Eph 3 :21 Unto him be glory in the Church
by Christ Jesus throughout all ages
World Without End Amen

Charles Hodge
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Youngs Literal Translation

King James Version

The 1599 Geneva
Study Bible

American Standard ASV-1901

Historical Book
Flavius Josephus



(Part 3)

Theories of the Atonement

1. The Orthodox View.    2. Doctrine of some of the Fathers.    3. The Moral Theory.
4. The Governmental Theory.
    5. The Mystical Theory.    6. Concluding Remarks.

    THE history of this doctrine is commonly divided into three per nods, the Patristic; the Scholastic; and the time of the Reformation and from that event to the present day. The method which the writers on this subject have usually adopted, is to pass in review in chronological order the distinguished theologians living during these several periods, and present a general outline of the teaching of each.

    The two great objects to be accomplished by the work of Christ are, the removal of the curse under which mankind laboured on account of sin; and their restoration to the image and fellowship of God. Both these are essential to salvation. We have guilt to be removed, and souls dead in sin to be quickened with a new principle of divine life. Both these objects are provided for in the doctrine of redemption as presented in the Scriptures and held in the Church. In the opposing theories devised by theologians, either one of these objects is ignored or one is unduly subordinated to the other. It was characteristic of the early Greek church to exalt the latter, while the Latin made the former the more prominent. In reviewing the history of the doctrine it will be found that there are five general theories which comprise all the numerous forms in which it has been held.

1. The Orthodox View.

    The first is that which has been for ages regarded as the orthodox doctrine; in its essential features common to the Latin, Lutheran, and Reformed churches. This is the doctrine which the writer has endeavoured to exhibit and vindicate in the preceding pages. According to this doctrine the work of Christ is a real satsfaction, of infinite inherent merit, to the vindicatory justice of God; so that He saves his people by doing for them, and in their stead, what they were unable to do for themselves, satisfying the demands of the law in their behalf, and bearing its penalty in their stead; whereby they are reconciled to God, receive the Holy Ghost, and are made partakers of the life of Christ to their present sanctification and eternal salvation.

    This doctrine provides for both the great objects above mentioned. It shows how the curse of the law is removed by Christ's being made a curse for us; and how in virtue of this reconciliation with God we become, through the Spirit, partakers of the life of Christ. He is made unto us not only righteousness, but sanctification. We are cleansed by his blood from guilt, and renewed by his Spirit after the image of God. Having died in Him, we live in Him. Participation of his death secures participation of his life.

2. Doctrine of some of the Fathers.

    The second theory is that which prevailed extensively among the fathers. It was intended only as a solution of the question how Christ delivers us from the power of Satan. It contemplated neither the removal of guilt nor the restoration of divine life; but simply .our deliverance from the power of Satan. It was founded on those passages of Scriptures which represent man since the fall as in bondage to the prince of darkness. The object of redemption was to deliver mankind from this bondage. This could only be done by in some way overcoming Satan and destroying his right or power to hold men as his slaves. This Christ has effected, and thus becomes the Redeemer of men. This general theory is presented in three different forms. The first appeals to the old principle of the rights of war, according to which the conquered became the slaves of the conqueror. Satan conquered Adam, and thus became the rightful owner of him and his posterity. Hence he is called the god and prince of this world. To deliver men from this dreaded bondage, Christ offered Himself as a ransom to Satan. Satan accepted the offer, and renounced his right to retain mankind as his slaves. Christ, however, broke the bonds of Satan, whose power was founded upon the sinfulness of his subjects. Christ being divine, and without sin, could not be held subject to his power. In answer to the question, How Satan could accept Christ as the ransom for men, if he knew Him to be a divine person? it was said that he did not know Him to be divine, because his divinity was veiled by his humanity. And then in answer to the question, How he could accept of Him as a ransom, if he regarded Him as merely a man? it is said that he saw that Christ was unspeakably superior to other men, and perhaps one of the higher order of angels, whom he might hope securely to retain. The second form of this theory does not regard Christ as a ransom paid to Satan, but as a conqueror. As Satan conquered mankind and made them his slaves; so Christ became a man, and, in our nature, conquered Satan; and thus acquired the right to deliver as from our bondage and to consign Satan himself to chains and darkness.

    The third form of the theory is, that as the right and power of Satan over man is founded on sin, he exceeded his authority when he brought about the death of Christ, who was free from all sin; and thus justly forfeited his authority over men altogether. This general theory that Christ's great work, as a Redeemer, was to deliver man from bondage to Satan, and that the ransom was paid to Him and not to God; or that the difficulty in the way of our salvation was the right which Satan had acquired to us as slaves, which right Christ in some way cancelled, was very prevalent for a long time in the Church. It is found in Irenaeus, Origen, Theodoret, Basil, Cyril of Jerusalem, Augustine, Jerome, Hilary, Leo the Great, and others.1 The Scriptural foundation for this view of the work of Christ is very slight. It is true that men are the captives of Satan, and under his dominion. It is true that Christ gave Himself as a ransom; and that by the payment of that ransom wc are freed from bondage to the prince of darknesL But it does not follow that the ransom was paid to Satan, or that he had any just claim to his authority over the children of men. What the Scriptures teach on this subject is, --

    1. That man by sin became subject to the penalty of the divine law.

    2. That Satan has the office of inflicting that penalty in so far as he is allowed to torment and degrade the children of men.

    3. That Christ by his death having satisfied the penalty of the law, of course has delivered us from the power of Satan. See especially Hebrews ii. 14. But this gives no ground for the doctrine that Satan had any claim in justice to hold mankind as his slaves; or that Christ offered Himself as a ransom to the prince of this world. This doctrine was strenuously opposed in the early Church by Gregory of Nyssa, and has long since passed into oblivion. The only interest which it now has is as a matter of history. It is of course not to be supposed that the great lights of the Church above mentioned believed that the whole work of Christ as the Saviour of men consisted in his delivering us from the power of Satan; that they ignored his office as a high priest unto God, or denied the effect of his death as an expiation for sin, or forgot that He is to us the source of spiritual life. These doctrines are as clearly asserted by them from time to time as are their peculiar views as to our deliverance from the bondage of Satan. Even Origen, so unrestrained in his thinking, and so disposed to explain Christian truths philosophically, teaches the catholic doctrine with perfect distinctness. In his comment on Romans iii. 25, 26, he says,2 "Cum dixisset, quod pro omni genere humano redemptionem semetipsum dedisset, . . . nunc addit aliquid sublimius et dicit, quia 'proposuit eum Deus propitiationem per fidem in sanguine ipsius:' quo scilicet per hostiam sui corporis propitium hominibus faceret Deum, et per hoc ostenderet justitiam suam. . . . Deus enim justus est, et justus justificare non poterat injustos, ideo interventum voluit esse propitiatoris, ut per ejus fidem justificarentur qui per opera propria justificari non poterant." No one of the Reformers gives a clearer utterance to the truth than is contained in these words. So also he says,3 "Posuit ergo et manum suam super caput vituli: hoc est peccata generis humani imposuit super caput suum. Ipse est enim caput corporis ecclesliae suae." In all ages of the Church, by the early fathers as well as in subsequent periods, the language of the New Testament in reference to Christ and his work is retained. He is familiarly called priest, and high priest, and held up as a sacrifice for sin, as a redeemer, as a ransom, and as one who cancelled our debts. As the early fathers were conversant with sacrifices, and knew the light in which they were regarded by the ancient world, that both heathen and Jewish sacrifices were expiatory, there is little doubt that the fathers, in calling Christ a sacrifice, meant to recognize Him as an expiation for our sins, although it is admitted that great vagueness, variety, and inconsistency prevail in their utterances on this subject. The whole activity of the cultivated minds was in the early ages directed first to the doctrines of the Trinity and of the person of Christ, and subsequently to those concerning sin and grace.

