I have often wondered what particular theory of the atonement William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, held to. I knew that he was an admirer of John Wesley, who I believe held to the Penal Substitution view. But I also knew that that his wife, Catherine Booth, had mastered Finney’s Systematic Theology by the age of twelve, as well as read the entire Bible through eight times by then. Finney held to the Governmental Theory of the atonement and Catherine’s writings on the atonement reflect the same perspective.
In her book “Popular Christianity” Catherine Booth wrote, “The Christ of God offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sin of man. The Divine law had been broken; the interests of the universe demanded that its righteousness should be maintained, therefore its penalty must be endured by the transgressor, or, in lieu of this, such compensation must be rendered as would satisfy the claims of justice, and render it expedient for God to pardon the guilty… Christ made such a sacrifice as rendered it possible for God to be just, and yet to pardon the sinner.”
And she said, “His sacrifice is never represented in the Bible as having purchased or begotten the love of the Father, but only as having opened up a channel through which the love could flow out to His rebellious and prodigal children. The doctrine of the New Testament on this point is not that ‘God so hated the world that His own Son was compelled to die in order to appease His vengeance,’ as we fear has been too often represented, but that ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.”
One of Catherine’s biographers said, Finney “she considered to be a sound champion of the truth.” And “Mrs. Booth studied his writings perhaps more than those of any other author, and continued to do so, and to recommend them to others, to the end of her life.” She said, “I often wish I could have an hour’s talk with Finney.” She sent her son, Bramwell Booth, who succeeded William as General, a copy of Finney’s Lectures on Systematic Theology to study. The writings of Finney were standard reading in the original days of the Salvation Army. So I had very little doubt that William Booth was also of a kindred spirit with Finney.
And I knew that the Governmental Theory of the atonement was a widely held view in the Wesleyan Arminian and Holiness movement, as it taught an unlimited atonement that provided for the salvation of all men, though did not automatically or unconditionally save anyone.
I suspected that William Booth held to the Governmental Theory of the atonement, but I was not certain. His wife Catherine seemed to be more of the prolific writer than he was and I didn’t know that any writings of his on the atonement exist.
Recently, I went to the Youth With A Mission main campus, the Twin Oaks Ranch in Garden Valley, and visited with Winkie Pratney. Winkie has a massive library which he keeps on the YWAM base there. As I was browsing through all the rare Christian books that are there, I found the section on, “The Atonement.” I was particularly interested in this shelf of books because I have been working on writing my book, “The Vicarious Atonement of Christ” which will be available soon.
Amongst those writings was a book that contained the writings of William Booth on the atonement! I was very excited to find these writings because they seem to be mostly unknown and unheard of by many of the theological circles I am aware of. Upon further research I was able to find some addition writings of Booth on the atonement.
So I am very pleased to post “The Atonement of Jesus Christ” by William Booth, originally preached at The Staff Review of 1922. And “Redemption,” “The Extent of the Atonement,” and “The Finished Work of Christ,” taken from “The Doctrine’s of the Salvation Army” written by General William Booth in 1892.
- Jesse Morrell
THE ATONEMENT OF JESUS CHRIST
What do we mean by the Atonement? The word itself simply means at-one-ment, the uniting of two beings who had been separate or apart. In everyday language the word is used to signify something done by the wrongdoer to make amends for injuries he has inflicted on others. In religion the word Atonement is used to signify the sacrifice which Jesus Christ offered for our sins by His death on the Cross, by which offering the reconciliation of God and man was made possible.
Some mistaken notions are entertained with respect to the benefits flowing out of the Atonement. The controversies with respect to the character and measure of the benefits resulting from Christ’s sacrifice have been many and bitter, although the intensity of feeling aroused by these differences has been greatly modified in recent years.
While the controversies of the present day refer to aspects of the subject different from those of former times, the opinions of those days are still advocated with some degree of earnestness. In some parts of the world this is more markedly the case than in others. It is, therefore, of importance that officers should have correct ideas as to what those different opinions are. To several views of this doctrine, entertained by some Churches, we take strong exception.
Salvationists object to the view that Christ by His sacrifice made Salvation possible or certain to a chosen portion only of the human race, leaving the remainder outside the possibility of that Salvation. This doctrine is generally described by the terms “election” and “reprobation,” and is more commonly known as Calvinism. It sets forth the belief that one portion of mankind is elected by God to Everlasting Life, and the remaining portion reprobated to everlasting death. This doctrine is condemned by Salvationists on various grounds:
It is in opposition to the emphatic declarations of the Bible that Christ died for all men. “For the Grace of God that bringeth Salvation hath appeared to all men” (Titus 2: 11). And again: “That He by the Grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb. 2:9).
It is in opposition to what we know of the nature of God, as set forth in the Scriptures. He is described in the Bible as a just and benevolent Being, which this doctrine seems most emphatically to deny.
