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OUTLINES OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE

by the Rev. H. C. G. Moule, M.A., Principal of Ridley Hall, and formerly Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Author of "Veni Creator: Thoughts on the Holy Spirit of Promise," etc.
Revised edition [[third edition, Feb., 1890]]
London: Hodder and Stoughton
27, Paternoster Row.
MDCCCXC

<70> CHAPTER V.

The Doctrine of God (continued).

The Doctrine of the Son (continued).

II. The Work of Christ.

(1) As regards Creation generally, Scripture reveals the Eternal Son, the Logos, the living Fiat of the Fatherís will, is concerned specially and vitally with the act of creation. "Through Him all things" (which begin to be) "came into being" (Joh. i. 3); cp. Col. i. 16; [1] Heb. i. 2, iii. 3, 4. "In Him all things were created" (Col. i. 16); words which receive illustration from others just below (ver. 17), "all things consist, hold together, in Him." He is so related to Creation that all its orders and their life have their reason and basis in His being. On their creation, they came forth as ab initio rooted in the life and will of the Son. And only as so remaining do they remain in being.

The language of Col. i. 16 may suggest, taken by itself, the thought of a preexistence of the Creation in the Son, or, if it may be so put, the Son as the pre-existent and archetypal World; so that every thing, and inclusively every person, has <70/71> a mysterious existence in Him, as the Eternal Idea, and not so much begins as is developed and realized in time and history. And it has been definitely held that some such existence in the Logos is true of all human souls. But as we look round on the whole evidence of Scripture there is, to say the least of it, the very scantiest support for such a view. Nothing in Scripture is more emphatic than its teaching of the vast disparateness of the universe and God, in this respect, that all things which become are the result, not of an inner necessity in God to evolve and realize, but of a divine volition as sovereign as it is benignant (Rev. iv. 11).

All that Scripture entitles us to affirm is that, Creation being divinely willed, there was an eternal fitness in the function of the Son as its immediate Head and Root. Through Him the Father, never passive and quiescent, works. In Him as Cornerstone, the work held, and holds, together. The secret force and substance of things has, for its true account, His will. And Creation is related to Him as, under the Father, its Final Cause, its Raison díêtre: "all things have been created for Him" (Col. i. 17).

He is thus "the Beginning" (archê, Origin) "of the creation of God" (Rev. iii. 14; "Firstborn of all creation" (Col. i. 15); that is, "Elder with reference to all created being" (see ver. 16); not the first thing brought into being, but antecedent causally to every such thing, whether material or immaterial.

In the Old Testament see Prov. viii. 22-31 for a passage which harmonizes with this New Testament revelation.

(2) As regards Man, the doctrine of the work of <71/72> the Son is of course included, in a measure, under the last heading. Man is a part of the created world. But he also stands apart in some great respects.

The doctrine of the Incarnation is sometimes so stated as to place the Eternal Word in a union aboriginal and necessary with every man. The view indicated is that manhood stands in so near a revealed relation to God that it must be eternal, a parte ante, in the Person of the Son. He is thus, eternally, Primal and Archetypal Man, summing up in Himself all mankind, all man, all men. In Incarnation accordingly He did not become man, but became "flesh" (Joh. i. 14); entering in His own Person on the conditions of human "life in the flesh" as a special phase of that life, for special ends.

And thus, it is maintained, Incarnation was divinely inevitable, quite irrespective of the Fall. It was a thing of original and supreme purpose, in order to the realization of the eternal Idea of Humanity, the glorification of man in the Son, and the Son in man. The Fall occasioned an application, as it were, of this sublime process to a special end by the way. In passing towards the original goal of a final and universal glorification the Incarnate deals with the intruding, isolated, and finite problem of sin, by suffering and dying with relation to it. That relation, however, is not of a substitutionary kind, or at least not nearly so much of that kind as of the kind of a mysterious effusion of Christís life and power into humanity through the liberating process of His self-sacrifice in death.

From such a doctrine one result appears to be that the Eternal Christ is in a necessary and eternal union, as Primal Man, with every man; <72/73> holding a connexion, vital and federal, with him, antecedent to and independent of the work of atonement and of regeneration. In the original constitution of the Christ, on this view, every man is in Him, and He in the man. The spiritual awakening of the man, on this view, may be explained as a discovery of the Archetypal Christ latent in him, and his place in that Christ in the eternal order. Gal. i. 16 has been so explained.

But this refined and abstruse theory has very slight semblance of support in Scripture. There the creation of man is "in the image of" not distinctively Christ, but God (Gen. i. 26, 27; Jas iii 9). And a New Creation (2 Cor. v. 17), New Birth (Joh. iii. 3), of the individual is revealed as wholly necessary, and as expressly related both to a previous spiritual death, and disunion from God (Eph. ii. 1, 12), and to a pre-temporal choice and adoption in Christ, redemption by His Death, incorporation into Him, and likeness to Him (Eph. i. 4, 7, 13). And the view stated fails to harmonize with Scripture as regards the position of man, as man, before God. Scripture does indeed represent man is made in the image of God, and capable of a most wonderful and blissful union with Him. But this is represented as due not to an eternal and necessary order, but to divine free goodness and condescension. Humanity is certainly not, in Scripture, either a phase of Deity, or one of Its contents.