3. The Moral Theory.

    A third general theory concerning the work of Christ is that which rejects all idea of expiation, or of the satisfaction of justice by vicarious punishmend, and attributes all the efficacy of his work to the moral effect produced on the hearts of men by his character, teachings, and acts. On this account it is usually desigriated the "moral view of the atonement." The assumption is that there is no such attribute in God as justice; i. e., no perfection which renders it necessary, or morally obligatory, that sin should be punished. If this be so, there is no need of expiation in order to forgiveness. All that is necessary for the restoration of sinners to the favour of God is that they should cease to be sinners God's relation to his rational creatures is determined by their character. If they are morally corrupt they are repelled from his presence; if restored to holiness, they become the objects of his love and the recipients of his favours. All that Christ as the Saviour of men, therefore, came to accomplish was this moral reformation in the character of men. Here, as so generally elsewhere, errors are half truths. It is true that God's relation to his rational creatures is determined by their character. It is true that He repels sinners, and holds communion with the holy. It is true that Christ came to restore men to holiness, and thus to the favour and fellowship of God. But it is also true that to render the restoration of sinners to holiness possible it was necessary that the guilt of their sins should be expiated, or that justice should be satisfied. Until this is done, they are under the wrath and curse of God. And to be under the curse of God is to be shut out from the source of all holiness.

    Some of the advocates of this view of the work of Christ do indeed speak freely of the justice of God. They recognize Him as a just Being who everywhere and always punishes sin. But this is done only by the operation of eternal laws. Holiness, from its nature, produces happiness; and that is its reward. Sin, from its nature, produces misery; and that is its punishment. Remove the sin and you remove the punishment. The case is analogous to health and disease. If a man is well, he is physically happy; if diseased, he is in a state of suffering. The only way possible to remove the suffering is to remove the disease; and further than this nothing can be required. This is the view presented by John Young, D. D.4 He says, "There is no such attribute in God [as rectilineal justice.] But the inevitable punishment of moral evil always and everywhere, is certain nevertheless. The justice of the universe is a tremendous fact, an eternal and necessary fact which even God could not set aside. There is an irresistible, a real force springing out of its essential constitution whereby sin punishes sin. This is the fixed law of the moral universe, a law in perfect harmony with the eternal will, and which never is and never can be broken. God's mercy in our Lord Jesus Christ does not in the least set aside this justice; what it does is to remove and render non-existent the only ground on which the claim of justice stands. Instead of arbitrarily withdrawing the criminal from punishment, it destroys in his soul that evil which is the only cause and reason of punishment, and which being removed punishment ceases of itself." The same doctrine is taught by Dr. Bushnell.5 Speaking of Christ, he says, "His work terminates, not in the release of penalties by due compensation, but in the transformation of character, and the rescue, in that manner, of guilty men from the retributive causations provoked by their sins." Remission is declared to be "spiritual release;" a deliverance from sin which secures exemption from the natural effects of transgression. This system necessarily excludes the idea of forgiveness in the ordinary sense of the word. To subdue inflammation in a wound removes the pain; to remove sin from the soul secures exemption from the pain which sin necessarily produces. The idea of pardon, in the latter case, is as incongruous as in the former. The Bible, however, is full of the promises of forgiveness and of the prayers of the penitent for pardoning mercy. It is very plain, therefore, that this scheme does not agree with the Scriptures; and it is equally plain that it is not a religion suited to those who feel the need of forgiveness.

    Coleridge, in his "Aids to Reflection," presents the same view. In a note at the end of that work he gives the following illustration of the subject. A widow has a prodigal son, who deserts her and leaves her desolate. That son has a friend who takes his place and performs all filial duties to the unhappy mother. The prodigal, won by the exhibition of goodness on the part of his friend, returns to his home penitent and reformed. How unreasonable and revolting, says Coleridge, would it be to say that the friend had made expiation or rendered a satisfaction to justice for the sins of the prodigal.

    This moral view of the atonement, as it is called, has been presented in different forms. In the first form the work of Christ in the salvation of men is confined to his office of teacher. He introduced a new and higher form of religion, by which men were redeemed from the darkness and degradation of heathenism. This was so great a good, and so patent to the eyes of those who themselves were converts from heathenism, and who were surrounded by its evils, that it is not wonderful that some of the fathers exalted this function of Christ as a saviour, almost to the neglect of every other. In the early Church, however, frequent as were the recognitions of the obligations of men to Christ as the Redeemer from heathenism, He was still regarded by all Christians as a sacrifice and a ransom. In later times these latter aspects cf his work were rejected and the former only retained.

    A second form of this theory, while it retains the idea that the real benefit conferred by Christ was his doctrine, yet ascribes his title of Saviour principally to his death. As the Scriptures so constantly assert that we are saved by the blood, the cross, the sufferings of Christ, this feature of the Scriptural teaching cannot be overlooked. It is therefore said that He saves us, not as a sacrifice, but as a martyr. He died for us. By his death his doctrines were sealed with blood. Not only, therefore, as attesting his own sincerity, but as giving assurance of the truths which He taught, especially the truths concerning a future life, the love of God, and his willingness to forgive sin, and as confirming to us the truth of those doctrines He is entitled to be regarded as the Saviour of men.

    Thirdly, others again regard the power of Christ in saving men from sin, as not due to his teaching, or to his sealing his doctrines with his blood, but to the manifestation which He made of self-sacrificing love. This exerts a greater power over the hearts of men than all else besides. If the wicked cannot be reclaimed by love, which manifests itself not only in words of gentleness, by acts of kindness, and by expressions of sympathy, but also by entire self-sacrifice, by the renunciation of all good, and by voluntary submission to all evil, their case must be hopeless. As such love as that of Christ was never before exhibited to men; as no such instance of self-sacrifice had ever before occurred, or can ever occur again, He is the Saviour by way of eminence. Other men, who through love submit to self-denial for the good of men, are within their sphere and in their measure, saviours too; the work of salvation by the exhibition of self-sacrificing love, is going on around us continually, and from eternity to eternity, so long as evil exists, in the presence of beings imbued with love. Still Christ in his work occupies a place peculiar and preeminent, and therefore we are Christians; we recognize Christ as the greatest of Saviours.

    Such is the view elaborately presented by Dr. Bushnell in the work just referred to. Toward the end ol his book, however, he virtually takes it all back, and lays down his weapons, conquered by the instincts of his own religious nature and by the authority of the Word of God. He says, "In the facts [of our Lord's passion], outwardly regarded, there is no sacrifice, or oblation, or atonement, or propitiation, but simply a living and dying thus and thus. The facts are impressive; the person is clad in a wonderful dignity and beauty; the agony is eloquent of love; and the cross a very shocking murder triumphantly met. And if then the question arises, how we are to use such a history so as to be reconciled by it, we hardly know in what way to begin. How shall we come unto God by help of this martyrdom? How shall we turn it, or turn ourselves under it, so as to be justified and set in peace with God? Plainly there is a want here, and this want is met by giving a thought-form to the facts which is not in the facts themselves. They are put directly into the moulds of the altar, and we are called to accept the crucified God-man as our sacrifice, an offering or oblation for us, our propitiation; so as to be sprinkled from our evil conscience, washed, purged, purified, cleansed from our sin. Instead of leaving the matter of the facts just as they occurred, there is a reverting to familiar forms of thought, made familiar partly for this purpose; and we are told, in brief, to use the facts just as we would the sin-offerings of the altar, and make an altar grace of them, only a grace complete and perfect, an offering once for all. . . . So much is there in this that, without these forms of the altar, we should be utterly at a loss in making any use of the Christian facts, that would set us in a condition of practical reconciliation with God. Christ is good, beautiful, wonderful, his disinterested love is a picture by itself, his forgiving patience melts into my feeling, his passion rends open my heart, but what is He for, and how shall He be made unto me the salvation I want? One word -- HE IS MY SACRIFICE -- opens all to me, and beholding Him, with all my sin upon Him, I count Him my offering, I come unto God by Him and enter into the holiest by his blood." "We want to use these altar terms just as freely as they are used by those who accept the formula of expiation or judicial satisfaction for sin; in just their manner too, when they are using them most practically." "We cannot afford to lose these sacred forms of the altar. They fill an office which nothing else can fill, and serve a use which cannot be served without them."6

Objections to this Theory.