It is in opposition to our natural sense of justice. That multitudes of human beings should be appointed to suffer everlasting death, independently of any choice or action of their own, is revolting to our conceptions of right and wrong, to say nothing about our natural sympathies with suffering.
Neither do we mean by the Atonement, as is maintained by some Theologians, that Jesus Christ, by His sacrifice, met and satisfied the claims of the Law man had broken, so as to render any further obedience to that Law, by the entire human race, unnecessary. This view of the Atonement implies that every man you meet – whether you find him drunk in a public house, or wallowing in the filth of a brothel, or expiating his murderous offenses on the gallows – is on his way to Heaven, the punishment of his sins having been endured by Jesus Christ on the Cross. Such an idea is emphatically contradicted by the plainest declarations of the Bible. For the Bible has no meaning at all if it does not reveal a difference in the final destiny of the good and the bad – of the “Saved” and the “unSaved.”
Whatever may be the character of the punishment of the wicked, the Bible repeatedly, explicitly and emphatically states that it will be everlasting in its duration. It says that the wicked are to “go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into Life Eternal.”
A third view of the Atonement from which the Army dissents maintains the theory that Jesus Christ paid our debt; by which is meant that He satisfied the claims of the broken Law for every human being and secured the Salvation of all men – on the simple condition of their believing the glad tidings. This is known as “the payment of debt theory” or “only believe and you shall be Saved.”
This view of the Atonement will, I think, be seen to be an impossible one. If it were true, it would secure the entrance of every human being into Heaven; because if Christ has satisfied all the claims which the Law has upon those who transgressed it, He must have satisfied also the claim involved in the unbelief entertained down to the last moment of life. Consequently, “if the debt is paid, the obligation is discharged, and the debtor is free.” It would follow inevitably that, whether I believe the good tidings or not, my unbelief cannot affect the fact; and whatever wickedness may be involved in my refusing to believe, that wickedness itself is also paid for if all my debt is discharged – I am free. As the hymn sung by the believers in this doctrine says:
The payment of my debt cannot be twice required;
First at my Surety’s hand, and then at mine.
Another mistaken view of the benefits flowing out of the sacrifice of Christ, although it does not directly refer to the Savior’s death, is closely connected with it; this is known as the doctrine of “imputed righteousness.” Jesus Christ, this notion says, by voluntarily placing Himself under the Law to which man was subject, rendering a perfect obedience to that Law, and sealing that obedience with His own Blood, thereby not only did purchase the forgiveness of sin for those whom He redeemed, but merited for us through His obedience a perfect righteousness; clothed in this His people will appear at the Judgment Bar, and it will constitute not only a preparation for Heaven but a right of entrance there.
This doctrine declares that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to those who believe on His name, not only to make up for their own unrighteousness, but to create a righteousness which should be regarded as their own. Though they have not obeyed the Law, Christ has obeyed it for them, and therefore they are entitled to just the same blessings as though they had obeyed it themselves. This, I need hardly say, is a mistaken notion, seeing that one being cannot, in this sense, obey the Law for another. Every creature in Heaven and on earth is placed under that Law of Benevolence which claims all the love and service he is able to render, according to the capacity of his nature – whether it be that of an Angel, of a man, or of a little child.
In becoming a man Jesus Christ voluntarily placed Himself on the same level, in this respect, as Peter and John; that is to say, the Law required from Him, as truly and really as it did from them, all the love and service which His powers enabled Him to render. The extent of the Savior’s capacity determined the extent of His obligation. Having an infinite capacity He was under obligation to love and serve in an infinite degree.
But if concerning the Atonement we do not entertain these notions, we do believe that Jesus Christ, by His death, offered a sacrifice for the sins of men which was of sufficient value to make amends for the damage done to the honor of the Law by man’s transgression. This made it possible for God to forgive the sins of all who truly repent and believe on His Son and determine to live lives of faith and obedience. And we believe that, in virtue of this sacrifice, full forgiveness can be granted to the transgressor, without in any way diminishing, in the estimation of mankind, the honor of God whom he has offended, the majesty of the Law he has broken, or the evil of the sin he has committed. By this Divine scheme God can be just, and yet be the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.
I want now to mention some of the reasons which are given for refusing to accept the doctrine of the Atonement in any form. The first of these affirms that this doctrine is a reflection upon the justice and benevolence of God. Those who bring forward this objection say that while the Bible and our natural instincts represent God as a loving and beneficent Father, this doctrine describes Him as a fierce and angry Being, who cannot forgive a poor sinner without His Son coming from Heaven to suffer the shame and agony of the Cross. But this is a false representation of the subject; it is not the doctrine of the Bible, nor the doctrine of The Salvation Army. The true doctrine is just the opposite. The Atonement was not necessary to create compassion in the bosom of God for sin stricken man; it was the compassion of God that generated the Atonement. The Sacrifice on the Cross was not offered to appease the angry wrath of the Father; it was in the compassionate bosom of the Father that the sacrifice of the Cross was born.
