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scenes of thrilling interest, and he conducted his logical processes in sympathy with the past, and in preparation for a future revival of Christian zeal.
It is not the aim of the present Article to examine all the theories of Dr. Griffin on all the doctrines which he discussed; nor to defend any of his speculations, defensible as many of them are; nor to controvert such of them as may seem liable to objection; neither to expose nor to explain the apparent discrepancies between the assertions which he made during the interval of nearly forty years, from the time of his first, to the time of his last publication; but the intent of the Article is simply to explain, and that chiefly in his own words, his theory of the Christian Atonement.
The work from which the main quotations in the Article are made, is the second of his above-named volumes, that which he published in the fiftieth year of his age, and on which he seems to have expended his most masculine energy. It is irenical in its intent, and is entitled: “ An Humble Attempt to reconcile the Differences of Christians respecting the Atonement, by showing that the Controversy which exists on the Subject is chiefly verbal: to which is added an Appendix, exhibiting the Influence of Christ's Obedience.” It is divided into three parts, designated thus : “the Nature of the Atonement ;” its “Extent;” “the Scriptural View." Without adhering to the exact plan which President Griffin prescribed for his work, but from which he himself freely deviates, we will attempt to state his principles in the following order.
§ 1. Christ did not suffer the litcral Penalty of the Law for us.
On the relation of Christ's sufferings to the legal and the literal penalty for sin, various theories have been held. One is, that Christ endured the punishment which was denounced against the transgressors, for whom he died. Another theory is, that he did not endure any punishment, but that his pains were substituted for penalty. The latter theory was adopted by Dr. Griffin. To the question: What was the end of Christ's death as an atoning sacrifice ? he replies : “ Precisely the same as respects the support of law, that would have been answered by our punishment. The atonement, we have seen, was a cover for sin, — was adapted so to bury sin from view, that it should not be punished. It therefore came exactly in the room of punishment, and was adapted to answer the same end. When it had done that it had removed the necessity of punishment, and instituted a complete cover for sin.” (p. 22.)
“ To atone, in every one's mouth is to make reparation for an injury or amends for an offence. Now to cover sin (the Hebrew idiom for atone) is a figurative expression, and plainly means no more than that sin is so far hid from view that it is not to be punished.” (p. 15.)
After repeatedly affirming that the atonement was “not a literal execution of the law” (p. 36), and that it came in the room of punishment, and was all that punishment would have been, except a literal execution of justice," and this, i.e. a literal execution of justice, the atonement " could not be” (p. 25), our author expressly asserts :
“ Christ therefore could not sustain our legal punishment, or the literal penalty of the law. If the law had said that we or a substitute should die, this might have been the case ; but it said no such thing. The law is before us, and we see with our eyes that it contains no such clause. The plain truth is, that the sufferings of Christ were not our punishment, but only came in its room. They were not the death of the identical “IT' that had sinned. They answered indeed the same purpose as related to the honor of the law, but they were not the same thing, and could not be the same thing without an absolute personal identity. So far from enduring our punishment, the plain fact is, he died to prevent our punishment.
But it is still urged with a surprising degree of tenacity, that the honor of God and the eternal principles of right bound him to punish sin. But he did not punish sin; for the sinner escaped and the Innocent suffered. It is said that truth required him to punish. Then truth failed; for certainly he did not punish Paul, and Christ was not a sinner.” (p. 152.)