    The obvious objections to this moral view of the atonement in all its forms, are, --

    1. That while it retains some elements of the truth, in that it recognizes the restoration of man to holiness and God, as the great end of the work of Christ, and regards his work as involving the greatest possible or conceivable manifestation of divine love, which manifestation is the most powerful of all natural influences to operate on the hearts of men; yet it leaves out entirely what is essential to the Scriptural doctrine of atonement. The Bible exhibits Christ as a priest, as offering Himself a sacrifice for the expiation of our sins, as bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, as having been made a curse for us, and as giving Himself is a ransom for our redemption. The Scriptures teach that this expiation of guilt is absolutely necessary before the souls of the guilty can be made the subjects of renewing and sanctifying grace. Before this expiation they are spiritually dead under the penalty of the law, which is death in all its forms. And therefore while thus under the curse, all the moral influences in the world would be as useless as noonday light to give sight to the blind, or sanitary measures to raise the dead. In rejecting, therefore, the doctrine of expiation, or satisfaction to justice, this theory rejects the very essence of the Scriptural doctrine of atonement.

    2. This theory does not meet the necessities of our condition. We are sinners; we are guilty as well as polluted. The consciousness of our responsibility to justice, and of the necessity of satisfying its demands, is as undeniable and as indestructible as our consciousness of pollution. Expiation for the one is as much a necessity as sanctification for the other. No form of religion, therefore, which excludes the idea of expiation, or which fails to provide for the removal of guilt in a way which satisfies the reason and conscience, can be suited to our necessities. No such religion has ever prevailed among men, or can by possibility give peace to a burdened conscience. It is because the Lord Jesus Christ is revealed as a propitiation for our sins, as bearing in our stead the penalty which we had incurred, that his blood cleanses us from all sin, and gives that peace which passes all understanding.

    The idea that there is no forgiveness with God; that by inexorable law He deals with his creatures according to their subjective state and character, and that therefore the only salvation necessary or possible is sanctification, is appalling. No man is in such an inward state, either during life or at death, that he can stand before God to be dealt with according to that state. His only hope is that God will, and does, deal with his people, not as they are in themselves, but as they are in Christ, and for his sake; that He loves and has fellowship with us although polluted and defiled, as a parent loves and delights in a misshapen and unattractive child. We should be now and always in hell, if the doctrine of Dr. Young were true, that justice by an inexorable law always takes effect, and that sin is always punished wherever it exists, as soon as it is manifested, and as long as it continues. God is something more than the moral order of the universe; He does not administer his moral government by inexorable laws over which He has no control. He can have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and compassion on whom He will have compassion. He can and does render sinners happy, in spite of their sin, for Christ's sake, remitting to them its penalty while its power is only partially broken; fostering them, and rejoicing over them until their restoration to spiritual health be completed. Anything that turns the sinner's regard inward on himself as a ground of hope, instead of bidding him took to Christ, must plunge him into despair, and despair is the portal of eternal death. In any view, therefore, whether as bold rationalistic Deism, or as the most high-toned portraiture of divine love, the moral theory of the atonement presents no rational, because no Scriptural, ground for a sinner's hope toward God. He must have a better righteousness than his own. He must have some one to appear before God in his stead to make expiation for sin, and to secure for him, independently of his own subjective state, the full pardon of all his offences, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    3. All the arguments presented on the preceding pages, in favour of the doctrine of expiation, are of course arguments against a theory which rejects that doctrine. Besides, this theory evidently changes the whole plan of salvation. It alters all our relations to Christ, as our head and representative, and the ground of our acceptance with God; and consequently it changes the nature of religion. Christianity is one thing if Christ is a sacrifice for sin; and altogether a different thing if He is only a moral reformer, an example, a teacher, or even a martyr. We need a divine Saviour if He is to bear our iniquities, and to make satisfaction for the sins of the world; but a human saviour is all that is needed if the moral theory of the atonement is to be adopted. Gieseler says, what every Christian knows must be true without being told, that the fathers in treating of the qualificationa of Christ as a Saviour, insisted that He must be, (1.) God; (2.) a man; and (3.) as man free from sin.7 It is a historical fact that the two doctrines of the divinity of Christ, and expiation through th blood of the Son of God, have gone hand in hand. The one has seldom been long held by those who deny the other. The doctrine of expiation, therefore, is so wrought into the whole system of revealed truth, that its rejection effects a radical change, not only in the theology but also in the religion of the Bible.

4. The Governmental Theory.

    This theory was introduced into the Church by Grotius, in the seventeenth century. He wrote in opposition to the Socinians, and therefore his book is entitled: "Defensio fidei catholicae de satisfactione Christi." It is in point of learning and ability all that could be expected from one of the greatest men of his generation. The design with which the book was written, and the universally received formulas of expression at that time prevailing, to the use of which Grotius adheres, give his work an aspect of orthodoxy. He speaks of satisfaction to justice, of propitiation, of the penal character of our Lord's sufferings, of his death as a vicarious sacrifice, and of his bearing the guiltof our sins. In short, so far as the use of terms is concerned, there is hardly any departure from the doctrine of the Reformed Church, of which he was then a member. Different principles, however, underlaid his whole theory, and, therefore, a different sense was to be attached to the terms he used. There was, after all, no real satisfaction of justice, no real substitution, and no real enduring of the penalty of the law. His Socinian opponents, when they came to answer his book, said that he had given up all the main principles in dispute. Grotius was a jurist as well as a theologian, and looked at the whole subject from a juridical standpoint. The main elements of his theory are, --

    1. That in the forgiveness of sin God is to be regarded neither as an offended party, nor as a creditor, nor as a master, but as a moral governor. A creditor can remit the debt due to him at pleasure; a master may punish or not punish as he sees fit; but a ruler must act, not according to his feelings or caprice, but with a view to the best interests of those under his authority. Grotius says that the overlooking the distinctions above indicated is the fundamental error of the Socinians.8 In opposition to this view, he says: "Omnio hic Deum considerandum, ut rectorem. Nam poenas infligere, aut a poenis aliquem liberare, quam punire possis, quod justificare vocat Scriptura, non est nisi rectoris qua talis primo et per se: ut, puta, in familia patris; in republica regis, in universo Dei."9

    2. The end of punishment is the prevention of crime, or the preservation of order and the promotion of the best interests of the community. "Justitiae rectoris pars est servare leges etiam positivas et a se latas, quod verum esse tam in universitate libera quam in rege summo probant jurisconsulti: cui illud est consequens, ut rectori relaxare legem non liceat, nisi causa aliqua accedat, si non necessaria, certe sufficiens: quae itidem recepta est a jurisconsultis sententia. Ratio utriusque est, quod actus ferendi aut relaxandi legem non sit actus absoluti dominii, sed actus imperii, qui tendere debeat ad boni ordinis conversationem."10 On a previous page, he had said, in more general terms: "Poena omnis propositum habet bonum commune, ordinis nimirum conservationem et exemplum."