The above view of the relation of Christ to man plainly has no necessary connexion with a doctrine of Propitiation. And, in fact (above, p. 72), it is often found combined with theories of our Lordís Death which deny, or minimize, its expiatory purpose. <73/74>

Certain Scriptures seem at first to favour the view of a necessary relation between Christ and men, such as would harmonize with an archetypal and eternal Manhood in Him. Such are Joh. i. 9; 1 Cor. xv. 22, 47. But Joh. i. 9 does not reveal an archetypal connexion between the Word and man. And 1 Cor. xv. 22, like its whole context, is concerned with the resurrection not of man is such, but of those who "are Christís" (ver. 23); a distinct limit to the reference of the "all." 1 Cor. xv. 47, in view of its context, speaks of the Lordís coming "from heaven" as the Second Man, not at the Incarnation, but at the Second Advent. It in nowise makes Him the Second Man in His pre-existent state.

Meanwhile it is amply revealed that the Son of God, in eternal regard to Incarnation and Atonement, has deep and gracious connexion not only with certain individuals, or sections, of the race, but with man. To Him, as the Eternal Word Incarnate "for us men and for our salvation," every man is so related as to have the right to say, "I am of that nature which in Christ is united to God; I am of that human world (1 Joh. ii. 2) for which Christ is the Propitiation; I am of that mankind which He redeemed."

As a fact, the unity of the human race, taken along with the historical Incarnation, places every man of all time in natural, while most wonderful, contact with the Incarnate Lord. And this fact is preliminary to all truths of regeneration and incorporation.

But now comes up for study what we hold to be, from manís actual point of view, the central truth in the work of Christ for man: <74/75>

 

(3) The Atoning Sacrifice of Christ in His Death.

We have already noted the fact (p. 72) that many thinkers find the central point elsewhere, as in the Incarnation. But we affirm that the Scriptures teach otherwise, largely and distinctly. From the point of view of fallen and sinful man, the Cross is central. True, there is little definite teaching about it in the Gospels (but see Matt. xx. 28 ; Joh. vi. 51, and all the accounts of the Institution of the holy Supper). But the business of the Gospels is narrative; and the narrative gives an overwhelming prominence to the close of the Lordís life, and to the indissoluble other side of His deathóthe Resurrection. The death and its work is the main truth of almost all the discourses in the Acts. In the Epistles and Revelation it appears in still larger development, culminating in the vision of "the Lamb as it had been slain," the object as such of universal adoration. [2]

Nor must we forget the Old Testament; the New forbids us to do so. If the Old Testament is to us what it was to our Lord, definitely prophetic of Him, we shall see in it His sacrifice foreshadowed on a scale, and in a detail, to which predictions even of His Incarnation afford no parallel. See, e.g., the Levitical ritual, especially of the atonement day (Lev. xvi.), as interpreted in the Epistle to the Hebrews (ch. ix.); the Passover and its <75/76> application; and above all Isai. liii., of which almost every verse is quoted in the New Testament. According to the Risen Lord Himself (Luke xxiv. 26, 46) the main burthen of prophecy was that He should suffer and rise again. The Pauline Gospel had for its main article ("first of all") that "the Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. xv. 3).

The reason of this prominence is plain, from one point of view. We shall say more hereafter (p. 169) of the Fall, Sin, and Guilt of Man. But it must be affirmed at once here that an indispensable requisite to a just view of the Scripture doctrine of the Atonement is a profound personal view of the guilt of human sin. In Holy Scripture sin is not only calamity, disease, disturbance of the constitution of humanity. It is guilt; it is the violation of the categorical authoritative Law of God, bringing with it a liability to holy punitive retribution. No consideration is more important than this in limine, if the Atonement is to be studied in its revealed proportion.

The first requisite of man in this view is a righteous Acceptance, despite his guilt. The first requisite of the holy Law is a righteous Satisfaction, good for man. Antecedent to all manís needs of elevation, or development, or realization of his ideal, is his need of a Propitiation for his sins.

Meanwhile, no view of the matter is more liable to be forgotten and ignored in our own time. The claims connected with the great words Law, Guilt, Retribution, have been greatly obscured and lost sight of in cultivated thought in general. The cause is to be sought sometimes in an exclusive attention to the blessed truth of divine Benevolence, <76/77> but much more in less worthy directions; in slackening of conviction about the eternal difference of right and wrong, in lowered views of the authority of Scripture, in a growth of indifference or doubt about the supernatural altogether.

However, we venture to assert that a study of the doctrine of the Cross cannot be successful where the recognition of sin, as guilt, is not present in strength. And we venture to assert also that to this recognition the deepest instincts of unsophisticated man, really awakened, respond. Now what, on the whole, according to Scripture, is the purport and significance of the Death of the Son of God?

To a true theory, the following elements, presented in Scripture, are necessary.

The Person in question is the Blessed Son, Incarnate. His Sufferings are ordained in eternal purpose (Matt. xxvi. 24; Acts iv. 28). They are essential, not accidental, in His work (Luke xxiv. 26, 44-6; Acts iii. 18, xxvi. 23; 1 Cor. xv. 3, etc.) They stand in a vital connexion with the pardon and acceptance of sinful man. [3] They are the supreme evidence of divine Love. We may add that Scripture represents the Eternal Father as <77/78> "giving" the Sufferer (Rom. viii. 32), and, in some sense, inflicting the suffering (Psal. xxii. 1; Isai. liii. 6; Acts ii. 23). And the suffering is felt by the Sufferer to be ineffable and unique; and, observe, ineffably His own, so that He would, if the end were otherwise attainable, put aside the awful "cup." On the other hand, it lies with Him, to the last, to put it away, if He pleases; so that the suffering was no mere inevitable result of His collision with the sinful will of man (Matt. xxvi. 53; Joh. x. 18). [4]

Another element for a true theory is the fact that this suffering procures not only the pardon of the guilty, but their pardon, full and gracious, at once, upon acceptance, of the Crucified. It is a pardon for His sake; not for the sake of their own moral revolution caused somehow by His sufferings. The procuring reason, the merit, lies always in Him.