Christ’s sacrifice was devised to maintain the dignity of the Law man had broken, and at the same time to rescue man from the penalty he had incurred. So far, therefore, from the Atonement being a reflection on the justice and benevolence of God, it is perhaps the greatest evidence we possess both of His unswerving justice and of His boundless love.
In the second place, the Atonement is declared by these objectors to have been unnecessary. This objection is taken on three grounds: The objectors deny that in man’s conduct any serious offense has been committed. They affirm that nothing has been done that could correctly be described as sin -meaning by sin the transgression of the Divine Law. They say that the offenses which the Bible describes as sins are not really sins at all, but merely irregularities resulting from errors of judgment; or, that they are involuntary, the working out of man’s unbalanced nature or that they are the inevitable outcome of some hereditary inclination or disposition for which the individual cannot justly be held responsible.
Let us look carefully at this statement that no real sin has been committed, assuming several simple truths, to which I do not think these objectors would demure God is, as we all believe, a benevolent Being, and the Author of our existence. Having arranged for our coming into the world, God must be desirous of our well being. Knowing that our well being must be largely dependent on our conduct, and knowing the kind of conduct which is likely most surely to lead to the happiest and most useful existence, it is certain that God would prefer that we should adopt that course of conduct. These preferences and judgments with respect to the conduct of our lives God has caused to be written in the books of Providence, conscience and Scripture; and they constitute the rules, that is the Laws, by which He seeks to control that conduct.
The transgression of these Laws constitutes sin – which is, therefore, an offense not only against ourselves and our neighbors, but against God. In the everlasting death that is announced in the Bible you have the penalty God has connected with the transgression of His Law. In the gift of Jesus Christ you have the expression of God’s compassionate desire to save men from the penalty which is the consequence of their wrong doing. And in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ you have the Atonement, by which act He displayed His high regard for the Law man had broken, His deep hatred of sin, and His boundless compassion for the transgressor. The Atonement enables Him at the same time consistently to rescue all who comply with the conditions attached to it from the doom to which they have exposed themselves.
The second argument in support of the objection that the Atonement was unnecessary is as follows: “If God is the God of mercy that He is represented to be, and if man has sinned against Him, as he is said to have done, and if God did compassionate man, as the Bible says He did – why could He not forgive him, and remit the penalties attached to his wrongdoing without all the humiliation and suffering which is implied in the doctrine of the Atonement?”
To this I reply: There is a real difference between what is right and what is wrong, and this difference constitutes a gulf of infinite width and infinite depth – a gulf so wide and so deep that neither men, nor angels, nor even God himself can disregard it. For God, omnipotent and wise as He is, cannot make right wrong or wrong right. Upon this essential difference between what is right and what is wrong the whole fabric of the moral Law of the universe is based. Thus God must be under the strongest obligation to do all that lies within His power to maintain, before all the creatures under His care, the manifest rightness of what is right and the manifest wrongness of what is wrong. This object God seeks to accomplish by the institution of the Law – the declaration of what is right and what is wrong in human conduct, and the demand for obedience upon all to whom the Law applies.
The needed respect for Law, and the importance of obedience to it, are guarded by the infliction of a penalty bearing some proportion to the magnitude of the transgression. And when Law is broken the infliction of penalty must inevitably follow. In the case of man’s sin the penalty included everlasting condemnation as wrongdoers, and everlasting separation from God. Quite possibly, indeed probably, the same or a similar penalty applies to every transgressor of Divine Law in every part of the universe, seeing that Divine Law is an expression of the Divine nature and will. It is evident that, great as God is, it was morally impossible for Him to remit the penalty due to sin without some sacrifice being found which would have the effect of making the Law appear as honorable, and the offense appear as awful, as would have been the case had the penalty been inflicted.
Now, God’s heart yearned over man in his transgression, prompting Him to desire man’s deliverance from the consequences of that transgression. How was this deliverance to be effected? Something must be done which would make a similar impression upon the mind of man as to the importance of keeping the Law and the evil of breaking it as the infliction of the penalty due would have done; and which would at the same time awaken in him a sense of the shame and guilt of his transgression, and a desire to cease from his disobedience. This was done by the life and death of Jesus Christ, so that now every sinner who will, on God’s terms, accept the deliverance provided for him, may go free.
A third objection to the necessity of the Atonement declares: “If the offense of man was the serious evil that you assert, and if God could not forgive that offense without some remarkable intervention on the part of some great Being who should become a wonderful example of freedom from sin, and yet of suffering for it – then are we not justified in believing that the holy life of Jesus Christ and the death He endured were sufficient to impress humanity with the required sense of the value of the Law, and the evil of the offense that had been committed against it, without our being called upon to regard Him as a Divine Being? That is – could He not have made the needed sacrifice without being more than man?”
