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§ 2. The Intrinsic Worth of Christ’s Satisfaction.
The first point is that Christ’s work was of the nature of a satisfaction, because it met and answered all the demands of God’s law and justice against the sinner. The law no longer condemns the sinner who believes in Christ. Those, however, whom the infinitely holy and strict law of God does not condemn are entitled to the divine fellowship and favour. To them there can be no condemnation. The work of Christ was not, therefore, a mere substitute for the execution of the law, which God in his sovereign mercy saw fit to accept in lieu of what the sinner was bound to render. It had an inherent worth which rendered it a perfect satisfaction, so that justice has no further demands. It is here as in the case of state criminals. If such an offender suffers the penalty which the law prescribes as the punishment of his offence he is no longer liable to condemnation. No further punishment can justly be demanded for that offence. This is what is called the perfection of Christ’s satisfaction. It perfectly, from its own intrinsic worth, satisfies the demands of justice. This is the point meant 483to be illustrated when the work of Christ is compared in Scripture and in the writings of theologians to the payment of a debt. The creditor has no further claims when the debt due to him is fully paid.
This perfection of the satisfaction of Christ, as already remarked, is not due to his having suffered either in kind or in degree what the sinner would have been required to endure; but principally to the infinite dignity of his person. He was not a mere man, but God and man in one person. His obedience and sufferings were therefore the obedience and sufferings of a divine person. This does not imply, as the Patripassians in the ancient Church assumed, and as some writers in modem times assume, that the divine nature itself suffered. This idea is repudiated alike by the Latin, Lutheran, and Reformed churches. In the “Second Helvetic Confession”416416XI.; Niemeyer, p. 485. it is said, “Minime docemus naturam in Christo divinam passam esse.” The “Form of Concord”417417VIII. 44; Hase, p. 772. teaches the same thing, quoting Luther, who says that our Saviour to suffer must become man, “non enim in sua natura Deus mori potest. Postquam autem Deus et homo unitus est in una persona, recte et vere dicitur: Deus mortuus est, quando videlicet ille homo moritur, qui cum Deo unum quiddam, seu una persona est.” This is precisely what the Apostle, in Hebrews ii. 14, teaches, when he says that He who was the Son of God, who made heaven and earth, who upholds all things by the word of his mouth, and who is immutable and eternal, assumed our nature (flesh and blood) in order that He might die, and by death destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil. Christ is but one person, with two distinct natures, and therefore whatever can be predicated of either nature may be predicated of the person. An indignity offered to a man’s body is offered to himself. If this principle be not correct there was no greater crime in the crucifixion of Christ than in unjustly inflicting death on an ordinary man. The principle in question, however, is clearly recognized in Scripture, and therefore the sacred. writers do not hesitate to say that God purchased the Church with his blood; and that the Lord of glory was crucified. Hence such expressions as Dei mors, Dei sanguis, Dei passio have the sanction of Scriptural as well of Church usage. It follows from this that the satisfaction of Christ has all the value which belongs to the obedience and sufferings of the eternal Son of God, and his righteousness, as well active as passive, is infinitely meritorious. This is what the Apostle clearly teaches in Hebrews ix. 13, 14: “For if the blood if bulls and of goats . . . . sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, 484how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through (or with) an eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” The superior efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ is thus referred to the infinitely superior dignity of his person.
It follows from the perfection of Christ’s satisfaction that it supersedes and renders impossible all other satisfactions for sin. The sufferings which justified believers are called upon to endure are not punishments, because not designed for the satisfaction of justice. They are chastisements intended for the benefit of the sufferer, the edification of the Church, and the glory of God. In this view all Protestant churches concur.
Romish Doctrine of Satisfaction.
Romanists, while on the one hand they exalt to the utmost the intrinsic value of Christ’s satisfaction, yet on the other hand they restrict its application. At one time, it was the prevalent doctrine in the Latin Church that the work of Christ availed only for the pardon of sins committed before baptism. With regard to post-baptismal sins, it was held either that they were unpardonable, or that atonement must be made for them by the sinner himself. This idea that the satisfaction of Christ avails only to the forgiveness of sins committed before conversion has been adopted by many Rationalists, as for example by Bretschneider.418418Dogmatik, part ii. ch. vi. 2, §§ 154-158, 3d edit. vol. ii. pp. 280-310. He says, “Für spätere Sünden der Christen gilt das Opfer Christi nicht, sondern es geht dem Sünder nur einmal, bei der Taufe, zu Gute.” “The sacrifice of Christ does not avail for the later sins of the Christian. It benefits the sinner only once, at his baptism.”419419Systematische Entwickelung, § 107, 4th edit. p. 624. What is more remarkable, Dr. Emmons, Puritan though he was, has very much the same idea. The only benefit we receive from Christ, he says, is the forgiveness of sins. This is granted when we believe. After that, we are rewarded or punished, not only according to but on account of our works.420420Works of Nathaniel Emmons, D. D., edit. by Jacob Ide, D. D. Boston, 1842, vol. v. Sermons 46, 47. The doctrine that post-baptismal sins are unpardonable, having been rejected as heretical, the Romish theologians adopted the theory that the satisfaction of Christ availed only to the remission of the penalty of eternal death; leaving the sinner bound to suffer the temporal punishment due to his transgressions or to make satisfaction for them.
The Romish doctrine of satisfactions arose out of a perversion of 485the penances imposed in the early ages upon the lapsed. Those penances were satisfactions rendered to the Church; that is, they were intended to satisfy the Church of the sincerity of the offender’s repentance. When they came to be regarded as satisfactions rendered to the justice of God, the theologians were obliged to adopt a theory to reconcile the Church practice with the doctrine of the infinitely meritorious satisfaction of Christ. That theory was that the satisfaction of Christ, infinite though it was in merit, was designed only to secure the remission of everlasting death. Temporal punishments and the pains of purgatory after death are still to be endured, at the discretion of the Church, as satisfactions for sins. This is not the place for the full discussion of this subject. It is enough to remark, (1.) That if, as the Scriptures teach, every sin deserves God’s wrath and curse, both in this life and in that which is to come, then it is out of all question for a sinner to make satisfaction for the least of all his sins. What he offers as the ground of pardon needs itself to be pardoned. This is so plain that Romanists have modified their theory so as in fact to destroy it, by teaching that the satisfaction rendered by penitents is accepted as such only for Christ’s sake. But if this be so then the satisfaction of Christ is all-sufficient, and is not confined to removing the penalty of eternal death. (2.) In the Bible, the work of Christ is said to cleanse from all sin. All other sacrifices and satisfactions are said to be utterly unavailing, even should a man give the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul. (3.) Those who believe in Christ are justified, says the Apostle, from all things. They are not under condemnation. No one can lay anything to their charge. They have peace with God. (4.) This doctrine of supplementary satisfaction is derogatory to Christ and destructive of the peace of the believer, reducing him to a slavish state, and putting his salvation in the hands of the priests. (5.) If Christ be our only priest his work is the only satisfaction for sin. All others are unnecessary and every other is impossible.
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