Moreover, the term is borrowed from the Old Testament, which had not the idea of reconciling the people, nor their wanting to be reconciled; but is perfectly familiar with the thought of propitiation—the propitiatory being the very centre of their religious service. It was the name of the covering of the ark, on which the blood was placed before God, as it never was before the people. They offered it through the priests to God.

The verb is twice used in Greek, though otherwise translated in English. “God be merciful to me, a sinner” —be propitious: was this propitiating man? (Luke 18:13). Again, “To make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). Here again the expression “for the sins” precludes such an idea. Besides, it is spoken of here as the work of the priest, “that he might be a merciful high priest … to make,” etc. What had a priest to do with propitiating the people? It is an idea, as I have said, foreign to the whole subject. He carried in the blood within the veil, or outside sprinkled it before God—the Israelite (where it was not common to all the people) having himself brought the victim, to offer it to God. The idea in every case is the opposite to what you say, exactly opposite, and proves what you seek to deny.

You say “Atonement always means in the Bible making two or more persons at one or agreed.” Does it? It is used once in the New Testament, where it really means “reconciliation.” We have received reconciliation with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:10, 11), where the apostle speaks of our being justified by His blood, and then saved from wrath, being thus also reconciled by Christ’s death, and then saved by His life—hence joying in God through Jesus, by whom we have received the reconciliation (that is, were brought back to God in peace). Here, while founded on justification by blood, and very different indeed from setting two persons at one (for it is bringing back a guilty sinner saved from wrath to God), still, if you had merely said, it ought to have been translated “reconciliation,” no one could have complained; but you say, “always means in the Bible.” One is tempted to believe (to hope almost) you have scarcely ever read the Bible. Is it indeed so? The word used in Hebrew is caphar—it is used ninety-eight times in the Old Testament. One has no reference to this matter. Of all the rest, perhaps one (though it has there much more the sense of propitiate) might be alleged to have such a sense, and that only by straining the expression: that is, Genesis 32:20, “I will appease him with the present… and afterward I will see his face, peradventure he will accept of me.” But making two persons agreed is never its sense; and in a vast number of the passages the attempt to introduce such a meaning would make the grossest nonsense, because it is used of iniquities—purging them away—making atonement for them. You will not produce one text in which caphar means what you say it always does. It is not the meaning of the word—it means “to cover.” Hence it is used for pitching the ark, i.e., covering it with pitch.

Again I have proved your doctrine by scripture, and I find you have left out that on which the whole relationship of God with Israel was based. Secondly, that which in the New Testament is elaborately applied to Christ, which the Lord applies unto Himself, and one apostle after another applies to Him—I find that your doctrine totally denies this fundamental truth. And, thirdly, in quoting the one or two passages of scripture you do, you again omit the context or some part of the passage, which, if it were admitted, makes the passage mean just the contrary of what you quote it for.

You deny a doctrine which is most certainly one of the most prominent and important in the whole Bible, and perhaps the most insisted on in it j and that both in the Old and New Testaments.

And now, my beloved reader, let me add, that this matter is not a question of the justness of Air. Ham’s reasoning merely, but of your and my salvation. You are a sinner; lama sinner. We are defiled by sin; we are guilty, for we have sinned against God, and against a God of love. Now sin must be put away, and we must be cleansed, if we are to dwell with a holy God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and cannot look at sin.

He may look on us in compassion, sinners as we are; but He cannot allow uncleanness to abide in His presence and you (unless you are already washed in the blood of the Lamb) are unclean—you know you are. You are guilty—you know you are. You would not like to hazard your salvation upon the judgment God ought to form of you. I know well our proud rebellious hearts may rise up against God, and reason against Him; but your conscience knows you have sinned against Him, and that if He be a holy God, He cannot—ought not to allow of sin, and let it into His presence. Yet there alone you can be really happy; and there, whether you will or not, you must come. It is not your reasonings about it which will prevent it. When there, reasonings will cease; your conscience will speak (as Adam’s did when he sought to hide himself in the trees of the garden) and louder too; he had broken God’s commandment, but he had not yet despised God’s goodness and grace to a sinner. May you be kept by grace from doing so!

