Atonement and Redemption
Dear Sir: – There are some who say that the atonement is general and that redemption is particular, and others who say that both the atonement and the redemption are general. If you will give your views, through the SIGNS, on this subject, you will very much oblige, and I hope instruct me. What I want to know is, can the two be separated? If the one is general is not the other? I hope you will give your views at some length, and oblige,
A LOVER OF THE TRUTH.
Ulster County, N. Y., April 28, 1858.
The simple word atonement, or at-one-ment, signifies reconciliation, agreement, or restoration to favor, and when applied in a gospel sense, has reference to the meditorial sacrifice of the Son of God, by which his people are reconciled unto God. That mediatorial work or sacrifice involved his suffering for them the penalty of the law which they had transgressed, bearing the curse which was due to their transgressions, putting away their sins by sacrifice of himself; being delivered up for their offences, and raised again from the dead for their justification.
Redemption signifies the buying back of that which has become legally involved and is held by another in captivity. For instance, a flock of sheep which has gone astray from the premises of their owner, and committed trespass on another, may be legally held by him who has sustained the injury, until the owner of the sheep shall come forward, prove property, pay the legal charges, and take them away. This is called redemption, or buying back the flock or property which belonged to him who redeems, before the trespass was committed. In this the payment of the damages is the atonement or reconciliation, for it satisfies the party who held the legal claim upon the flock, and the price paid for the satisfaction, or reconciliation, redeems or buys them back. So that the atonement and the redemption of the sheep are one and the same thing; they cannot be separated. None but the owner of the sheep has the right to redeem them. If he fails to redeem them, and they are sold to some other person for the damages they have done, they are not redeemed at all, because they are not bought back, or restored to the former owner, but pass into the possession of a new owner. The redemption of the people of God is thus described, Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him [Christ] the iniquity of us all.”
That is, the whole demand of the law and justice of God, was demanded of that Shepherd whose own the sheep were, and who says, “I am the good Shepherd; the good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” – John 10:11-12.
If Christ had not been the owner of the flock before they strayed, or went into captivity, justice could not have demanded satisfaction at his hands, the Lord would not have laid their iniquity upon him, nor commanded, saying, “Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts; smite the Shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered, and I will turn my hand upon the little ones.” – Zechariah 13:7.
Nor could Christ have claimed the right to redeem them on any other ground. He was the Shepherd whose own the sheep were, and he plead and sustained his prior claim to, and right of property in them, saying, “Thine they were, and thou gavest them me.”
“I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine, and all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them.” And this glory he says he had with the Father before the world was. (John 17:5, 7, 10.)
Therefore he could in coming into the world to redeem them, confidently refer to the records of eternity: “Lo! I come, in the volume of thy book [the book in which all his members are written, Psalm 139:16,] it is written of me; to do thy will, O God.” – Hebrews 10:7.
“And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he had given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” – John 6:39.
These Scriptures define very clearly the extent of redemption by Jesus Christ, and the principle of relationship and proprietorship on which that redemption is based. In this redemption he asked not or prayed not, for the world, but for them which his Father had given him out of the world. And this was the full extent of the will of the Father, according to which God worketh all things, that Jesus should redeem and save his people from their sins, and raise up again at the last day all that the Father gave him before the world was, and therefore it was that the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all. That is all of us who like sheep have gone astray. And he has accordingly “surely borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.”
“He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement our peace [or atonement] was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:4-5.
And because “It pleased the Lord to bruise” and to “put him to grief.” “He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge [shall he] justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities.” – Isaiah 53:10-11.
And we know precisely what will satisfy him; for he has graciously told us. “I pray not for the world, but I pray for them which thou has given me” out of the world. “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory.” – John 17:9, 24.
This is his will, and the Father has pledged his veracity that he shall be satisfied. Nor is this any less the will of the Father than it is the will of the Son, for, “This is the Father’s will which has sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”
Thus we are instructed in regard to the nature and extent of the atonement and redemption which is in Christ Jesus. That it extends to all that the Father gave him, and to no others. That it embraces all that seed which Jesus should see when his soul was made an offering for sin, and which seed shall serve him, and be accounted to him for a generation, according to Psalm 22:30. But it extends to no other seed or people but that chosen generation, royal priesthood, holy nation, and peculiar people which shall show forth his praises. (1 Peter 2:9.)
The atonement or reconciliation is just as extensive as the redemption, and the eternal salvation from sin, death and hell, is just as extensive in its application and its saving benefits as the atonement and redemption, and it can extend no further. All the murmuring, fault-finding and blasphemies of the children of men cannot extend it any further, nor remove one of Zion’s stakes, nor break one of her cords.
After all the opposition manifested by the world to the definite extent of the atonement, there is not an individual on earth that really desires to be embraced in it but those who are made willing in the day of our Redeemer’s power. All others prefer to rely on their own fancied free will, free agency and use of means, and to rely upon a chance system, which would give a chance to everybody, but in reality save nobody. God’s redeemed people themselves were all of them opposed to his method of salvation until they were brought to an experimental knowledge of their guilty, lost and helpless condition, then they found it to be exactly suited to their case. And then being taught of God, they could not be satisfied with any uncertain, indefinite or chance system. Knowing their own total helplessness, they bless and adore God for that covenant which is well ordered and sure, for it is all their hope, and all their salvation.
Such a system of redemption as the Arminians contend for, if they could have it, would do them no good, for it would save nobody, and they are therefore just as well off in their present delusion on the subject, as they would be with a chance redemption, offered grace, and conditional salvation, while they are totally depraved, and dead in trespasses and sins. They are at war with God’s plan of salvation, and it is impossible for them to be saved in any other. There we must leave them to perish forever in their delusion, unless they, by a divine power, over which they nor we have any control, shall be brought to know their need of a whole Savior, a sure redemption, and to rejoice in a perfect atonement and reconciliation to God, and to his way of saving poor, lost and helpless sinners.
By Elder Gilbert Beebe
Middletown, N. Y.
June 1, 1858.