No! We do not think He could. If He had been nothing more than man He must Himself have been a transgressor of the Law, seeing that “all have, sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), and in that case He would have required a sacrifice for His own sins. Even if that difficulty were surmounted, but Jesus Christ had been only a human being, it would have been impossible for Him to furnish sufficient merit to meet the needs of a world of sinners. Again, in whatever meritorious work Jesus Christ performed, or whatever sufferings He endured, if He had been merely human, instead of being the Savior of the world, as He is presented to be, He would have been only one of the Saviors of the world.
If He were not more than man, the Christian world has been deceived for two thousand years as to the value of the Blood He shed, the intercession He has made and the worship that has been rendered Him. If His work for me were nothing more than human wisdom devised, and human passion compelled, and human nature endured, then I can accept it or reject it as I think fit, without condemnation from anyone. If Jesus Christ were not a Divine Person there would be nothing more to make me condemn myself for not accepting Him as my Savior, than in my refusing to believe in some other human benefactor. Finally, if He was not more than man, and if His life and death have no more bearing upon my destiny than those of any human philanthropist, then His claims are without foundation, and the hopes they have raised in my soul are a delusion: He must have been either the prince of impostors or, what He really was, the Lord of Lords, the King of kings, the Savior of mankind.
The objectors of whom we are speaking argue further that such a transaction as the Atonement was improbable. “How,” they ask, “could God weep and be depressed, and feel Himself forsaken, and die, as the Bible represents Him to have done?” These objectors find it difficult to credit that these events occurred, and consequently they find it difficult to trust their souls upon them.
If however, we were to go so far as to admit that the story of the Atonement has the appearance of improbability, that would be no positive disproof of its truthfulness. Many things are constantly occurring under our very eyes, which we should think were most unlikely and should refuse to believe, if we had not had some personal acquaintance with the actual occurrence.
It is argued further that it is an unjust arrangement for one Being to be sacrificed in the interests of another, as in the case of the Atonement.
It seems to me to be most curious that such an objection should be raised in a world that is so full of sacrifice at every turn you take in it. When we look round us it seems as though in this life sacrifice were a Law of existence. It appears as though we could have joy only as a result of the sorrows of others, as if we could have life only by their death.
The material world is full of sacrifice. Matter is sacrificed to propagate and support every sort of vegetable as well as animal life. Coal has to be burned in order to create warmth, prepare food and supply the means of motion. The vegetable world is sacrificed to sustain animal life. And the animal world is sacrificed, with a vengeance, for the maintenance of human life.
Husbands sacrifice themselves for their wives, or ought to do so. Wives are sacrificed for their husbands. Parents are sacrificed for their children. Patriots are sacrificed for their country. And in some Eastern lands one human being is accepted as a sacrifice for another.
On the one hand the highest admiration of men of all stations is given to those who sacrifice their interests or even themselves for the good of others. On the other hand selfishness – taking care of yourself, and allowing other people to suffer or perish, sometimes through your unwillingness to suffer on their account – is everywhere despised; although, alas! alas! Largely practiced by those who hold it in such contempt.
And when we come to the religious world we find sacrifice everywhere taught. No religion has a powerful hold upon the people that has not sacrifice as a principle of its action, if not a main reason for its existence. Without sacrifice religion would not be religion at all.
Why then should it be counted an unreasonable or unjust arrangement for the Son of God to inhabit a human body for a season in order that He might be a Man of sorrows and die a suffering death, to make a sacrifice for our sins and leave behind Him an example for us to imitate?
Another objection to the doctrine of the Atonement affirms that the benefits flowing out of the Sacrifice are not equivalent to the amount of humiliation and suffering that Jesus Christ endured.
I answer to this objection let us consider some of the blessings flowing out of the Atonement, and show that they constitute incontrovertible reasons why we Salvationists should hold to the doctrine with all our might.
We must hold on to the doctrine of the Atonement because of the marvelous revelation it affords of the love of God to man.
You have the revelation of that love in the Creation, the provision made for man’s health and happiness.
You have a revelation of that love in Providence. All things work together for our good. That we do not understand why things that appear opposed to our welfare come to us does not disprove the fact.
You have a revelation of that love in the Bible. Who would ever have dreamed of many of the things we know about God if they had not been there revealed?
You have a revelation of that love in Grace. Grace is the sign of the infinite compassion, love and beauty of God in the conversion, sanctification, preservation and utilization of His people, and in their filial triumph over death and hell.
But in Christ – in His hanging, dying on the Cross – we have a manifestation of the heart of love which made all this possible, and which, in importance, far transcends it all.
We must hold on to the doctrine of the Atonement because it forms a strong incentive to us to love God in return.
As I kneel before His bleeding form, and remember who He was, and why He came there, I can do no other than say, from the depths of my being:
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so Divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
We must hold on to the doctrine of the Atonement because of the picture it presents of the majesty of the Divine Law, and the importance of its maintenance.