Again, the effects of the suffering are expressed in such terms as these: redemption, or deliverance by ransom (Matt. xx. 28, etc.); purchase, as by a price (1 Cor. vi. 20); covering, as by an interposition (Rom. iv. 7 ; undertaking of responsibility, as by a surety (Heb. vii. 22); bearing, in the sense of endurance of penalty (Heb. ix. 28; cp. Lev. xxiv. 15; Numb. xviii. 22, etc.); acceptance, as of a propitiatory sacrifice by an offended God (see 1 Joh. ii. 2, 3); deliverance from the death-sentence of a Law, by virtue of one who has borne it (Gal. iii. 13). As to the word Atonement itself, it has been said that its etymology, "at-one-ment," reconciliation, indicates that the true work of the sufferings of Christ is such a bringing of God and man together as would be needed if the need of conciliation lay wholly on manís side. In this view, the difficulty <78/79> lay wholly in manís unsubdued will; in God there has never been anything but pure benevolence, yearning for the alienated to see it and come, and asking no condition but such coming. But, on this theory, the Atonement resides in whatever Christ was, or did, with a view to break down manís misconceptions of God. And thus Christís Death stands in no unique position in His work; for what did He ever do, or be, or bear, that did not tend, if studied aright, to illuminate the eternal beauty of the Character of God? On such a view "at-one-ment" would be effected, for many minds, not by His Death, but by the self-sacrificing beneficence of His Life, including the mingled majesty and love of the miracles, or by the divine charm of His words.

But an inductive study of Scripture negatives such a view. For the Lordís Death stands there in a place mysteriously unique. And besides, the words "atonement," "reconciliation," in Scripture, do not lend themselves to such applications. Usage is often a safer guide than etymology to the meaning of words. So it is with "atone." The word is used in the Old Testament to represent the Hebrew "cover," [5] in connexions sacrificial and propitiatory. In the New Testament (Rom. v. 10) it is used, in the Authorized Version, for the Greek katallagê. That word, and its cognates, habitually point to the winning rather the pardon of an offended King than the consent of the rebel to yield to His kindness. [6] Thus "be ye reconciled to God" (2 Cor. v. 20) will mean not so much, "bend your <79/80> pride to His unalterable benevolence," as "secure, while you can, His acceptance;" an acceptance connected (ver. 21) with the sufferings of His Son.

We believe that an impartial review of these elements, and of the whole manner of the Scriptural presentation of the Saviourís death, will tend to the conviction (antecedent to many further possible enquiries in detail) that the immediate necessary purpose of the blessed Death was propitiatory, expiatory; not the moral suasion of man, nor even the procurement for man of new spiritual power, but expiation as towards God. It was the sine quâ non, under a divine plan, in order to lodge in the Sufferer, being Man, being the Second Man, a Merit, such as divine Holiness, without which God would not be God, should recognize as capable of more than balancing the demerit, the guilt, of sin. In the recognition of that guilt in its mysterious greatness lies some approach to a solution of the mystery of such an Atonement. There, certainly, lies the true secret of sympathy and submission as regards the fact of it.

It has been well said that Creation, relatively to God, is little, "a very little thing," but that Sin is not. Sinóshall we dare to say it?óis the one formidable fact, the one difficulty, before God. Its Pardon, with Him, is anything but "a very little thing." That He may deal with the awful fact of its guilt, in view of His Law, in view of Himself as Holy Legislator and Judge, there must be brought in something which shall also be, in His sight, great and wonderful. This something, according to a Scriptural induction, is the propitiatory death of His Son, One Divine Person, united in His manhood to man; a Victim most willing, and whose unique union of <80/81> Natures in one Person secures for that death perfect human reality along with absolute wonder and merit.

The death of Christ, thus viewed, looks rather towards God than towards man. The death, or rather the glorious Person whose holy willingness put, so to speak, Himself into the death, possesses for ever a merit on the ground of which goes the pardon and acceptance of guilty man, once brought into connexion with Him. [7] The holy and blessed Sufferer takes a position of awfully real relation to the Law, viewed as carrying with it the death sentence of the guilty. He does not only suffer, or only sacrifice self, or only go all lengths in sympathy with the demands of the Law; He presents Himself to be "made sin," to be "made a curse," to be the Antitype of the sin-offerings of the altar.

Seen thus, the Cross is meanwhile the supreme manifestation of divine Love. Let the Godward, expiatory aspect be fully recognized, and it will be seen to carry fully with it this tender manward aspect. Divine Love, as seen in Scripture, is in its nature absolute, but in its action limited, by the limits not of external constraint, but of Godís own Nature, in His absolute jealousy against evil; in brief, by all that is involved in His being holy. By His Nature, His Love cannot act along any line but one which shall glorify at once both love and holiness. Nothing can do this, to the unsophisticated conscience and instincts of man, like the willing giving, by the Father, of the infinitely good and beloved Son, as a willing Altar-Victim, through His holy Humanity, with reference to the doom of the Law, for man and in his place. <81/82>

Thus the strictly expiatory view of the Atonement carries along with it, as its sacred accessory, one of the views often preferred to itóthe view of the Atonement as a moral attraction of manís will, and enlightening of manís eyes, towards God. The same may be said of other alternatives to the expiatory view. Thus, the expiatory view fully allows for the fact that the Saviourís holiness, colliding with manís sin, was the occasion of action to those who actually slew Him. It fully allows for the martyr-aspect of His death. It fully allows for all sides of its work of example. It fully allows for His agonizing sense of the evil of manís sin and the misery of the sinnerís position. Only, it includes all these precious things under the sacred centre of a real, proper, valid ransom of and propitiation for the guilty, and bids us, in the awful light of Divine Holiness and Law, recognize its main purport there.