Now I have no desire to weaken (God forbid!) your thought, that God is love. It is my only hope, for I also am a poor sinner; my only hope is in God’s free and perfect love. But then, that you may enjoy that love, you must have your sin put away, you must be cleansed. You could not be happy in God’s presence, were it not put away; you could not, if your conscience always told you, I am unclean in the presence of this holy God, and He sees it. Would your child be happy with you if he had a bad conscience, be you ever so loving a father? Would it be true love if you were to allow him in the evil, and pass it over as no matter?

Now God tells us this plainly in order to act upon our consciences; He tells us He is light, and that darkness can have no communion with Him; that nothing defiled can enter into the heavenly Jerusalem as it is called. He warns us that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness. He says there is oppression and wrong, but encourages the Christian to the patience which Christ Himself shewed. And how? By the solemn word, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). He is a righteous Judge, as well as a God of love. He takes notice of good and evil, and hence necessarily judges. Yet we are sinners, and, as regards such, what can righteousness do? But He is love. Does His love destroy His judgment against sin? does it put an end to His righteousness? No: that would not be grace and love, but indifference to evil; and would lead our hearts alas! to be indifferent to it too. Why should not we be, if God were? But it would be a real curse to us, and He would not be really the true and holy God.

How then, if He be righteous, and judges sin, can He exercise love to us in all its fulness—towards us who are sinners? Now here it is the death and atonement of Christ come in. The blessed Lord willingly undertook this task, to glorify God perfectly, and prove infinite love to us, and yet maintain God’s perfect righteousness. He bore our sins—was made sin for us. He drank the bitter cup of death and judgment which our sins had filled. He gave Himself for us, and was bruised for our iniquities, and wounded for our transgressions. Was not this love? Oh! reader, was it not? Yet there God’s righteous judgment against sin was fully maintained, so that what I see there was not the least allowance of it. What could shew it like the death of the Son of God when He was made sin for us? Could He not be spared? How then can any, persevering in rejecting mercy through Him? Was it possible this cup could pass unless He drank it? It could not. For whom then shall it, if not drunk by Him?

And see how the notion of mere dying under the hands of wicked men destroys all the glory of the cross. I read, Christ gave Himself, offered up Himself. Here I find the holy perfectness of His own soul in a way that nothing else shews. What love! What devotedness! What giving Himself up to the Father’s glory! “No man taketh it from me,” says He, “but I lay it down of myself” (John 10:18). “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me; but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father hath given me commandment, even so I do.” (John 14:30, 31). You will say, How could this glorify the Father—to give Himself up to a cruel death and wrath? Because of your sins: they made it necessary. If love was to be shewn to you, it must be in this way; God’s holiness must be maintained—the impossibility of allowing sin. You (if indeed through grace you believe) are not to be taken away from before Him, because of your sins and defilement. Instead of that, as they could not be allowed, they were taken away, that you might be in peace before Him and know this God of love. “God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

And see how the cross glorifies God in everything, if I look at it as a sacrifice for sin, as Christ giving Himself up, that God may be fully glorified. And how glorious Christ Himself is there, by His doing it! for, remember, if it was indeed a bitter cup, yet Christ never was so glorified as there. Never was His glorious perfection so shewn out; so that, though it may seem a hard task to impose on Him, yet it really was, as to His work, His greatest glory: as He says, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him” (John 13:31). For it was a glorious thing to Him who accomplished it, that, so to speak, God should be debtor for His glory to Him who thus gave Himself. For indeed it was a common counsel between the Father and the Son. God’s will was He should come, and His will was to come. “Lo, I come to do thy will” (Heb. 10:9).