§ 2. Christ did not satisfy the Law of God for us. With regard to the atonement as a satisfaction of the divine law, there are several theories. One is, that the law re
quired perfect holiness of men, that Christ obeyed the law for men, and thus satisfied the demand of the law for duty; also, that the law required the punishment of sinners, that Christ suffered this punishment, and thus satisfied the demand of the law for penalty; therefore, Christ satisfied the law in all its requisitions. Another theory is, that Christ did not satisfy the law by obeying it in our stead, nor by suffering its penalty in our stead; that he did not in strict speech satisfy the law at all, for the law as such must always demand both perfect holiness and also the punishment of the unholy; but Christ by his atonement did satisfy the Protector of law in forbearing to inflict the penalty which was legally threatened. The second of these theories was adopted by Dr. Griffin. He did not believe that the demand of the law for our obedience was satisfied by Christ's obeying the law in our stead; nor that the demand of the law for our punishment was satisfied by Christ's suffering punishment in our stead; for, as we have seen, he did not believe either that Christ obeyed the law for us, or that he suffered punishment for us. Dr. Griffin did believe, however, that the atonement honored the law so signally as to satisfy God in pardoning the offences which the law, in its very nature, did and must condemn. He says:
" It follows from the foregoing reasonings, that the sufferings of Christ were not a literal satisfaction of law and justice, even in behalf of believers, much less in behalf of the unregenerate elect. The law is before us, and if we can read it we can see for ourselves what would have been a literal satisfaction of its claims. It never demanded the death of the innocent for the guilty, but the death of the identical persons who had sinned : and till this is yielded the law is not literally satisfied, and justice, (for the law is the exact measure of justice,) is not satisfied. Justice did not take its course, for the Innocent suffered and the guilty escaped. But the authority of the law is supported, even in the event of the pardon of believers, (not in the event of the pardon of the unregenerate elect, for that would ruin the law, and none the less for their being elect;) and this was enough to satisfy the Protector of the law. This was the satisfaction really made. The Protector of the law was satisfied: and men in expressing this truth in figurative language, said that the law was satisfied.” (pp. 157, 158.)
3. Christ did not satisfy the Distributive Justice of God
for us. The Distributive Justice of God prompts him to inflict the punishment which sin deserves. One theory of divines is, that the atonement satisfied the distributive justice of God, because in the atonement Christ endured the very punishment which sin deserves. Another theory of divines is, that Christ did not satisfy God's distributive justice, because he did not endure any punishment at all; but Christ did satisfy the benevolent God in forbearing to inflict the punishment which distributive justice requires. The second of these theories is advocated by Dr. Griffin. As he did not believe that the law was literally satisfied, so he could not consistently believe that the distributive justice of the Lawgiver was literally satisfied by the atonement. He strenuously objects to the notion of a “legal oneness" between Christ and the redeemed; “ a legal imputation, a legal obligation to suffer, a legal punishment, a legal satisfaction, and a legal claim on the part of the redeemed.” “We deny," he says, “ that either of these is legal. The mistake of supposing them such has wholly arisen from drawing literal conclusions from figurative premises.” Among these erroneous literal conclusions from figurative premises, he specifies the following: “ Because the Lawgiver demanded satisfaction of him (Christ] by commanding him to die, law and justice made the demand. Because the iniquity of all is said to have been laid on him, he sustained the literal and legal punishment of sin. Because he was dragged to execution like a criminal, and fell under the stroke of him who was wont to act as the legal executioner, law and justice were literally executed upon him. Because he rendered full satisfaction to the Protector of the law, by securing its authority as fully as though it had been literally executed, he satisfied both law and justice.” “ Thus,” he continues, " by pressing, in some instances, the figurative language of Seripture into a literal meaning, and by twisting the truth a very
little in others," the advocates of a legal satisfaction, etc., “ arrive at all the conclusions which have been enumerated." (pp. 132–134; see likewise, pp. 88, 132 seq., 166 seq., 194, etc.
That neither the law nor the justice of God is satisfied by the atonement, harmonizes, according to our author, " with the consciousness of every true believer, whatever systematic phrases he may be accustomed to use. “When he is humbled in the dust at the feet of his Maker, it is farthest from his thoughts to make demands on justice.” “ Every day of his life he confesses that it would still be just in God to send him to perdition. And if it would be just, justice still demands his death. And if justice demands his death, justice is not satisfied. The literal truth is, that Christ answered all the purposes to the divine law which could have been accomplished by the actual satisfaction of its demands against believers, and the actual satisfaction of justice upon them. And this being done, it may be said by an easy figure, that law and justice are satisfied. And though these expressions are not scriptural, but of human invention, I do not object to their use in prayer and popular discourses. But every divine and every Christian ought to know that they are figurative expressions, and not attempt to draw from them literal conclusions.” (pp. 165, 166.)
§ 4. The Law and the Distributive Justice of God eternally
demand the punishment of every one who has sinned. One theory of theologians is, that Christ, having obeyed the law, and suffered its penalty for the elect, has cancelled the entire demand of law and distributive justice against the elect; has released them from all guilt, all desert of punishment; and rendered it impossible to condemn them justly for all or any of their sins. Another theory is, that Christ has not obeyed the law or suffered punishment for men; that men who are at any time morally guilty, are so at all times; that, if they once deserve eternal punishment, they forever deserve it, and that the Law and Distributive Justice