 

Detached Remarks on Atonement Doctrine.

(1) From some remarks above, it appears how deep is the significance of the phrase (1 Joh. ii. 2), "He" (emphatic in the Greek) "is the propitiation for our sins." It is He, not it; the Sufferer, rather than the death. The Doer gives its absolute and eternal merit to the Work.

(2) The imagery of "purchase" is entirely scriptural (see e.g. Rev. v. 9).

But Scripture regards the price rather as paid for us, to buy us to be the Lordís possession, than for our pardon. The importance of this will appear later.

(3) To whom is the price paid? (below, p. 89). To eternal and necessary Holiness; to divine Law; <82/83> to the claims of God, who is, by His Nature, the holy Lawgiver. He who was "made a curse for us" "bought us from the curse (death-sentence) of the law" (Gal. iii. 13).

(4) Did our Lord suffer a precise equivalent for the sufferings due to man? The question is not really raised by the Scripture doctrine. There we see absolute merit, in view of the broken law, lodged in guilty manís Representative, by virtue of sacrificial death. This is a thought concerned with quality, not quantity.

(5) Were our Lordís sufferings the same in kind as those due to guilty man? In some respects, indeed not. They could not include that personal remorse which must be one awful element of the future woe. But the Lama sabachthani, as well as the horror of Gethsemene, inexplicable on common human grounds, [8] at least favours the belief that the all-blessed Sufferer willed to bear, and the Father to ordain, the personal experience of a desertion such as enters into the final doom. But the reverent disciple will avoid all detailed speculation in such a matter.

(6) Is our Lordís Life a constituent, with His Death, in the Atonement? In some very important. respects, it is not. In Scripture everywhere the death stands in a position distinctive and apart, as the Sacrifice. But, on the other hand, the connexion of the life with the death is deep and necessary. The life was a necessary qualification for the death, not only as manifesting Christís absolute worthiness, but as making it, in the sphere of His holy manhood. <83/84>

If, per impossibile, He could have gone to Calvary having lived an imperfect life, He would not have been the all-worthy Sacrifice. His life had to do with His being all-worthy. But it did not, in whole or part, constitute the Sacrifice.

(7) On certain New Testament phrases.óThe Lord "suffers," or "gives Himself," or the like, (a) "for us" "for sinners," etc.; (b) "for our sins," "for sins," etc. The two classes of expressions mean, in effect, the same. The second may be described as an ellipsis for the first. He died for us, in respect of the guilt of our sins.

The Greek prepositions vary under both classes. Oftenest, we find hyper, "on behalf of" (etymologically, "over," as of protection); see e.g. Rom. viii. 32 ; Gal. ii. 20 ; Tit. ii. 14, Sometimes anti, "instead of" (Matt. xx. 28 ; Mark x. 45 ; cp. 1 Tim. ii. 5, 6). Sometimes peri, literally "about;" but by usage the word is strongly sacrificial and propitiatory, in contexts at all open to such ideas; see e.g. Rom. viii. 3; Gal. i. 4; 1 Pet. iii. 18; cp. Heb. x. 6. Sometimes dia (with the accusative), "on account of;" Rom. iv. 25. These phrases all harmonize in substantial meaning. The Lord died "on account of" the fact of our sin and need; "about" us and our sins, as sin-offering; "instead of" us, as our substituted Representative, substituted in the obvious sense that He so gave Himself, and was given, to suffer, as lawfully to procure our exemption; "on behalf of" us, in a sense including all these, and further implying the personal will and love with which He suffered. Observe further that, in Greek literature generally, where the preposition hyper, apart or in compound, occurs in connexion with ideas of death, the thought suggested tends to be that of substitution; death <84/85> "on behalf of" another in the sense that the other therefore does not die.

(8) "The Blood of Christ"óSome expositors draw a distinction between this phrase and "the Death of Christ," maintaining that the ideas of blood and Life are deeply connected in Scripture, and inferring that the blood-shedding of the Redeemer has to do less with propitiation, by the immolation of life forfeited, than with vivification, by surrender to God and impartation to man of life strengthening. Thus to be "cleansed by the blood of Christ" (1 Joh. i. 7) would mean to be morally purified by the inflow of the surrendered, and now infused, life of the risen Christ. To "drink the blood of the Son of Man" (Joh. vi. 53) would mean, not to appropriate His propitiatory sacrifice, but to imbibe the powers of His risen life. Against such a view, we think, the Scripture speaks on the whole decisively. The text appealed to as the first warrant for the view is Lev. xvii. 11; as if it so connected "blood" and "life" [9] that where the blood goes the life goes, as life. But observe the wording; "the life of the flesh is in the blood." The thought is directed to the deadness of the "flesh" when the blood is shed; not to the persistence of "life" in the shed blood. And as the word "blood" in anything like kindred connexions is traced through Scripture, the preponderating idea is that of death, not life. Where "blood" denotes not the current in the veins but the stream poured from them, the suggested idea is by no means life surrendered for service, or transfused for anotherís invigoration. Blood shed is not a vehicle of power, but an evidence of death, <85/86> especially by sacrifice or execution. (See among the numerous examples, Gen. ix. 4, 5; Deut. xxi. 8; 2 Sam. i. 16; Psal. lxxii. 14 (cp. cxvi. 15); Micah vii. 2; Matt. xxvii. 4; Acts v. 28). A remarkable detail of its usage is in connexion with making covenants (Exod. xxiv. 8; Zech. ix. 11), an association quite alien to ideas of infusion.