But see how He was glorified in it. Is God righteous in judgment against sin? The cross has fully shewn it forth. Is God perfect love to the poor sinner? The cross has shewn it forth. Did the majesty of God require that it should be vindicated against rebellious sin? The cross has done it; yet the sinner is spared. Is God truth, and has said that death should follow sin, the devil saying, as he yet does, it should not? Where such a witness that it musty as when the blessed Son of God died as man on the cross? yet He has obtained for us life by it, beyond all the power of death and judgment. Were our sins pressing upon us, so that we did not dare look up? They are gone. I can see God in the light without fear: He has nothing to impute to me; He has proved His love, and I can enjoy His love. And just when man shewed his hatred to God in slaying His Son, God has shewn His love to man in giving Him to put away the sin shewn in slaying Him. Where was obedience shewn as on the cross? He was “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). Where love to us? Where the desire to glorify His Father? Thus the Son of man was glorified, and God, in every part of His nature, glorified in Him: His love, His righteousness, His truth, His majesty, all displayed.

And what is the consequence? The power and fear of death is gone to the believer. It is but the entrance into paradise for him. The sins that he feared as bringing judgment are taken away and blotted out. He knows God loves him— so loves him that He has not spared His own Son to save him; he knows that He has nothing to impute to him, for Christ has borne all. God is righteous and just to forgive him his sins.

And yet, is sin a light thing to one who has this perfect peace with the God of love? It has cost the death of the Son of God. True, it is put away; he is justified; he has perfect peace with God. But how? By that which makes sin the most frightful thing to his soul that possibly could be, and knits his heart to Jesus, who was willing to suffer thus to put it away.

Whether we think of God’s glory, or Christ’s glory, or the practical effect on our hearts, it is Christ’s cross, as being a real sacrifice for sin, that is really efficacious. It glorifies God, infinitely honours Christ, and perfectly blesses man; telling him he is the object of God’s infinite love, and yet maintaining righteousness in his heart. Jesus was God manifest in the flesh; and, as to His Person, supremely glorious in dignity. This indeed enabled Him to do such a work; but never, as to His work and service, was He so glorious as He was upon the cross. I speak to you feebly, beloved reader; but is it not the truth? words, as Paul says, of truth and soberness. And this thing was not done in a corner.

And now mark too the blessed efficacy of it for me, a poor sinner. There stood sin, death, judgment, just wrath, in my way. My conscience told me it was so, and God’s word plainly declares it. Satan’s power bound it down, so to speak, upon my soul; while his temptations encouraged me to go on in what led to it. God’s law, even, did but make the matter worse for me, if I pretended to meddle with it, for its holiness condemned my transgressions. And now, for him that believes, all is taken out of the way. Sin gone, death gone as the terrible thing I awaited (Christ has turned it into a gain)—I shall be with Christ; judgment, Christ has borne it; wrath, there is none for me: I am assured of perfect love. Christ, in making me partaker of the efficacy of His death, has set me beyond all these things in the light, as God is in the light (having loved me, and washed me from my sins in His own blood, and made me a king and priest to God and His Father). In rising He has shewn me this new place into which He has brought me, though as yet, of course, I have it only by faith and participation in that life, in the power of which He has risen. Yes, dear reader, the believer is saved, he has eternal life, he is justified; he waits no doubt to be glorified, but he knows Him who has obtained it all for him, and that He is able to keep that which he has committed unto Him until that day.

There is a judgment (terrible it will be to them that have despised mercy and rejected the Saviour); but to those who, as poor sinners, have submitted to God’s righteousness, believing in His love, “Christ will appear the second time, without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:28). That is, having quite put sin away from them the first time, He will come the second time without having anything to say to it as to them, for their full possession of the glorious result. As He said Himself, “I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2, 3). That is a judgment, if such you will call it, which shall be the everlasting and infinite joy of them that share in it.

Weigh that passage I quoted just now. Christ has appeared “once in the end of the world … to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself; and as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment”—there is the natural portion of the sinner—” so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:26-28). The first time He came, He bore the sins; the second, He comes apart from that for the full salvation of them that look for Him.

