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§ 3. Doctrine of the Scotists and Remonstrants.
While Protestants and the Church generally have held the doctrine that the satisfaction of Christ, because of the dignity of his person and the nature and degree of his sufferings was and is infinitely meritorious, absolutely perfect from its intrinsic worth, and completely efficacious in its application to all the sins of the believer, the Scotists in the Middle Ages, and after them Grotius and the Remonstrants, denied that the work of Christ had inherent 486value to satisfy divine justice, but said that it was taken as a satisfaction, acceptatione gratuita. The propositions laid down by Anselm, in his epoch-making book, “Cur Deus Homo?” were, “(1.) Quod necessarium fuit hominem redimi. (2.) Quod non potuit redimi sine satisfactione. (3.) Quod facienda erat satisfactio a Deo homine. (4.) Quod convenientior modus fuit hic, scilicet per passionem Christi.” The argument of Anselm is founded on the assumption that the pardon of sin required an infinite satisfaction, i.e., a satisfaction of infinite merit, which could only be rendered by a person of infinite dignity. This principle, and all the propositions founded upon it, Duns Scotus contested. He advanced the opposite principle, namely, “Tantum valet omne creatum oblatum, pro quanto Deus acceptat.” Therefore any man might have satisfied for his own sins; or one man for the sins of all men, had God seen fit so to ordain. “Meritum Christi,” he says, “fuit finitum, quia a principio finito essentialiter dependens. Non enim Christus quatenus Deus meruit, sed quatenus homo.” This principle became the foundation of the doctrine of the Remonstrants on the work of Christ, and of the work of Grotius, “De Satisfactione Christi.” Limborch421421Theologia Christiana, III. xxi. 6; edit. Amsterdam, 1700, p. 255. says, “Satisfactio Christi dicitur, qua pro nobis pœnas omnes luit peccatis nostris debitas, easque perferendo et exhauriendo divinæ justitiæ satisfecit. Verum illa sententia nullum habet in Scriptura fundamentum. Mors Christi vocatur sacrificium pro peccato; atqui sacrificia non sunt solutiones debitorum, neque plenariæ pro peccatis satisfactiones; sed illis peractis conceditur gratuita peccati remissio. In eo errant quam maxime, quod velint redemtionis pretium per omnia æquivalens esse debere miseriæ illi, e qua redemtio fit. Redemtionis pretium enim constitui solet pro libera æstimatione illius qui captivum detinet, non autem solvi pro captivi merito.”422422Ibid. III. xxi. 8; ut supra, p. 256. Curcellæus, another distinguished Remonstrant, or Arminian theologian, says the same thing:423423Opera Theologica, edit. Amsterdam, 1675, p. 300. “Non ergo, ut vulgo putant, satisfecit [Christus] patiendo omnes pœnas, quas peccatis nostris merueramus. Nam primo, istud ad sacrificii rationem non pertinet. . . . . Sacrificia enim non sunt solutiones debitorum. . . . . Secundo, Christus non est passus mortem æternam quæ erat pœna peccato debita, nam paucis tantum horis in cruce prependit, et tertia die resurrexit ex mortuis. Imo etiamsi mortem æternam pertulisset, non videtur satisfacere potuisse pro omnibus totius mundi peccatis. Hæc enim fuisset tantum una 487mors, quæ omnibus mortibus, quas singuli pro suis peccatis meruerant, non æquivaluisset.”
It is obvious that the objections presented in the above extracts arise from confounding pecuniary with judicial or legal satisfaction. There is an analogy between them, and, therefore, on the ground of that analogy it is right to say that Christ assumed and paid our debts. The analogy consists, first, in the effect produced, namely, the certain deliverance of those for whom the satisfaction is made; secondly, that a real equivalent is paid; and, thirdly, that in both cases justice requires that the liberation of the obligee should take place. But, as we have already seen, the two kinds of satisfaction differ, first, in that in penal satisfaction the demand is not for any specific degree or kind of suffering; secondly, that while the value of pecuniary satisfaction is independent entirely of the person by whom the payment is made, in the other case everything depends on the dignity of him by whom the satisfaction is rendered; and, thirdly, that the benefits of a penal satisfaction are conferred according to the terms or conditions of the covenant in pursuance of which it is offered and accepted.
The principle that a thing avails for whatever God chooses to take it, which is the foundation of the doctrine that Christ’s work was not a satisfaction in virtue of its intrinsic worth but only by the gracious acceptance of God, cannot be true. For, —
1. It amounts to saying that there is no truth in anything. God may (if such language may be pardoned) take anything for anything; a whole for a part, or a part for the whole; truth for error, or error for truth; right for wrong, or wrong for right; the blood of a goat for the blood of the Eternal Son of God. This is impossible. The nature of God is immutable, — immutable reason, truth, and goodness; and his nature determines his will and his judgments. Therefore it is impossible that He should take that to be satisfaction which is not really such.
2. The principle in question involves the denial of the necessity of the work of Christ. It is inconceivable that God should send his only begotten Son into the world to suffer and die if the same end could have been accomplished in any other way. If every man could atone for his own sins, or one man for the sins of the whole world, then Christ is dead in vain.
3. If this doctrine be true then it is not true that it is impossible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. If every creatum oblatum tantum valet, pro quanto Deus acceptat, 488then why might not the Old Testament sacrifices have sufficed to take away sin? What rendered them inefficacious was their own inherent worthlessness. And what renders the satisfaction of Christ effectual is its own inherent value.
4. The Scriptures teach the necessity of the death of Christ, not only by implication, but also by direct assertion. In Galatians ii. 21, the Apostle says, “If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” This means that if the righteousness necessary for the salvation of men could have been secured in any other way the whole work of Christ is a matter of supererogation, an unnecessary expenditure of what was beyond all price. Still more explicit is his language in Galatians iii. 21: “If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” It is here asserted that if any other method could have availed to save sinners it would have been adopted. Our Lord, in Luke xxiv. 26, asks, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things?” There was an obligation, or necessity, which demanded his sufferings if the salvation of sinners was to be accomplished. The Apostle again, in Hebrews ii. 10, says, “It became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” There was a necessity for the sufferings of Christ, and that necessity was not merely governmental, nor for the accumulating moral power over the sinner’s heart, but it arose out of the nature of God. It became Him. It was consonant with his perfections and character, which is the highest conceivable kind of necessity.
5. What the Scriptures teach of the justice of God leads to the same conclusion. Justice is a form of moral excellence. It belongs to the nature of God. It demands the punishment of sin. If sin be pardoned it can be pardoned in consistency with the divine justice only on the ground of a forensic penal satisfaction. Therefore the Apostle says (Romans iii. 25), that God sent forth Christ as a propitiation through faith in his blood, in order that God might be just in justifying the ungodly.
6. The Scriptures, in representing the gift of Christ as the highest conceivable exhibition of the divine love, do thereby teach, first, that the end to be accomplished was worthy of the sacrifice; and, secondly, that the sacrifice was necessary to the attainment of the end. If the end could have been otherwise attained there would have been no exhibition of love in the gift of Christ for its accomplishment.489
7. All that the Bible teaches of the truth of God; of the immutability of the law; of the necessity of faith; of the uselessness and worthlessness of all other sacrifices for sin; and of the impossibility of salvation except through the work of the incarnate Son of God, precludes the idea that his satisfaction was not necessary to our salvation, or that any other means could have accomplished the object. And if thus absolutely necessary, it must be that nothing else has worth enough to satisfy the demands of God’s law. It is the language and spirit of the whole Bible, and of every believing heart in relation to Christ that his “blood alone has power sufficient to atone.”
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