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NECESSITY OF THE ATONEMENT.
That he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
ROMANS, iii. 26,
The atonement of Christ lies at the foundation of the gospel, which we cannot understand, without understanding the nature and necessity of the atonement which he made on the cross. But there are various opinions maintained upon this important subject, by those who prosess to believe the gospel. It becomes us, therefore, to examine this subject seriously and critically, that we may discover wherein his atonement consists, and for what purpose it was made. The apostle, having proved in the preceding verses that all mankind are by nature in a state of guilt and condemnation, proceeds to show how believers are forgiven, or justified, through the redemption, or atonement, of Christ. Speaking of himself and other believers, he says, “ Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins — that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." According to this representation, it was absolutely necessary for Christ to make atonement for sin by his blood, on the cross, in order that God might be just, in forgiving or justifying penitent believers. Though it was not necessary that God should forgive the transgressors of his law, yet it was necessary that an atonement should be made to show ihat he was just to himself, as well as merciful to them, if he did grant them the remission of sins. So that we may safely conclude, VOL. V.
That the atonement of Christ was necessary entirely on God's account.
It is proposed to show that this was so, and why it was so.
I. It is to be shown that the atonement of Christ was necessary entirely on God's account.
If the atonement of Christ were not necessary on the account of sinners, then, if it were necessary at all, it must have been necessary on God's account. But it is easy to see that it could not be necessary on the account of sinners. When Adam had sinned, and involved himself and his posterity in guilt and ruin, God might have destroyed him and them, as he destroyed the fallen angels, according to the rules of strict justice. By treating them in such a manner, he would have done honor to his character, to his law and to his government, in the eyes of all his intelligent creatures, without doing the least injury to them. As sinners, they deserved to suffer the penalty of the law which they had broken; and God might have inflicted upon them that eternal death which is the proper wages of sin. On the other hand, he might have saved them in a sovereign manner, without doing injustice to them, or to any other of his creatures. If God had chosen to save all mankind without an atonement, he would have treated them better than they deserved, which could have been no injury to them; nor could it have been any injury to the fallen angels, to have treated fallen men better than he treated them. As he treated them as well as they deserved, they could have no ground to complain, if he treated mankind better than they deserved. There was, therefore, no necessity for the atonement of Christ on the account of sinners. If no atonement had been made, God might have treated them according to their deserts, or better than their deserts, without doing them, or any other creature, the least injury. When Adam fled from the presence of God in despair, it was not because he feared that his Creator and Lawgiver would injure him. He knew that God would not injure him, if he destroyed him, and much less, if he saved him. All sinners now know the same.
When they reflect upon their sinful, perishing state, they are sensible that ihey deserve to die, and that eternal death is not a punishment greater than their guilt. They see nothing, on their own account, why God may not exercise his justice or his
grace towards them, without an atonement. They know that he would not injure them, if he should exercise either his justice or his grace towards them. Consequently, they see no need of an atonement on their own account. If no atonement had been made, God might have determined to destroy all the human race, or to have saved all the human race, without doing any injury to them, or to any other created beings. It hence appears that there was no necessity for the atonement of