The following are the passages in which the word "blood" occurs in connexion with the work of Christ: Matt. xxvi. 28; Mark xiv. 24; Luke xxii. 20; 1 Cor. xi. 25 (in all which the word covenant occurs); Joh. vi. 53-6; Acts xx. 28; Rom. iii. 25, v. 9; 1 Cor. x. 16, xi. 27; Eph. i. 7, ii. 13; Col. i. 20; Heb. ix. 12, 14, x. 19, 29, xii. 24, xiii. 20; 1 Pet. i. 2, 19; 1 Joh. v. 6, 8; Rev. i. 5, v. 9, vii. 14, xii. 11. (In Col. i. 14 the words "in His Blood" are to be omitted from the text.)

It is not too much to say that the bearing of these passages as a whole is decisively towards ideas of not life but death, not of infusion but of effusion, of the blood of death, the striking of covenant, the propitiation wrought at an altar, the sprinkling of a mercy-seat, the signified acceptance of pardoned suppliants, the lawful purchase of condemned men from death by death.

On the meaning in particular of 1 Joh. i. 7 compare by all means Lev. xvi. 30, especially in the Greek.

(9) Were our Lordís sufferings properly penal? It has been earnestly maintained that they were not. But the denial appears to arise from a too limited definition of the word "punishment." If punishment can only mean judicial retribution for the suffererís own transgressions, personally done, of course He could not suffer personally. But nothing forbids <86/87> the use of the word "penal" when suffering is judicially inflicted on a person who, by whatever process, is legally liable. If the Redeemer, in His own gracious freewill, laid Himself actually under liability for our transgressions, then the "curse of the law" dealt penally with that liability, laid on Him. His sufferings had regard to broken Law and its satisfaction; they were thus penal.

The language of Isai. liii. certainly points in this direction: "the chastisement of our peace was upon Him"; "the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all"; "it pleased the Lord to bruise Him"; "my righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities" (5, 6, 10, 11). And see ver. 8, with the alternative rendering of the Revised Version: "He was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of My people, to whom the stroke was due."

 

Supplementary.

History of the Doctrine of the Atonement.

(1) First Four Centuries.óThe controversies of these centuries turned more upon the Person than the Work of Christ. But, nevertheless, there was a practically continuous sub-reference to the Work, as that which gave the problem of the Person its supreme importance. That Work, under many variations of language and thought, as different aspects of its central idea come up, was viewed on the whole as no mere means of influence on men, as by witness or example, but as a transaction related to God. We append a few out of the wealth of possible references. <87/88>

Clement of Rome (cent. i.)óEpistle to the Corinthians, c. 7: "Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ, and see how precious it is to His God and Father, because, being shed for our salvation, it won for the whole world the grace of repentance." Cp. ibidem, cc. 12, 16, 21, 49. In this last place the words are; "Our Lord Jesus Christ gave His blood for us in the will of God, and His flesh for our flesh, and His life (psychê) for our lives."

The Epistle to Diognetus [10] (early cent. ii.)óc. 9: "When our unrighteousness had reached the full, God Himself gave His Son a ransom for us (lytron hyper hêmôn) Ö. the just for the unjustÖ. . For what else was able to hide our sins, but His righteousness? Ö. Oh blessed exchange! That so the iniquity of many should be hidden in One Righteous, and the righteousness of One should justify many iniquitous."

Irenæus (cent. ii.)óAgainst Heresies, bk v., i. 1: "The Lord ransomed us by His own blood, and gave His life for our life and His flesh for our flesh" (cp. Clem. Rom. supra). In the immediate context Irenæus dwells on the fact that the Atonement had for a main end the satisfaction of the claims of justice. The "persuasive" power of the Atonement appears in the same context as grounded on an effected redemption. See further, bk v., xiv. 3, 4.

Justin Martyró(cent. ii.) Dialogue, c. 95: "The universal Father willed that His own Messiah, on behalf of men of every race, should receive on Him the curses of all, knowing that He would raise Him up after crucifixion and death."

Origen (cent. iii.)óOn the Romans, iii., c. 8: "God set Him forth to be a propitiation, through faith in His blood; that is, through the sacrifice of His body (per hostiam sui corporis) to make God propitious to menÖ. . For God is just, and the just cannot justify the <88/89> unjust; therefore He willed the intervention of the Propitiator, that through faith in Him they might be justified who could not be through their own works." See further, towards the close of the same chapter.

Athanasius (cent. iv.)óOration i. against the Arians, c. 60: "The Son of God came into the world, not to judge the world, but that He might redeem all men, and that the world might be saved through Him. For of old the world as an accused person was judged, under the Law; but now the Word (Logos) hath received on Himself the judgment, and, suffering in His body on behalf of all men, hath granted salvation unto all." On the Incarnation, c. 20: "He offered His sacrifice (tên thysian) for all (peri pantôn), giving up to death His own Temple (naon) in the stead (anti) of all; that He might set all free from the guilt (anypeuthynous) of the original transgression," etc.