    3. As a good governor cannot allow sin to be committed with immunity, God cannot pardon the sins of men without some adequate exhibition of his displeasure, and of his determination to punish it. This was the design of the sufferings and death of Christ. God punished sin in Him as an example. This example was the more impressive on account of the dignity of Christ's person, and therefore in view of his death, God can consistently with the best interests of his government remit the penalty of the law in the case of penitent believers.

    4. Punishment, Grotius defined as suffering inflicted on account of sin. It need not be imposed on account of the personal demerit of the sufferer; nor with the design of satisfying justice, in the ordinary and proper sense of that word. It was enough that it should be on account of sin. As the sufferings of Christ were caused by our sins, insomuch as they were designed to render their remission consistent with the interest of God's moral government, they fall within this comprehensive definition of the word punishment. Grotius, therefore, could say that Christ suffered the punishment of our sins, as his sufferings were an example of what sin deserved.

    5. The essence of the atonement, therefore, according to Grotius consisted in this, that the sufferings and death of Christ were designed as an exhibition of God's displeasure against sin. They were intended to teach that in the estimation of God sin deserves to be punished, and, therefore, that the impenitent cannot escape the penalty due to their offences. "Nihil iniquitatis in eo est quod Deus, cujus est summa potestas ad omnia per se non injusta, null ipse legi obnoxius, cruciatibus et morte Christi uti voluit, ad statuendum exemplum grave adversus culpas immensas nostrum omnium, quibus Christus erat conjunctissimus, natura, regno vadimonio."11 Again: "Hoc ipso Deus non tantum suum adversus peccata odium testatum fecit, ac proinde nos hoc facto a peccatis deterruit (facilis enim est collectio, si Deus ne resipiscentibus quidem peccata remittere voluit, nisi Christo in poenas succedente, multo minus inultos sinet contumaces) verum insigni modo insuper patefecit summum erga nos amorem ac benevolentiam: quod ille scilicet nobis pepercit, cui non erat avdi,aforon, indifferens, punire peccata, sed qui tanti id faciebat, ut potius quam impunita omnino dimitteret, Filium suum unigenitum ob illa peccata, poenis tradident."12 It thus appears that, according to this theory, the work of Christ was purely didactic. It was designed to teach, by way of an example, God's hatred of sin. The cross was but a symbol.


    The Synod of Dort met two years after the publication of the work in which this theory was propounded. Grotius joined those who remonstrated against the decisions of that Synod, and who on that account were called Remonstrants. The Remonstrant theologians, however, did not as a class adhere to Grotius's peculiar doctrine. They did not regard the work of Christ as a governmental transaction, but adhered to the Scriptural mode of representation. They spoke of his death as a sacrifice and ransom. They rejected indeed the Church doctrine. They denied that what Christ did was a satisfaction of justice; that He bore the penalty of the law; that He acted as our substitute, fulfilling in our place all the demands of the law. As these ideas have no part, according to their view, in the doctrine of sacrifices for sin, so they have no place in the true doctrine concerning the work of Christ. Under the Old Testament a sacrifice was not an equivalent for the penalty incurred; it was not a satisfaction to justice; the victim did not do what the offerer ought to have done. It was simply a divine ordinance. God saw fit to ordain that the offering a sacrifice should be the condition of the pardon of the violatons of the ceremonial law. So also He has seen fit to ordain that the sacrificial death of Christ should be the condition of the pardon of sin under the gospel. Even a ransom is no proper equivalent. The holder of a captive may take what he pleases as the condition of deliverance. On this point Limborch says: "In eo errant quam maxime, quod velint redemtionis pretium per omnia aequivalens esse debere miseriae illi, e qua redemtio fit, redemtionis pretium enim constitui solet pro libera aestimatione illius, qui captivum detinet, non autem pro captivi merito. Ita pretium, quod Christus persolvit, juxta Dei patris aestimationem persolutum est."13 This is the old Scholastic doctrine of "acceptatio;" a thing avails, irrespective of its inherent value, for what God sees fit to take it. The death of Christ was no more a satisfaction for sin, than that of bulls and of goats under the old dispensation. God saw fit to make the latter the condition of the pardon of violations of the ceremonial law; and He has seen fit to make the former the condition of the pardon of sins against the moral law.

The Supernaturalists.

    Although the Remonstrants as a body did not accept of the governmental theory as proposed by Grotius, his main idea was frequently reproduced by subsequent writers. This was done especially by the Supernaturalists in Germany in their endeavour to save something from the destructive principles of the Rationalists. They conceded that the work of Christ was not strictly a satisfaction to justice. They taught that it was necessary as an example and a symbol.14 It was designed as a manifestation of God's displeasure against sin; and, therefore, necessary to render its forgiveness consistent with the interests of God's moral government. This is true of Staudlin, Flatt, and even of Storr. Speaking of the first of these writers, Baur says, "It was admitted that in the New Testament doctrine concerning the death of Jesus the Old Testament idea of a sin offering as a substitute and satisfaction was actually contained, and therefore that the Church doctrine of satisfaction agreed with the literal sense of the Scriptures; yet it was insisted upon that this literal doctrine of the Bible involved difficulties affecting our moral nature, and was evil in its practical effects, and inconsistent with what the Scriptures themselves elsewhere taught of guilt, merit, imputation, and of God's justice." Hence, he goes on to say, that to escape from this dilemma it was taught that when in the New Testament it is said "that Jesus suffered punishment in the place of men, and procured for them the forgiveness of sin, this can only mean that God, through the death of Christ and the sufferings therewith connected, declared himself to be the righteous judge of all evil."15

    C. Ch. Flatt endeavoured to find "a middle way bctween the course of those who introduced into the Scriptures their own philosophical opinions, or the philosophy of the age in which they lived, and the strict grammatical, historical interpretation of those who insisted on taking the words of Scripture either in their etymological sense, or in that sense in which it can he historically proved that at least a part of the contemporaries of the sacred writers anderstood them, or which stupid Rabbinical literalists attached to certain phrases without regard to the fact how often the meaning of words, without a change of form, through higher culture and refinement of moral feeling, is spiritualized and ennobled."16 This middle way, according to Flatt, leads to the conclusion that the main design of Christ's death as viewed by Himself was effectually to correct the false ideas of the Jews concerning the Messiah's kingdom as one of earthly splendor, and to open the way for the entrance of his doctrine which taught that blessedness is to be secured by moral excellence. This doctrine of Flatt agrees with the governmental theory so far as it denies the Church doctrine of a satisfaction to justice, and makes the design of Christ's death purely didactic.

    Storr, in all his works, and especially in his "Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews," and his dissertation on the design of Christ's death, makes the Scriptures his authoritative guide, and therefore approaches much nearer to the Church doctrine than perhaps any German theologian of his generation. He assumes that Christ as man was bound to render the same obedience to the divine law as is due from all other men. But in virtue of the union of his human with the divine nature He as man was entitled to all the exaltation and blessedness of which humanity is capable. Any reward, therefore, for his perfect obedience, are especially for his death on the cross, must be some benefit granted to others for his sake. The salvation of his people, therefore, is the Redeemer's reward. Such benefit, however, could not consistently be bestowed on sinners unless the death of Christ had been a vindication of the righteousness of God by being intended as an "example of punishment;" a manifestation of God's hatred of sin and of his determination to punish it.17

American Theologians.