Reader, are you prepared to give up all this for the notion that He fell a victim to self-seeking men who put Him to a violent death? Did He not offer Himself up as a sacrifice to put away sin? Did not the Lord bruise Him? Did He not say, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Does not your soul need to have sin put away? Is not the love of God shewn in the way you need it, by Christ’s being thus given? Has He not glorified God in it? Has He not been glorified in it and by it, bitter as it was? Is it not peace to know He has done it, and put away sin for us by it? Does not the word so present it to us? The Lord give you to believe it in truth. It has given me peace, perfect yet increasing peace, these five-and-twenty years, while He has all the glory; and I know God is love, who has purged my conscience from sin. May you, dear reader, be enabled so to know it, and with as much joy! If you do, you know what I say is true. May the grace of God make Him, who has wrought it for us, more precious to us both! It is a blessing and a joy to think we shall have an eternity in which to praise Him for it.

Even if I think of the way good and evil were brought out by it, there is nothing like the cross. Everything moral is there brought to a glorious centre, from which it flows down on every poor believing heart, in the proof that evil has been met and put away, and that good has triumphed. Where has death been shewn in its terrible power as in the cross? Where has sin, in all its terrible character and effects? Where do I see man’s hatred against goodness itself, and the Son of God bearing sin before God, yet where was eternal life obtained for us, such as death can never touch? Where were goodness and love displayed as there? Where were righteousness and obedience accomplished in spite of all? Where was sin brought so immediately under God’s eye and punished, as there? Yet where was it put away, and His perfect delight in absolute obedience at all cost, so drawn out? Where was the bowing in weakness under death shewn as in Him whose soul was melted like wax in the midst of His bowels? yet where the divine strength which carried through all that weakness, death, man’s hatred, Satan’s power, and God’s wrath, could accumulate on His head who drank that bitter cup? All this is told us in scripture. “He was crucified through weakness” (2 Cor. 13:4). “This is your hour and the power of darkness,” said the Lord (Luke 22:53). “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matt. 26:38). “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).

In a word, would I know what sin is? I look there; righteousness? I look there; hatred without a cause? I look there; love without bounds? I look there; judgment and condemnation of sin? I look there; deliverance and peace? I look there; divine wrath against evil? I look there; perfect divine favour and delight in what infinitely glorified God? I look there. Weakness and death, though willingly bowing under it, it is there; strength, divine strength, which has met and removed evil, it is there; peace and wrath, it is there also: the world under Satan’s power rising up, to get finally rid of a God of love; and God, by this very act, delivering the world and making peace by the blood of His own Son. As it is said, “That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14, 15). As I have said, good and evil in all their extremes and forms meet there for the triumph of love in once suffering the evil, that good may have its full force.

Do you ask, reader, Why then are we in such a world still? I will tell you. Scripture tells us, God in grace is still leading souls to profit by and enjoy this. It is a world of misery, and sorrow, and oppression. Did God interfere to change it, He must come in judgment and close the time of mercy; and that He does not do, while yet any have ears to hear. He allows, therefore, the evil which He will judge, to go on meanwhile. And we, though we may thus have to suffer awhile in the world, ought in this sense to rejoice that it is yet allowed; because it is still a time of mercy extended to others. The end will be everlasting joy in a much better world. Christ is gone to prepare a place for us, and He will come again and take us to Himself, that where He is, there we may be also. Thus Peter says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

Finally, my reader, you may not have, in peace of soul, been able to contemplate all the glory of the cross. You have a blessed portion yet before you; but remember, it is presented to you just as you are, for your need in all the grace of it towards a poor sinner. It meets you in your sins, if it infinitely glorifies God. A Jesus dying on the cross for the vilest meets the wants and the burdens of the vilest—comes home through grace to his heart. If his sins are a burden to him, he may see Christ bearing them, that he may be free and have peace. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “And by him, all that believe are justified from all things” (Acts 13:39). Were his “sins as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isa. 1:18). If you are heavy laden, come to Him who came in love to give you rest, and has died in love for you.

The Lord’s peace be with you, dear reader—be with you, whoever you may be. May you be washed in that blood which cleanses from all sin, and the Lord will preserve you for His heavenly kingdom.

Your affectionate servant in Christ,

J. N. D.

15 You say also “Christ was in God’s place to do something for God concerning us.” The language is obscure; but I will not suspect evil. Christ was God manifest in the flesh, as He was God before all worlds. However, if you merely mean that He did, when man down here, manifest God to man, and shew forth in all His ways what He was in love, I heartily agree with this too.