Augustine (cent. iv.-v.)óOn Psalm xc., ß 2: "The transgressions belong to us; the suffering for us belongs to our Head. But because of His suffering for us, all that belongs to us of transgressions is discharged."

These are only specimens of a great store of doctrine. All along there appears in the Fathers the recognition of a profound propitiatory value in the Lordís death; certainly no tendency the other way, no reluctance akin to modern objections.

One curious phase of patristic teaching was the view that the Lordís Death was in some sense a ransom paid to the Evil One for his captives, and that the purpose and full value of the Death was hidden from the Evil One till all was over. This latter thought appears as early as Ignatius, early cent. ii. (To the Eph., c. xix.; often quoted by later Fathers). But this relation of the Atonement to the supposed claims of the Enemy is, as a fact, no main or vital element in patristic teaching, either in quantity or logical weight. It is more than balanced by constant unreserved assertions of the iniquity of the <89/90> enemyís action, and Christís mighty triumph over him for us. It is an excrescence of doctrine, not a genuine limb. Meantime it witnesses to a belief in the truth that underlay it, the need of far more than moral suasion, or even spiritual change, for our redemption. [11]

(2) Eleventh to Sixteenth Centuries.óIn the eleventh century appeared the short treatise of Anselm (Abp. of Canterbury 1093-1114), Cur Deus Homo? Why was God made Man? This is a discussion, as reverent as it is logically clear and subtle, of the nature and purpose of the Atonement. The thought which it emphasized is the satisfaction of the claims of (not the Enemy, but) the Lawgiver. This was only a clearer statement of what the Church belief had always implied, though previous thought had dwelt rather on fulfilment of divine threatening (of death for manís sin) than on satisfaction of the inherent claims of Godís holy Nature. In Anselmís view the Lord, as Man, satisfies those claims by a coordinate obedience, which results in His infinite merit, applied to win our remission. Anselm speaks less strongly than Scripture on the "bearing of the curse" as the central mystery of the obedience. But it is plain that he felt no aversion to this aspect of the truth.

Bernard of Clairvaux, commonly known as St. Bernard (cent. xii.), writes (Epistle cxc.): "Man it was who owed, man it is who hath paidÖ. . The Head satisfied for the members, Christ for His own vitals."

Peter the Lombard (cent. xii.-xiii.), the "Magister" of the Schoolmen, dwells at some length on the Merit of the Lord (Sententiæ, Bk iii., Dist. xviii.-xx.). The relation of the Atonement to the devilís power appears in his discussion. But he regards the Enemy not as <90/91> a power entitled to contract for ransom, but as one whose actual grasp on man came only of manís unpaid debt to God. This debt the death of the Sinless One discharges. Throughout the discussion, with all its logical clearness, runs a certain confusion, due to an imperfect apprehension of the Scriptural meaning of justification (below, p. 250). But this leaves untouched the view of our Lordís Death as a proper "sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world."

Thomas Aquinas (cent. xiii.), following Lombard, brought out more fully the relation between the Atonement and the Union of Christ and His members.

The Mystics are among the most interesting phenomena of the Middle Ages. But clear statements of Atonement Doctrine are not to be looked for in them. Their absorbing theme was the union of the soul with God, and they tended to lose sight of the guilt as compared with the disease and power of sin. See Dorner, Person of Christ (Div. ii., vol. ii., Introduction), for an account of the German Mystics, and of their failure to see "in the Cross on the one hand the condemnation, on the other the atonement, of guilt."

(3) Age of the Reformation.óThe Reformers, continental and English, were more concerned to vindicate the Scriptural doctrine of the application of the Atonement (Justification), than of the Atonement itself. (See below, p. 187.)

(4) To trace the history of opinion on the Atonement, in detail, onwards to our own time, would far overstep our limits. But through the mass of theories and explanations there are apparent two main directions of thought; the one, towards an insistence upon the need of propitiation Godward, in view of divine Holiness and Law; the other, towards explanations in which this view is denied, or minimized, in favour of either a moral work of reconciliation, an exhibition of divine love <91/92> persuading and alluring men, or of a deeper mystic belief in the "liberation," by death, of the life-power of Christ, for the animation of His members. The appeal between real divergences must be to the Holy Scriptures. And in the theory rejected on such an appeal, elements of important truth may yet very probably be present for which place must be found in a true theory, though the characteristic of that theory will remain not the less distinctive.

In close connexion with the Atoning Death occur other points of doctrine concerning the Work of Christ. And first

 

The Descent into Hell.

The precise wording of this belief is not Scriptural; we nowhere find in Scripture the words "descent" and "hell" used together, with reference to our Lord. But the substance is Scriptural. See Psal. xvi. 10, interpreted Acts ii. 26, 27.

Of no other passage can it be affirmed with certainty that it refers to, much less that it teaches, this belief. Those commonly adduced are Luke xxiii. 43; Eph. iv. 9; 1 Pet, iii. 18-20, iv. 6 (on which further below). But only Acts ii. 26, 27 is unmistakable in its reference. What is its interpretation?

The word Hell, etymologically akin to heal, i.e., to cover (a wound with skin), and meaning the covered, hidden region, represents the Hebrew Sheôl, and the Greek Hades. Around these two words a mass of interpretation has gathered. But their prevalent reference is to the state of the immaterial part of <92/93> the dead, viewed as a state of awful, abnormal separation of man from his proper state of being. That state receives the good and the bad, and may contain abodes of comparative bliss, or of woe. But in all cases it is in that respect evil that it is for man a state of separation and dislocation; of abnormal mystery; of connexion with the sentence of death.