    The governmental theory of the atonement seems to have had an entirely independent origin in this country. It was the necessary consequence of the principle that all virtue consists in benevolence. If that principle be correct, all the moral attributes of God are modifications of benevolence. There is no such perfection in God as justice other than the purpose and disposition to promote happiness. The death of Christ, therefore, could have no other design than to render the forgiveness of sin consistent with the best interests of the moral government of God. This theory was elaborated by the younger President Edwards, presented in full in Dr. Beman's work on the Atonement, and adopted by that numerous and highly influential class of American theologians who embraced the principle on which the theory, as held in this country, is founded. In the work of Dr. E. A. Park, of Andover, on the Atonement, there is a collection of discourses from the pens of the most distinguished teachers of this doctrine. In the introduction to that volume Professor Park gives an interesting history of the development of this view of the atonement as held in this country.

Objections to the Theory.

    1. The first and most obvious objection to this theory is that it is founded on an erroneous idea of the nature of punishment. It assumes that the special design of punishment is the good of society. If the best interests of a commnunity, either human or divine, a commonwealth of men or the moral government of God, can be secured without the punishment of crime, then no such punishment ought to be inflicted. But suffering inflicted for the good of others is not punishment any more than suffering inflicted for the good of the sufferer. The amputation of a crushed limb is not of the nature of punishment, neither are the sufferings of martyrs, although intended to redound to the good of the Church and of the world. The sufferings of Paul, which were so abundant and so constant, although so fruitful of good, were not penal. And the sufferings of Christ, if incurred in the discharge of his mission of mercy, and not judicially inflicted in execution of the penalty of the law, had no more tendency to show God's abhorrence of sin than the suffering of the martyrs.

    No evil is of the nature of punishment unless it be inflicted in satisfaction of justice and in execution of the penalty of law. A writer in the "British Quarterly Review" for October, 1866, says: "There is a story of an English judge who once said to a criminal, 'You are transported not because you have stolen these goods, but that goods may not be stolen.'" The reviewer then adds, "No principle more false in itself or more ruinous to public morality was ever announced from the English bench. The whole moral effect of punishment lies in its being just. The man who suffers for the benefit of others is a martyr and not a convict." It is on this false principle that the whole governmental theory of the atonement is founded. It admits of no ground of punishment but the benefit of others. And if that benefit can be otherwise secured all necessity for punishment ceases, and all objection to the dispensing of pardon is removed. If the fundamental principle of a theory be false, the theory itself must be unsound.

    2. The theory contradicts the intuitive moral judgments of men. The testimony of every man's conscience in view of his own sins is that he deserves to be punished, not for the good of others, but for his own demerit. If not guilty he cannot justly be punished; and if guilty he cannot justly be pardoned without satisfaction to justice. As this is the testimony of conscience with regard to our own sins, it is the testimony of the consciousness of all men with regard to the sins of others. When a great crime is committed, the instinctive judgment of men is that the perpetrators ought to be punished. No analysis of human consciousness can resolve this sentiment of justice into a conviction of the understanding that the interests of society demand the punishment of crime. That indeed is true. It is one of the incidental benefits, but not the special design or end of punishment. Indeed, the whole moral effect of punishment depends upon the assumption that it is inflicted on the ground of ill desert, and not for the public good. If the latter object be made prominent, punishment loses its nature and of course its appropriate moral effect. A theory which ignores these intuitive convictions of the mind is not suited to our state, and never can satisfy the conscience. We know that we deserve to be punished. We know that we ought to be punished, and therefore that punishment is inevitable under the government of a just God. If it is not borne by a substitute in our stead, it must be borne by ourselves. Where there is no expiation for sin there is inevitably a fearful looking for of judgment.

    3. All the arguments heretofore urged in proof that the justice of God cannot be resolved into benevolence are valid arguments against the governmental theory of the atonement. The doctrine that happiness is the highest good, and that all virtue consists in the desire and purpose to promote the greatest possible amount of happiness, is almost discarded from the schools, and should be discarded from theology where it has wrought so much evil. It is so inconsistent with our moral nature, to assert that there is no difference between right and wrong except that between the expedient and the inexpedient, that the doctrine could never have been adopted except as a means of solving difficulties for the understanding, at the expense of the conscience. This point has been already considered when treating of the attributes of God and of the design of creation; and therefore it need not be further discussed in this place.

    4. A fourth argument against the governmental theory is that it is unscriptural. The Bible constantly represents Christ as a priest, as a sacrifice, as a propitiation, as an expiation, as the substitute and representative of sinners; as assuming their place and sustaining the curse or penalty of the law in their stead. All these representations are either ignored or explained away by the advocates of this theory. Governments, civil commonwealths, from which the principles and illustrations of this theory are derived, know nothing of priests, sacrifices, and vicarious punishments. And, therefore, these ideas do not enter, and cannot be admitted into the governmental theory. But these ideas are the vital elements of the Scriptural doctrine of the atonement; so that if we renounce them we renounce the doctrine itself, or at least seriously impair its integrity and power. Whole volumes on the atonement have been written in which the words priest, sacrice, and propitiation hardly occur.

    5. This theory, as well as the moral view of the atonement is false, because defective. As it is true that the work of Christ is designed and adapted to exert the most powerful moral influence on sinners to induce them to return to God, so it is true that his work was designed and adapted to produce the strongest possible impression on the minds of all intelligent creatures of the evil of sin, and thus restrain them from the commission of it, but neither the one nor the other was its primary design. It has this moral impression on the sinner and upon the intelligent universe, because it was a satisfaction to the justice of God, and the strongest of all proofs that sin cannot be pardoned without an expiation, or adequate atonement.

5. The Mystical Theory.

    The fifth theory on this subject is the mystical. This agrees with the moral view (under which it might be included), in that it represents the design of Christ's work to be the production of a subjective effect in the sinner. It produces a change in him. It overcomes the evil of his nature and restores him to a state of holiness. The two systems differ, however, as to the means by which this inward change is accomplished. According to the one it is by moral power operating according to the laws of mind by the exhibition of truth and the exercise of moral influence. According to the other it is by the mysterious union of God and man, of the divine with the human nature, i. e., of divinity with humanity, brought about by the incarnation.