As I look upon the suffering Christ, not only am I compelled to think of the high estimate God sets upon the Law that keeps the universe in order, but my heart bounds to render obedience to that Law.
We must hold on to the doctrine of the Atonement because of the revelation it makes of the evil of sin.
If I were permitted to witness the agonizing miseries that sin brings upon men in this life; if I could wander over the battlefields and through the slums and prisons and hospitals and other habitations of human vice and crime and woe – I should, without doubt, get some faint idea of what an evil and bitter thing it is to sin against God. If I were permitted to go down into hell itself, and witness the terrible sufferings and listen to the agonizing regrets of the lost, I should gain some further idea of the dreadful consequences that follow the transgression of the holy Law of God. But, altogether, I should not find such a telling expression of the awful nature of sin as I see when I behold the suffering form of my Savior – the eternal Son of God on the bloody Tree, and know that it was sin that nailed Him there.
We must hold on to the doctrine of the Atonement because of the door of mercy which it flings widely and gloriously open for all mankind.
Millions have entered the gates that lead to the CelestialCity with the sentiment in their hearts which we Salvationists express by our song, “His Blood can make the foulest clean.” Millions upon millions more will reach the Golden Pavement who have never heard His precious name before they gained the HeavenlyShores. Sincere souls who by living up to the light they possess, prove that if they had had the opportunity they would have laid themselves at the Savior’s feet, will not have to suffer banishment on account of their ignorance. You will remember Paul says, “in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him” (Acts 10:35). This shows that God is going to deal with people according to their sincerity. If they are obedient to what they hear, there will be Salvation for them; and if they have never heard but would have been obedient if they had heard, they will not be rejected.
We must hold on to the doctrine of the Atonement because it justifies us in believing in the transference to the HeavenlyShores of multitudes of young children who have never heard His name below.
More than half the human race die in infancy and, in view of the holy examples set before them by the Heavenly host, grow into celestial maturity in the Heavenly Canaan.
We must hold on to the doctrine of the Atonement because of the example the Savior Himself furnishes for imitation.
Nowhere in the history of the human race, from Adam down to the present hour, have we any being, until we come to Jesus Christ, to whom we can point with confidence and say, “Take not only the precepts of His mouth as your guide, but the example of His life and death.” The value of such an example is greater, I need not say, than anything human or angelic can calculate.
We must hold on to the doctrine of the Atonement because of the material, mental, moral and spiritual blessings which stream from it out into our dark and desolate world.
We must hold on to the doctrine of the Atonement because of the fire of compassion and love for the sinning, suffering bodies and souls of men which it kindles in the hearts of those who yield themselves to its influence.
We must hold on to the doctrine of the Atonement because of the fulness of the Holy Spirit’s influence which it makes possible to men.
“I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17).
We must hold on to the doctrine of the Atonement because of the preparation for Heaven it makes certain for those who accept it.
Think of the multitude which no man can number, already assembling on the Heavenly Plains, who have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb, and the multitudes more who have availed themselves of the same preparation and are coming on.
We must hold on to the doctrine of the Atonement because of the verification it affords of the prophecies, promises and general statements of the Bible.
To take the Atonement out of the Bible would not only rob the sacred volume of its chief, if not its entire interest, but largely destroy its power to bless the souls of its readers. In fact, without the Atonement the Bible would cease to be one of the lights of the world, and would speedily vanish from the earth in the gloom that would surround it.
We must hold on to the doctrine of the Atonement because its loss would rob multitudes of the honest men and women of the most powerful motive to purity of heart and life.
We must hold on to the doctrine of the Atonement because it constitutes our most powerful weapon in the fight with the godless crowds.
Whether in the Churches, the market places, the theaters, the music halls, the public houses, the brothels, their own homes or elsewhere, the death of Jesus Christ is our battle cry of victory. Christ weeping, suffering, dying for them, and waiting to wash away their sins in His Blood, constitutes the most powerful motive to submit themselves immediately to God, accept His mercy and commence a new life calculated to please Him, promote their own happiness and ultimately lead them to Heaven, Without this inducement our talking would lose its influence on the conscience of men, and the Penitent form would be banished from the world for ever.
We must hold on to the doctrine of the Atonement because the loss of it would spoil every song we sing.
If there were no Atonement, we should soon abandon singing all together. Take away the Cross, and the river of our peace would cease to flow; the joy of our religion would come to an end.
We must hold on to the doctrine of the Atonement because it is the greatest, most influential and most soul stirring truth in the universe. Where should we be without the Cross? Comrades, let us avail ourselves to the uttermost of the Salvation and the conquering power that the Atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ makes possible to us in our inward experience; and let us resolve that, with renewed energy and increased enthusiasm, we will proclaim the redeeming virtues of the Cross to the whole world.
(William Booth street preaching)
THE DOCTRINES OF
THE SALVATION ARMY
BY THE GENERAL
1. What is the meaning of Redemption.
Redemption means to redeem, or deliver from bondage by sacrifice. To get out of pawn by payment of a price. So Christ seeks to redeem our souls from the claims of the broken law, and from sin, and Satan, and Hell, by the payment of His own blood.