Hell, as rendering Hades, must thus be distinguished clearly from Hell as rendering Gehenna (geenna, Matt. v. 22, 29, 30, x. 28, xviii. 9, xxiii. 15, 33; Mark. ix. 47; Luke xii. 5; Jas iii. 6). Gehenna is the place, or state, of final woe; a word of unrelieved awfulness. [12]

No doubt the words Hell and Inferi (Art. III.) represent Hades, not Gehenna. The truth taught is that our Lord entered the State of Spirits, accepting all its essential conditions. To teach as revealed truth anything beyond this fact is an intrusion into the Unseen. And to lay stress upon the local cast of the phrase, and on the word descend, is unsafe; for all local conceptions are unsettled in the absence of bodily conditions. Nothing is demanded by Scripture phraseology but that the descent of the body into the earth transmits its idea to the motion of the soul into the Unseen. In the light of New Testament language about the presence of the believer with Christ now at death (2 Cor. v. 8; Phil. i. 23), and of the apocalyptic visions of redeemed and praising multitudes "before the throne," in what seems to be a pre-resurrection <93/94> state (Rev. vii. 9, xix. 1), [13] the belief of a literal "underworld" of departed spirits may be dismissed from thought.

The substance of the doctrine thus relates to our Lordís submission to all the essentials of the Separate State, for our sake. As His human body entered a grave, His human spirit entered Hades. Whatever awfulness that entrance had for any of His saints, it had for Him.

1 Pet. iii. 18-20 is often quoted as plainly referring to this Descent. But St. Augustine recognized it as difficult of interpretation, and inclined, at one time at least, as does Bishop Pearson (Exposition of the Creed), to refer it not to the Descent at all, but to the work of Christ by His Spirit before the Flood, in warning the antedeluvians now "in prison." On the other hand many Christian thinkers, ancient ,and modern, have deduced from the words the doctrine that, either to the lost antediluvians, or to all the then departed, Christ disembodied offered His salvation; and inferences have been drawn to the effect that death does not, for man in general, end probation and evangelization.

Awful is the mystery of the questions involved. To God, not to us, it appertains to say absolutely and in detail what justice and mercy demand in the case, for instance, of man who has never heard the Gospel. But we earnestly commend the following cautions in speculation. [14]

1 Pet. iii. 18-20 is a passage practically unique, <94/95> unless indeed, which is doubtful, 1 Pet. iv. 6 is to be grouped with it.

It occurs in a context not of hope, but of exhortation and warning.

It mentions the antediluvians only, and distinctively, and without any hint that it has a wider application.

It does not reveal what our Lord "proclaimed" (ekêryxe), nor does it indicate with certainty that His hearers, supposing them to be departed spirits, had actually died impeditent. [15]

The warnings of Scripture as to the mysterious connexion of probation and judgment with our embodied, that is our complete and natural condition, lie in the opposite direction to that of a "larger hope." See 2 Cor. v. 10. And see below, p. 160.

So does the urgency of Scripture language about the necessity of the human messenger in order to the "salvation" of those who have not heard the Gospel. See Rom. x. 13-15; and cp. Acts xi. 14; 1 Thess. ii. 16. (See further, p. 116.)

And, in general, the subject should be approached with a watchful, reverent remembrance, to be secured only by the convincing grace of God, of the "exceeding sinfulness" of sin and the immovable, eternal claims of the divine holiness.

 

History of Belief about the "Descent."

In the Commentary of Rufinus of Aquileia (cent, iv.-v.) <95/96> on the "Apostlesí Creed," the article, "He descended into hell" (inferna), appears as part of the Creed. But Rufinus observes that it was absent from the then Roman creed, and from the creeds of the East. Nor does it appear, as far as can be gathered, in the Western creeds as known to St. Augustine.

However, the belief of a mysteriously special "Descent" appears already developed (cent. ii.-iii.) in, e.g., Irenæus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria. With some variety in detail, these three Fathers (Pearson, On the Creed, pp. 237, 241, and notes) held that the Lord descended to impart His Gospel and salvation, in the unseen world, to those who looked for Him before His coming, or perhaps (Clement) to the dead in general.

In the early "apocryphal" literature the Descent appears in a luxuriance of strange and awful detail. Under the common name of the Gospel of Nicodemus several documents are included, among them the Descensus ad Inferos. In it the Lord appears in the Underworld, the realm of Hades (Inferus, Latin Version), and sets free Adam and the old saints, bringing them to "the glory of Paradise." This document has been assigned to the second century, but its present form is probably not older than the fourth.

In the belief of a Descent the Fathers are unanimous. But as to its purpose and work there was very various speculation. Some held that the lost souls themselves were all delivered; others, that some only of them: the former view was commonly held heretical. Some held that the souls of the old saints were translated to blessedness in Paradise, some that they were only illuminated where they were, and not locally removed. See Pearson, and Ussherís Answer to a Jesuit, for ample detail.

Later, discussions arose as to the nature of the Descent; whether it were local and literal, or virtualóan action of the Lordís will in the depths of the Unseen. <96/97>

It is instructive to turn from the detail and certainty of even the earliest ecclesiastical statements, to the extreme reserve of Scripture. Between the date of the main body of the New Testament and the earliest extent patristic teaching on the subject two generations at least intervened; and this, on a topic so alluring to human curiosity, is time enough for a great growth of unauthorized belief.