    This general idea is presented in various forms. Sometimes the writers quoted in favour of this mystical view teach nothing more ihan what has ever been held in the Church, and what is clearly caught in the Scriptures.. It is true that there is a moral and spiritual union between God and man effected by the incarnation of the Son of God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He and his people are one. Our Lord prays to the Father, John xvii. 22, 23, that those given to Him "may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me." And the Apostle Peter does not hesitate to say that we are made "partakers of the divine nature." This, and no more than this, is necessarily implied in the oft-quoted language of Athanasius in reference to Christ, auvto.j evnhnqrw,phsen( i[na h`mei/j qeopoihqw/men. But besides this Scriptural doctrue there has prevailed a mystical view of the union of God and man to which the redemption of our race is ascribed, and in which, by some of its advocates, it is made exclusiveiy to consist. So far as the fathers are concerned, a clear distinction was made between redemption and reconciliation; between the objective work of Christ in delivering us from the curse of the law and from the power of Satan, and the subjective application of that work. Both were ascribed to Christ. The former (our redemption), was effected by his bearing our sins, by his being made a curse for us, by his giving Himself as a ransom, and by his obedience bcing taken as a substitute for the obedience which we had failed to render. Our reconciliation with God, including restoration to his image and fellowship, was effected, not, as the Church has ever taught, by the work of the Holy Spirit, but according to the mystical theory, by the union of the divine nature with our fallen nature, brought about by the incarnation. In all ages of the Church there have been minds disinclined to rest in the simple statements of the Bible, and disposed to strive after something more philosophical and profound. Among the early fathers, Munscher says, there was an obscure and peculiar notion that in some way the coming of Christ had produced a physical effect upon our race to ennoble it and render it immortal.18 At times this idea is advanced in general terms and without any attempt to explain philosophically how this effect was produced. As Adam was the cause of the seeds of death and corruption being introduced into human nature, so Christ was the means of introducing a principle of life and immortality which operates as leaven in a mass of dough. Or, as any affection of one member of the body, especially of the head, affects the whole system, so the resurrection of Christ and his life has a physical effect upon the whole mass of mankind. They regarded the human race as one mass which, inasmuch as Christ had united Himself with it by his incarnation, was restored to its original perfection and made immortal.19 This idea was more perfectly worked out by the realists. They held humanity to be a generic substance and life, of which individual men are the modes of existence; and they also held that it was this generic humanity, and not merely a true body and a reasonable soul that Christ assumed into personal union with his divine nature; thus an element of divinity was introduced into humanity, by which it is restored and ennobled, and according to some, finally deified.

    Among the Platonizing fathers, however, the mystcal operation of the incarnation was connected with their doctrine of the Logos. What the real doctrine of the fathers and of Philo their predecessor and master in his matter concerning the Logos was, has ever been a matter of dispute among the learned. It is not at all even yet a settled matter whether Philo regarded the Logos as a person or not. Dorner, one of the latest and most competent authorities on this point, takes the negative side of the question. According to him Philo taught that the Logos was (1.) A faculty of God, the nou/j or understanding, and also the power of God. The two are united; thought and power. (2.) The Logos is the activity of God; not merely the power of thought and of creating, but also the actual activity of God in thinking and creating. God first created by thinking an ideal world, after which the actual world was to be fashioned. As a builder forms in his mind the plan of a city in all its details, before he carries that plan into execution; and as the dwelling-place of that ideal city is the understanding of the builder, so the ideal world is in the mind of God, i. e, in the Logos. (3.) According to Philo the Logos is not only the thinking prnciple which forms this ideal world, but the ideal world itself. (4.) This plenitude of ideas which constitutes the ideal world is the reality, life, and intelligence of the actual world. The latter is (or becomes) by the union of the ideal with matter, what it is. The ko,smoj nohto,j is realized in the ko,smoj aivsqhto,j. The Logos, therefore (or the divine intelligence and activity), is the life and intelligence of the actual world. He is the reason in all rational creatures, angels and men.20 According to Philo the Logos was on the one hand identical with God, and on the other identical with the world as its interior reality and life.

    In the hands of the Platonizing fathers this doctrine was only modified. Some of them, as Origen, held that the Logos was a person eternally begotten of the Father; according to Clemens Alexandrinus, He was, as the Logos evndia,qetoj, eternally in God as his wisdom, and therefore impersonal; but as the Logos proforiko,j, or united to the world as its formative principle, He became a person. In applying these philosophical speculations to the explanation of the doctrine concerning the person and work of Christ, there is no little diversity among these writers, so far as the details are concerned. In substance they agree. The eternal Logos or Son, became truly a man, and as such gave Himself as a sacrifice and ransom for the redemption of men. He also by his incarnation secures our recovery from the power of sin and restoration to the image and fellowship of God. How this latter object is accomplished is the mystical part of the theory. The Logos is the eternal Son of God; but He is also the interior life and substance of the world. Rational creatures included in the world, are endowed with personality and freedom. Some of them, both angels and men, have turned away from the Logos which is their life. A renewed union of the divine with the human restores them to their normal relation. The original creation of man was imperfect. The divine element was not strong enough to secure a right development, hence evil occurred. A larger infusion of the divine element corrects the evil, and secures the restoration ultimately. according to Origen, of all rational creatures to holiness and God. The Logos is the Mediator, the High-Priest between God and man (or rather God and the world). One with God, He is also one with the world. He unites the two, and they become one. The system has a pantheistic aspect, although it admits the freedom of rational creatures, and the separate existence, or an existence as self of the world. The whole universe, however, God and world, is one vast organism in which God is the only life and the only reason, and this life and reason are the Logos. And it is by giving the Logos, the rational or spiritual element, renewed power, that the world of rational creatures, who in the abuse of their freedom have turned away from God, are brought back not only to a real or substantial, but also to a cordial union with God, so that He becomes all in all.

    In the beginning of the ninth century John Scotus Erigena anticipated most of the results of the highest modern speculation. Schelling and Hegel had him for a predecessor and guide. With him "Creator et creatura unum est. Deus est omnia, et omnia Deus." The creation is necessary and eternal; the incarnation is necessary and eternal; and redemption is necessary and eternal. All is process. An eternal unfolding of the infinite in the finite, and return of the finite into the infinite. Erigena, from his place in history and his relation to the Church, was forced to clothe his philosophy as much as possible with the drapery of Christianity this secured for him an influence which continued long after his death over later speculative theologians.

    During the Middle Ages there was a succession of advocates of the mystical theory. Some of them following Erigena adopted a system essentially pantheistic; others were theistic. The one class strove to reduce Christianity into a system of philosophy. They adopted the principle of Erigena, "Conficitur inde, veram esse philosophiam veram religionem, conversimque, veram religionem esse veram philosophiam." The two sources of knowledge are recta ratio and vera auctoritas. Both are divine as coming from God. Reason however, as first, is the higher, and nothing is to be admitted as true which reason does not authenticate.21 The other class strove after fellowship with God. Both assumed rhat what Munscher and Gieseler call the physical union of the divine and human natures, was the normal and ultimate state of man. Whether this identity of the two was effected by a perfect development of God in man and nature; or by the elevation of the human until it is lost in the divine, the result is the same. Man is deified. And therein is his salvation. And so far as Christ was recognized as a Saviour at all, it was as the bond of union between the two, or the channel through which the divine flows into the human. The incarnation itself, the union of the divine and human natures, was the great saving act. Christ redeems us by what He is, not by what He does. The race, say some, the consummated Church, say others, is the God man, or God manifest in the flesh. Almost all this class of writers held that the incarnation would have been necessary, had man never sinned. The necessity arises out of the nature of God and his relation to the world, and out of the nature and destiny of man.

Mystical Theory at the Time of the Reformation.

    At the time of the Reformation the same mode of apprehending and presenting Christianity was adopted. While the Reformers held to the great objective truths of the Bible, to a historical Christ, to the reality and necessity of his obedience and satisfaction as something done for us and in our place, i. e., to an objective redemption and justification, a class of writers soon appeared who insisted on what they called the Christ within us, and merged the objective work of Christ into a subjective operation in the souls of his people; or at least subordinated the former entirely to the latter. A work, entitled "Die Deutsche Theologie" (German Theology), was published during the lifetime of Luther, which contained a great amount of important truth, and to which the illustrious reformer acknowledged himself greatly indebted. In that book, however, the mystical element was carried to a dangerous extreme. While the historical facts respecting Christ and his redeeming work were allowed to remain, little stress was laid upon them. The real value of the blessings received from Christ, was the change effected in the soul itself; and that change was not referred to the work of the Holy Spirit, so much as to the union af the divine nature with our nature, in virtue of the incarnation. The book teaches that if it were possible for a man to be as pure and obedient as Christ, he would become, through grace, what Christ was by nature. Through this obedience he would become one with God. Christ is not merely objective, isolated in his majesty, but we are all called that God should be incarnate in us, or that we should become God.


