“Sincere respect for the men of early times may be joined
with a clear perception of their weaknesses and errors; and
it becomes us to remember, that errors, which in them were
innocent, because inevitable, may deserve a harsher
appellation if perpetuated in their posterity.
WILLIAM ELLERY CHANNING.
IN TWO PARTS.
PACIFIC PRESS: OAKLAND, CAL.,
REVIEW & HERALD: BATTLE CREEK, MICH. 1884.
PREFACE: — By all who have faith in the efficacy of the blood of Christ to cleanse from sin, the Atonement is confessed to be the great central doctrine of the gospel. On this they agree, however much they may differ on other doctrines, or on the relations of this. And yet the number of books on this subject is not large, compared with the number on many others, not held to be as fundamental in the Christian system as this.
In developing the argument we have tried to follow the Scriptures in their plain, literal reading, without regard to the positions of others who have written before us. It would be a pleasure to us to agree with all who are considered evangelical, and we have differed with them only because our regard for the truths of the Bible compelled us to do so.
With those who consider it necessary to apologize for the Bible, the writer has little sympathy. It is a noticeable fact that of all the writers and speakers whose words are recorded in the Bible, no one ever undertook a defense of the sacred word. “The Scriptures” were appealed to as final authority by both Christ and his apostles; and if any denied their authority, they were considered beyond the reach of proof — they would not believe though one should rise from the dead. Luke 16:31. And when men of a certain class denied a Scripture truth, the Son of God did not meet them with philosophy or science, but settled the question by an appeal to the word itself, answering: “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Matt. 22:29.
The reader may then question why we have departed from the beaten track in laying the foundation of an atonement by an appeal to principles of reason and of law. It was because we believe that something is due to those who have received erroneous ideas of the doctrine from those who stood as religious teacher. Many have assailed the Atonement because of the unwise teachings of its professed advocates.
They affirm that it is a doctrine which leads to license and immorality; and they are confirmed in their opinion by the positions of learned theologians who deny that justice underlies the Atonement, virtually, and often openly, declaring that the gospel does not establish and vindicate the law of God. We do not believe that outside of “theology” a soul could be found who would insist that pardon of a crime absolved the criminal from obligation to the law which condemned him for the commission of the crime! The power to pardon should be used with prudence, and is always committed to those who are sworn to maintain the authority of the law.
In the Government of God, as in all Governments, law is the basis upon which everything is made to rest. The very idea of probation enforces the Bible declaration that to fear God and keep his commandments is the whole duty of man. The “golden rule” is the embodiment of “the law and the prophets, “Matt. 7:12, and the love of God, the very object and essence of the gospel, is the keeping of his commandments. 1 John 5:3. Our positions in “Part First” have been examined by eminent jurists and declared to be well and safely taken; and we appeal to every reader that if the doctrine of the Atonement did conflict with these principles, then the skeptic would have solid reasons for rejecting it. This part of our argument was the result of long-continued and careful examination of the ground, and it has been a delightful task to trace the harmony between these principles and the word of revelation.
The more we examine it the stronger are our impressions that no language can do justice to the subject of the Atonement of Christ. The mind of man, in this present state, cannot realize its greatness and its glory. It is the prayer of the author that the reading of this book may arouse in others the desire which the writing has strengthened in his own heart, to enter that immortal state where we may, through ceaseless ages and with enlarged powers, contemplate and admire “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
J.H.W. Oakland, Cal., August, 1884.