2. What does God seek to accomplish for our race in the work of redemption?
He seeks to recover us from all the effects of the Fall, and to raise us to a position holier, happier, and more secure than that which was lost by Adam.
3. How does God seek to accomplish this?
By the life, sufferings, and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Holy Ghost operating directly on the world and working through an army of men who have been washed from their sins in the blood of Jesus Christ.
4. You have told us that Jesus Christ was a divine person, that is, He was God; was He also human, that is, a man?
Yes, He was as truly man as He was truly God. For our sakes He came from Heaven, took upon Him our nature, and thus made it possible for Him to suffer in our stead.
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”—1 Timothy iii. 16.
5. What did the Saviour do for us?
I. He made known the Father’s will in His teaching.
II. Set forth a perfect example for our own imitation in His life.
III. Made an atonement for our sins in His death.
6. What Is the meaning of the word ATONEMENT?
The word means “at-one-ment,” and it signifies the way which Jesus Christ opened, in order that God and man, now separated by sin, may be reunited and made one again.
“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”—2 Corinthians v. 19.
“Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”—Romans v. 18.
“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:”—Ephesians ii. 13—16.
7. Can you describe more plainly in what way we are benefited by the death of Christ?
Well, you see the Father pitied us when He saw us cursed and condemned to everlasting death, and wanted very much to forgive and make us happy again, but then He had to consider the welfare of others, and the honour of the law we had broken. If He had forgiven us without the sacrifice of His son, the inhabitants of other worlds, and the angels of Heaven, might have said: “Oh, it does not matter about breaking His laws; you have only to say you are sorry, and He will make things right.” And so the holy laws of God would have been thought nothing of; and, to meet this difficulty, Jesus Christ, though the only Son of the Father, came, and suffered as a sacrifice for us, and so magnified the importance of the law we had broken, and, at the same time, made a way for our deliverance from its penalty.
8. Is not the Death of Christ sometimes described as a “satisfaction” to Divine justice?
Yes. The death of Christ satisfied Divine justice, inasmuch—
I. Our sins deserved death.
II. Christ voluntarily died in our place.
III. In virtue of His dignity as God, and His purity as Man, His sacrifice was possessed of infinite merit, and fully met the claims of the law, and justified God in remitting the punishment, and in forgiving all who repent and believe on Him.
9. What passages of Scripture would you quote as teaching this doctrine?
I. Those which speak of Christ as being a ransom for mankind.
The word ransom signifies the price paid for the deliverance of a captive. It has this meaning in Matthew xx. 28. The word ransom in 1 Timothy ii. 6— “Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”— signifies the ransom paid for the life of a captive, by giving up the life of another person, the idea, in both cases, being that of “substitution” or “satisfaction.”
II. Those passages which speak of Christ as being the Redeemer of the race—
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” —1 Peter i. 18,19.
“For ye are bought with a price.”—1 Corinthians vi. 20.
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”—Ephesians i. 7.”
“Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”—Acts xx. 28.
“For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”— Revelation v. 9.
III. Those passages which speak of Christ as being the Substitute for sinners—
“Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.”— John xi. 50.
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”—Romans v. 8.
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.”— 1 Corinthians xv. 3.
“For the love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”—2 Corinthians v. 14,15
“Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.”—Galatians i. 4.
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”— Hebrews ii. 9.
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.”—1 Peter iii. 18.
IV. Those passages which speak of Christ as making reconciliation, by His death, between men and God—
“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”—2 Corinthians v. 18,19.
** For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.’—Romans v. 10, 11.
10. Did the Saviour Himself teach that He came to make an Atonement for the Race?
Yes; He declared the substitutionary character of His work when He compared Himself to the serpent to which the Israelites looked and were delivered—
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.”—John iii. 14.
I. When He declared that He gave His life a ransom for many—
“Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”—Matthew xx. 28.
II. When He tells the multitudes that they may eat His flesh and drink His blood, which He will give for the life of the world—
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood drink indeed.”— John vi. 51—55.
III. When He declares that He is the Good Shepherd, who giveth His life for the sheep—
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”—John x. 11.
IV. When He affirmed that His blood was shed for many for the remission of their sins—
“For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”—Matthew xxvi. 28.
11. Did not all the Prophecies which described the coming Messiah as a Sacrifice for sins find their fulfillment in Him?
Yes; the 53rd chapter of Isaiah throughout can only be understood as descriptive of Him as a sacrifice, and specially the 5th and 6th verses—
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his strips 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,”—Isaiah liii, 5, 6.
THE EXTENT OF THE ATONEMENT.
1. Do the benefits of the atoning work of Christ extend to all men?
Yes; they were obtained, and are intended for the whole world; that is, for all who have lived in the past, for all who live now, and for all who will live hereafter.