    Osiander and Schwenkfeld, two contemporaries of Luther, were both advocates, although in different forms, of the same theory. Men are saved by the substantial union of the divine nature with the nature of man. According to Osiander justification is not by the imputation, but by the infusion of righteousness. And the righteousness infused is not the righteousness of Christ wrought out here on earth. What Christ did centuries ago cannot make us righteous. What we receive is his divine nature. This is the specific doctrine for which Osiander was denounced in the Form of Concord. Man, according to him, was originally created not after the image of God as such, nor of the Son as such, but of the Son as He was to become man. Manhood was eternally included in the idea and nature of the Son of God. His incarnation was, therefore, due to his nature, and not to the accident of man's sinning. The idea of the incarnation is eternal, and in reference to it the whole universe was created and all things consist. Christ's human nature is only the vehicle for conveying to us his divine nature. In the vine, he says, there are two natures, the one is the nature of the wood, which it retains, even if it should be withered up; the other is "plane occulta, fructifera et vinifera natura." And as the clusters of grapes could not have the vinous nature, unless they were wood of the wood of the vine; so neither can we partake of the divine nature of Christ, unless we, by faith and baptism, are so incorporated with Him, as to be flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. But the human nature of Christ, without the divinc (si sine Deo esset), would be of no avail.22


    While Osiander makes the divine nature of Christ as communicated to us our righteousness and life, and regards his humanity as only the means of communication, Schwenkfeld exalts the human into the divine, and regards this divine human nature as the source of life to us. He agreed with Osiander in making justification subjective, by the infusion of righteousness; and also in teaching that the righteousness which is infused is the righteousness of Christ; but instead of depreciating the human nature and making it only the channel for communicating the divine, he laid special stress on the humanity of Christ. The human nature of Christ was not a creature. It was formed out of the substance of God; and after its sojourn on earth, was even as to the body, rendered completely or perfectly divine, so that whatever can be predicated of God, can be predicated of the humanity of Christ. Nevertheless, the human nature was not so absorbed into the divinity, that Christ had but one nature. He continues God and man, but as man is God. And this divine human, or human divine nature, is communicated to us by faith. Faith itself is the first communication of the divine essence, the final result of which is the complete deification of man. The substance of God is not communicated to the race of men, so that God becomes thus identified with men in general. It is in the regenerated that this union of the divine and human natures is consummated. It cannot escape notice, that the views of this class of writers, so far as results are concerned, differ but little from those of the modern speculative theologians of Germany and their followers in England and America. The obvious objection, that if salvation depends on the union of the divine nature with ours, and if this union be due to the incarnation of Christ, those living before his advent in the flesh must be excluded from the benefits of his theanthropic nature, is very unsatisfactorily answered by the modern theologians referred to. Schwenkfeld had no hesitation in cutting the knot. In a Sendbrief written in 1532, in which he treats of the difference between the Old and New Testament economies, he says, that under the former there was no saving faith, and no justification, and that all the patriarchs had therefore perished forever.

    Schwenkfeld's followers were numerous enough to form a distinct sect, which continues to this day. Some religionists, both in Germany and in this country, are still called by his name. All the writers on the history of doctrine give the authorities for the statements concerning the doctrines of Osiander and Schwenkfeld derived from sources not generally accessible in this country.


    The prominent representative of the mystical theory during the eighteenth century, was Friedrich Christopher Oetinger, a distinguished theologian of South Germany. He was born in 1702, and died in 1782. He enjoyed every advantage of culture in science, theology, and philosophy, which he diligently improvect After his death it was said, "When Octinger died a whole academy of science died." Very early in life, he says, he adopted and avowed the purpose, "to understand whatever he learnt." By this he meant that he would receive nothing on authority. All that the Scriptures teach as doctrine, must be sublimated into truths of the reason and received, as such. He avowed it to be his purpose to furnish a philosophia sacra as a substitute for the systems of profane philosophy. For this purpose he devoted himself to the study of all previously received systems, extending his researches to the cabala of the Jews, and the mystical writers of the Church; to alchemy awl to all departments of science within his reach. He professed special reverence for Jacob Bohme, the great unlettered theosophist of the preceding century, to whom even Schelling and other of the leading modern philosophers bow as to an acknowledged seer. Oetinger examined the several systems in vogue before or during, his own period. Idealism and materialism, and realistic dualism were alike unsatisfactory. He assumed life to be the primordial principle. Life was the aggregate of all forces. These in God are united by a bond of necessity. In things out of God the union of these forces is not necessary; and hence evil may arise, and has, in fact, arisen. To remove this evil and bring all things back to God, the eternal Logos became man. He adopted the old Platonic idea, that in the Logos were the originales rerum antequam exstiterunt formae: omnia constiterunt in ipso arehetypice sive actu. This plenitude of the Godhead dwells in Christ and renders his humanity divine. The union of the divine and human natures in Christ, secures the complete deification of his human nature. The hypostatical union of the two natures in Christ is the norm of the mystical union between Christ and his people. "Ut ibi adsumta caro consistit evn lo,gw| per participationem u`posta,sewj, ita hic nostra subsistit in Christo per consortium gratiae et qei,aj fu,sewj.23 The second Adam having assumed humanity, says Oetinger, "Traxit carnem nostram in plenitudinem Deitatis," so that our race again becomes possessed of the divine nature in Him and in us; i. e., "unione tumu personali tum mystica."24 It is indeed plain, as Dorner says, that we find in Oetinger the ideas which are the foundation of the philosophy of the present age. The nature of God and the nature of man are so homogeneous that they may be united and constitute one, which is divine human or human divine. We are saved not by the work of Christ for us, but by his work in us. The eternal Son is incarnate not in the man Christ Jesus, but in the Church.

The Modern Views.

    In the present period of the Church's history, this mystical theory of the person and work of Christ is probably more prevalent than ever before. The whole school of German speculative theologians, with their followers in England and Amnerica, are on this ground. Of these theologians there are, as remarked above, two classes, the pantheistic and the theistic. According to the former, the nature of man at first was an imperfect manifestation of the absolute Being, and in the development of the race this manifestation is rendered complete; but complete only as an eternal progress. According to the other, man has an existence and personality, in one sense, outside of God. Nevertheless God and man are substantially the same. This identity or sameness is shown perfectly in Christ, and through Him, is realized more and more perfectly in the Church as soume teach, or, as others say, in the whole race.25

6. Concluding Remarks.

    In reviewing these several theories concerning the method of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, it is important to remark, --

    1. That it is not to be inferred because certain writers are quoted as setting forth one particular theory, that they recognized the truth of no other view of the work of Christ. This remark is especially applicable to the patristic period. While some of the fathers speak at times of Christ's saving the world as a teacher, and others of them say that He gave himself as a ransom to Satan, and others again that He brings men back to the image of God, this does not prove that they ignored the fact that he was a sin offering, making expiation for the guilt of the world. It is characteristic of the early period of the Church, before special doctrines had become matters of controversy, that the people and the theologians retain the common language and representations of the Bible; while the latter, especially, dwell sometimes disproportionately on one mode of Scriptural representation, and sometimes disproportionately on another. The fathers constantly speak of Christ as a priest, as a sacrifice, and as a ransom. They ascribe our salvation to his blood and to his cross. The ideas of expiation and propitiation were wrought into all the services of the early Church. These Scriptural ideas sustained the life of the people of God entirely independently of the speculations of philosophical theologians.