One fact transpires from the enquiry; namely, the absence from early belief of the conception of the Intermediate State as a Purgatory. This nowhere appears, certainly not within the first three centuries. Augustine speaks of some such possibility with great hesitation. As a rule, the Fathers of the first four hundred years speak of the faithful as going to a condition not pitiable but bright and blessed, under angelís escort, into eternal rest, into the kingdom of God, into the company of saints and angels. It is remarkable that the custom of Prayer for the Departed should nevertheless appear (certainly as early as the end of cent. ii.). But such prayers met with evidently frequent criticism; and it was alleged in explanation that they asked only for a continuance of blessing, and that this continuance was certain, yet, like other certainties, might be prayed for; or that the prayer referred to the prospect of the Last Day, and the eternal open acquittal thenówhich again was a certainty for the true believer departed, yet to be prayed for. These defenses are inadequate, against the total silence of Scripture. But they are significant as against purgatorial theory in any of its forms. See Ussher, Answer, vi., vii., viii.

Returning to the divine simplicity of Scripture, we find:ó

(a) No evidence for a change of place and condition of the old saints at the Lordís death, but rather allusions to their rest and glory from the first:

(b) No evidence for a "going down" of the departing Christian, but full and joyful reference to his immediate <97/98> presence with the glorified and ascended Christ at death. This hope, as it seems to us, stands in a place faint and secondary in patristic teaching as compared with the Scriptural view:

(c) Full recognition of a vast accession of power and bliss when the "redemption of the body" (Rom. viii. 23) comes. Holy Scripture fully recognizes an intermediate state, while it maintains great reserve, to say the least, about an intermediate place. "Paradise," in Scripture, far from being locally distinguished from Heaven, the upper world, appears as in it and of it. See 2 Cor. xii. 2-4; Rev. ii.7, with xxii.2-5. And cp. e.g. Acts vii. 55, 56 with 59; and Phil. i. 23 with Col. iii.1-3. <98>

___________________

[1] In Eph. iii. 9 the words "by Jesus Christ" are not genuine.

[2] See, among the wealth of references, Acts ii. 23, iv. 10, viii. 35, xiii. 28-39, xx. 28; Rom. iii. 23-5, v. 6-9; 1 Cor. xv. 3-11; 2 Cor. v. 14, 21; Gal. i. 4, iii. 13. vi. 14; Eph. i. 7, ii. 13, v. 2; Phil. ii. 8; Col. i. 14, 20; 1 Thess. v. 10; 2 Tim. ii. 11, 12; Tit. ii. 14; Heb. ii. 9, 14. vii. 27, ix. 11-28, x. 10-12, 19, xii. 24, xiii. 10-12, 20; 1 Pet. i. 2, 11, 19, ii. 24, v. 1; 1 Joh. i. 7, ii. 2, iii. 16, iv. 10; Rev. i. 5, 7, v. 9, 12, vii. 14, xiii. 8.

[3] Take, e.g., 1 Cor. xv. 14-18. The immediate subject is the Resurrection, but evidently as the crown of the work of the Death. Now the Apostle teaches that, without the objective fact and work of the Resurrection, the faith of the Corinthians would be "vain"; they would be yet in their sins. But as a matter of fact they were penitents and believers; the subjective conciliation of their wills had taken place; they were no longer rebels, or victims of sin. He therefore means that if, per impossibile, these spiritual results could have taken place without the objective fact of the Atonement and its triumph, they would be unpardoned still. The reasoning implies a work done by the Lordís Death not only man-ward but primarily God-ward.

[4] See Crawford, The Atonement, Part I., sect. i.

[5] kphr in the Piel.

[6] See, for illustrations from non-theological passages 1 Sam. xxix. 4, where the LXX. has diallagêsetai; Matt. v. 24; 1 Cor. vii. 11. See Pearson, On the Creed, p. 365.

[7] See, at large, The Doctrine of the Atonement, by L. Edwards, D.D.

[8] Voltaire said to Rousseau, "When you say that the death of Jesus, compared with that of Socrates, was the death of a God, you forget the sweat of blood."

[9] Observe that psychê not zôê is the word used by the LXX., Lev. xvii. 11.

[10] Anonymous; printed with the works of St. Justin Martyr.

[11] A passage is sometimes quoted from Gregory of Nazianzus (cent. iv.) to the alleged effect that error regarding the purpose of our Lordís sufferings is not spiritually dangerous. But it refers to the question of the nature, not the purpose, of the sufferings (Oratio xxxiii.).

[12] But Sheôl and Hades are often also used in connexions which point the same way. E.g. Psal. ix. 17, where the meaning must be deeper than that "the wicked shall enter, or return to, the state of departed spirits." But this lies in the context, not in the word.

[13] Not to speak of such Old Testament indications as the ascensions of Enoch and Elijah, and Psal. lxxiii, 24, and the appearance of Moses with Elijah "in glory" (Luke ix. 31).

[14] See Dr R. Anderson, Human Destiny.

[15] It is to be observed that by some "the spirits" of 1 Pet. iii. have been explained to be not antediluvian men, but non-human beings, whose rebellious action in the Old World is (it is contended) indicated Gen. vi. 2-4. To them, in their "prison," the crucified Lord (on this view) proclaimed His final defeat (Col. ii. 15) of all such efforts to thwart the work of redemption.

 
 

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