2. How do you prove that Christ died for all men?
1. From what we know of the benevolent character of God we should expect that He would include the whole race in the merciful undertaking. It would appear to us absolute cruelty to leave any out.
2. There is not a passage in the Bible that says He did not die for all men.
3. There are many passages in the Bible that say He did die for all.
“Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified ia due time.”—1 Timothy ii. 6.
“For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.”—1 Timothy iv. 10.
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”— Hebrews ii. 9.
4. The Bible also says that Christ died for “the world,” the ” whole world.”
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believed in him should not perish, bat have everlasting life.”—John iii. 16.
“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”—John i. 29.
“This is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”— John iv. 42.
“And the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”—John vi. 51.
3. How do the Calvinists try to explain away these passages?
By saying that it is the “elect world ” that is intended here; that is, every elect man. But there is no such phrase as the elect world in the whole Bible, and we will not allow any one to narrow up the mercy and grace of God by any such fanciful inventions.
4. What other argument do you draw from the Bible which proves that Christ died for all?
All agree that Christ died for those who are saved, but the Bible positively states that He died for those who will be lost, and therefore He must have died for all.
“But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.”—Romans xiv. 15.
“And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died.”—1 Corinthians viii. 11.
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”—2 Peter ii. 1.
5. Have you any other argument?
Yea; if Christ did not die for all, how could we urge all sinners to believe He died for them? Unless He died for all, no man could be sure He died for him, neither could any man be condemned, or condemn himself for not believing that of which he had no assurance. But Christ did die for every man, and every man must believe it on the peril of everlasting damnation.
6. Is there any other argument?
The Bible says we are to offer mercy to all; but how can we do so and tell every man he can have salvation if Christ only died for a portion of the race?
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”—Mark xvi. 15.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”—Matthew xi. 28.
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” —John vii. 37.
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”—Revelation xxii. 17.
THE FINISHED WORK OF CHRIST.
1. You will sometimes hear people talk about the finished work of Christ. What is meant by it?
That Christ, when He died on the Cross, put Himself in the place of the sinner and bore the exact amount of punishment which he deserved, thus actually paying the debt that the sinner owed to Divine justice. And that if the sinner will only believe this, he is for ever free from the claims of the law, and can never be brought into condemnation either here or hereafter—
2. Is this so?
We think not.
3. What makes you think it is not so?
If it were so, if Christ did literally pay the sinner’s debt, in this sense, God cannot justly demand payment twice and consequently no one will be sent to Hell, and all will be saved.
4. But do not those who hold the view that Christ did actually and literally pay all the sinner’s debt upon the cross hold and teach, also, that the benefit of the payment will only be experienced by those who believe that it is do so?
Yes; but if a debt is paid, it is paid, and the sinner’s unbelief does not in any way affect the fact. If I owe a man £5, and some one pays it for me, my creditors cannot sue me for the sum. I am all right, seeing the debt is paid, whether I believe it or no.
5. But is it not replied that if the sinner is lost it is not because he is A SINNER, seeing that his sins have been borne by Christ, but because he will not BELIEVE the fact, and they quote:—” He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned”?
Yes; but any one can see that if all the sinner’s debt has been paid, all the sin of unbelief must have been paid also, otherwise how can his past unbelief be forgiven, and if all his unbelief has been atoned or paid for, how can he be sent to hell for that, any more than any other sin?
6. How can anyone consistently hold this doctrine of the literal payment of the sinner’s debt?
Only by rejecting the glorious truth that Christ died for all. Those who hold to a limited atonement are at least consistent, because they say that Christ paid the debt of a certain number, and therefore their salvation is secure whatever they do, as Christ cannot die in vain.
7. But is not this view of the literal payment of debt inconsistent in those who believe that Christ died for all?
Decidedly so. Because if Christ paid everyone’s debt, then everyone will be saved, and so the doctrine leads up to universal salvation.
8. But is it not true that Christ did pay our debt when He died for us?
Not in the sense that debts are paid here. Otherwise, as we have seen, those for whom Christ died are for ever free, act as they may, because payment cannot be twice demanded, as a favourite hymn, with those who hold this view, says:
“First at my Surety’s hand,
And then at mine.”
9. But what is the correct view of the Atonement?
“We have already explained it in Section 4. The Scriptures teach that Christ on the Cross, in virtue of the dignity of His person, the voluntariness of His offering, and the greatness of His sufferings did make and present, on behalf of poor sinners, a sacrifice of infinite value. And that this sacrifice, by showing all worlds the terrible evil of the sin man had committed, and the importance of the law man had broken, did make it possible for the love and pity of God to flow out to man by forgiving all those who repent and return in confidence to Him, enabling Him to be just and yet the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.
10. Then did Christ endure exactly the amount of suffering that sinners ought to have endured?
We do not know what our blessed Saviour suffered, and we never shall, but we do know that His sacrifice is far more likely to make the inhabitants of the universe have a profound respect for the law and justice of God, than would have been effected by sending the whole race to Hell.