    2. The second remark which the preceding survey suggests is, that the theories antagonistic to the common Church doctrine are purely philosophical. Origen assumed that in man there are the three constituent principles: body, soul, and spirit; and that in analogy therewith, there are three senses of Scripture, the historical, the moral, and the spiritual. The first is the plain meaning of the words which suggests itself to any ordinary, intelligent reader; the second is the allegorical application of the historical sense for moral instruction. For example, what Moses commands about not muzzling an ox which treads out the corn, may be understood as teaching the general principle that labour should be rewarded, and, therefore, may be applied as it is by the Apostle, to enforce the duty of supporting ministers of the Gospel. The third or spiritual sense, is the general philosophical truth, which is assumed to underlie the doctrines of the Scriptures; of which truths the Scriptural doctrines are only the temporary forms. Thus Origen made the Bible teach Platonism. The object of most of the early apologists, was to show that Christianity had a philosophy as well as heathenism; and that the philosophy of the former is identical with the philosophy of the latter so far as that of the latter can prove itself to be true. The trouble was, and always has been, that whatever philosophy was assumed to be true, the doctrines of Scripture were made to conform to it or were sublimated into it. The historical and moral senses of Scripture constitute the object of faith; the spiritual sense is the object of gnosis or knowledge. The former is very well in its place and for the people; but the latter is something of a higher order to which only the philosophically cultivated can attain. That the mystical theory of the person and work of Christ, especially, is the product of philosophical speculation is obvious (1.) From the express avowals of its most distinguished advocates. (2.) From the nature of the theory itself, which reveals itself as a philosophy, i. e., as a speculative doctrine concerning the nature of being, the nature of God, the nature of man, and of the relation of God to the world, etc. (3.) From the fact that it has changed with the varying systems of philosophy. So long as Platonism was in vogue, the spiritual sense of Scripture was assumed to be Platonism; that system discarded, the schoolmen adopted the philosophy of Aristotle, and then the Bible taught the doctrines of Peripateticism. Those of them who followed Scotus Erigena found Pantheism in the Scriptures. When the philosophy of Leibnitz and Wolf dominated the schools, that philosophy determined the form of all Scriptural doctrine. And since the rise of the new speculative philosophy all that the Scriptures teach is cast in its forms of thought. No man can be so blind as not to see that all that is peculiar in what the modern theology teaches of the person and work of Christ, is nothing more nor less than the application of modern speculative philosophy to the doctrines of the Bible. This, indeed, is generally admitted and avowed. This being the case, all these speculations are without authority. They form no part of the truth as it is revealed as the object of faith. We are bound to understand the Scriptures in their plain historical sense; and to admit no philosophy to explain or modify that sense, except the philosophy of the Bible itself; that is, those facts and principles concerning the nature of God, the nature of man, of the world, and of the relation between God and the world, which are either asserted or plainly assumed in the Scriptures. To depart from this principle is to give up the Bible as a rule of faith; and to substitute for it the teachings of philosophy. That form of Rationalism which consists in giving a philosophical explanation of the truths of revelation, or in resolving them into truths of the reason, is just as certain in the end to teach for doctrines the speculations of men, as the most avowed skepticism.

    After all, apart from the Bible, the best antidote to all these false theories of the person and work of Christ, is such a book as Doctor Schaff's "Christ in Song."26 The hymns contained in that volumne are of all ages and from all churches. They set forth Christ as truly God, as truly man, as one person, a the expiation for our sins, as our intercessor, saviour, and king, as the supreme object of love, as the ultimate ground of confidence, as the all-sufficient portion of the soul. We want no better theology and no better religion than are set forth in these hymns. They were indited by the Holy Spirit in the sense that the thoughts and feelings which they express, are due to his operations on the hearts of his people.


1. The proof passages are given more or less at length in all the modern histories of doctrine, as in Hagenbach's Dogmengeschichte, translated by Dr. B. H. Smith; Munscher's and Neander's Dogmengeschichte, and especially in the elaborate work of Baur of Tubingen, Die Lehre von der Verschnung.
2. Works, edit. Benedictines, Paris, 1759, vol. iv. p. 513, B, a, b, c.
3. In Leviticum Homilia, I. 3. Works, edit. Paris, 1733, vol. ii. p. 186, d.
4. Life and Light of Men, London and New York, 1866, pp. 115, 116.
5. Vicarious Sacrifice grounded in Principles of Universal Obligation, edit. New York, 1866, p. 449.
6. Bushnell, On Vicarious Sacrifice, edit. New York, 1866, pp. 534, 535; p. 537; p. 545.
7. Dogmengeschichte, pp. 334, 335, being the sixth volume of his Ecclesiastical History.
8. De Satisfactione, II. [Sec. 3]; Works, edit. London, 1679, vol. iii. p. 307, a, 25-34. "Vult (Socinus) partem omnem offensam esse poenae creditorem: atque in ea tale habere jus, quale aiii creditores in rebus sibi debitis, quod jus saepe etiam dominii voce appelat: ideoque saepissime repitit Deum hic spectandum, ut partem offensam, ut creditorem, ut dominum tria haec ponens tanquam tantundem valentia. Hic error Soeini . . . per totam ipsius tractationem diffusus . . . ipsius to. prw/ton yeu/doj [est]."
9. Ibid. II. [Sec. 1]; p. 305, b, 20-24.
10. Ibid. V. [Sec. 11]; p. 317, b, 21-41.
11. Grotius, De Satisfactione, IV [Sec. 18]; vol. iii. p. 315, b, 9-14
12. Ibid. V. [Sec. 8]; p. 317, a, 12-24.
13. Limborch, Theologia Christiana, III. xxi. 8, edit. Amsterdam, 1715, p. 262, a.
14. The word "symbol," however, is used in two senses. Sometimes it is synonymous with sign. Thus it is common to say that the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper are the symbols of Christ's body and blood. At other times, a symbol is that which expresses the analogy between the outward and the inward. Thus, in one view, the atoning death of Christ is symbolical of God's feelings towards sinners. In another view, the struggles and triumph of our Lord in conflict with physical evil are symbolical of the believer's struggles and triumph in the conflict with sin. The former was an illustration of the latter, and intended to encourage the people of God with the assurance of success.
15. Lehre von der Versohnung, Tubingen, 1838, pp. 597, 598.
16. Von der Versohnun, Zweiter Theil, Suttgart, 1798, Vorrede, p. xxxii.
17. G. Ch. Storr, Pauli Brief au die Hebraer. Zweiter Theil, uber den eigentlichen Zweck des Todes Jesu. Tubingen, 1789.
18. Dogmengeschichte, II., vi. Sec. 122, 2d edit. Marburg, 1813, vol. iv. p. 235.
19. Gieseler's Kirchengeschichte, iv. III. ii. 5, Sec. 97, edit. Bonn, 1855; vol. vi. p. 384. Munscher's Dogmengeschichte, vol. iv. p. 286.
20. See Dorner's Entwicklungesgeschichte der Lehre von der Person Christi. 2d editition. Stuttgart, 1845. Introduction, pp. 26-42.
21. De Divisione Naturae, I. 56, 66, 69.
22. De Unico Med. Jes. Christo et Justif. Fid. Confessio, Konigsberg, 1551, by count, pp. 144, 145.
23. See Dorner, Person Christi, 1st edit. Stuttgart, 1839, pp. 305-322.
24. Ibid. p. 317.
25. On these views see above the chapters on the Person and Work of Christ.
26. Christ in Song. Hymns of Immanuel: selected from all Ages, with Notes, by Philip Schaff, D. D. New York, Anson D. F. Randolph and Co., 1869.


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