11. Can any man do or suffer anything, either before or after Conversion to MERIT SALVATION in any way?
No. The alone ground or merit of our salvation from first to last is to be ascribed to the love of God, as displayed in the work and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
“And every creature which is in Heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever,”—Revelation v. 13,
(William Booth street preaching)
For additional writings on the Governmental Atonement view, see the following books that we offer:
The Vicarious Atonement of Christ by Jesse Morrell is a systematic presentation of the governmental atonement view. This book presents the scriptural arguments for, “What is moral government?” “What is the purpose of moral law?” “What is the purpose of penalty?” “What is not the purpose of penalty?” “What is the nature of forgiveness?” “What are the problems in the way of forgiveness?” “What are not the problems in the way of forgiveness?” “What is the atonement?” “What was not the atonement?” “What is imputed righteousness?” And this book contains, “Answers to Objections.” This book is full of logical and scriptural arguments as well as quotes from great Christian leaders throughout history.
This is the complete 1851 edition of Lectures on Systematic Theology by Charles G. Finney. These Lectures are arguably the greatest systematic theology in Chrisitan history. This is a “Note Takers Edition” as the bottom of each page has a large area for the reader to write their own personal notes as they study this wonderful piece of Christian theology.
731 pages (8.5″ x 11″)
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A Defense of New England Theology by Albert Barnes is a very rare book, originally published in 1829. It contains Barnes sermon, “The Way of Salvation” for which he was accused of heresy by Rev. Dr. George Junkin. The doctrines in question were human ability, imputation, and atonement. Barne’s response and defense to the charge of heresy is also contained in this volume, for which Barnes was acquitted by the Synod of Philadelphia. “New England Theology” was a theological movement with notable men like Moses Stuart, Albert Barnes, Charles Finney, Asa Mahan, and others. The modern movement of “Moral Government Theology” has its roots in what was “New England Theology.”
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The Scriptural Doctrine of Atonement by Caleb Burge has been said to be the best book on the Governmental Atonement theory. Burge expounds upon very profound concepts and presents them in a very intelligent and understandable way. This book was originally published in 1822. It contains pure theological gold on one of the most important doctrines of Christianity. It will be an absolute treasure in your library.
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The Atonement by Albert Barnesis a classic book on the governmental theory of the atonement from a very prominent pastor and world renown Bible commentator from the 1800’s. Barnes’ work on The Atonement was Leonard Ravenhill’s number one recommended book out of forty listed. It is very insightful, thought provoking, and spiritually rich.
Albert Barnes (1789-1870) was a pastor, author, and Bible commentator. He pastored the large and influential First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. He is best known for his extensive notes on the Bible. Millions of copies of his notes have been printed and distributed worldwide and have blessed many. His work on the atonement was one of his greatest contributions to Christian Theology.
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The Atonement in Christ by John Miley is one of the most exhaustive and important writings on the various atonement theories that have existed throughout Christian history. This classic writing advances the Governmental Theory of the atonement as true and scriptural and critiques the opposing perspectives like that of the Penal Substitution Theory of atonement.
John Miley (1813-1895) was an American Christian theologian in the Methodist tradition who was one of the major Methodist theological voices of the 19th century.
Miley had graduated from Augusta College and, as a Methodist pastor, had held nineteen different pastoral appointments. He served as chair of systematic theology at Drew University in Madison, NJ beginning in 1873, after his brother-in-law, Randolph Sinks Foster, left the seat to become a Bishop.
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The Extent of the Atonement: In Its Relation to God and the Universe by Rev. Thomas W. Jenkyn is a classic work expounding upon the Governmental View of the atonement. It is a thorough explanation of the atonement in reference to its nature, the character of God, the purposes of God, the works of God, the moral government of God, the providence of God, divine truth, the rebellion of man, the salvation of mankind, the work of the Holy Spirit, the Christian church, etc. This book presents the truth of the Scriptures in clarity and is an absolute joy to read.
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The Governmental View of the Atonement is a compilation book with writings from some of the best theologians on this topic. The authors include Charles Finney, Henry Cowles, John Morgan, Moses Stuart, and Jonathon Edwards Jr. These authors present the truth of the atonement of Christ in a very clear Scriptural and reasonable light. Their writings show the necessity, nature, and extent of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. The benevolence and brilliance of God in providing a way to sustain His moral government while pardoning transgressors will be clearly seen as you read this wonderful piece of literature.
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The Atonement as it Relates to God and Man by Nathan Beman is a wonderful exposition on the Governmental View of the atonement of Christ. With precision and excellence the author explains why it was necessary for God’s moral government that the atonement of Christ be made if God is going to pardon sinners, the nature of Christ’s atoning death, and the extent of who this loving sacrifice has been made for. The reader of this book will be left with a crystal clear understanding of the doctrine of atonement.
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