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The Nature and Extent of the Atonement (5)


To those who allege, in the spirit of the Arminian school, that the love of Jesus consists only in applying the redemption, but not in procuring it, it is enough to say, that love, in the proper meaning of the term, is anterior to both. It would not be love if it were dissociated from the purpose and design of conferring on its objects every conceivable good which can either be procured or applied. And whenever Scripture speaks of the divine love, either in connection with the Father or with the Son, this is the import of the term. This fact, that love is only love to persons, and that the divine love finds out its objects over all impediments, enables us to obviate the two-fold love, which the Arminian writers suppose, and for which they argue in the interest of their views,—one preceding faith, and another following it. The former, they allege, is to all alike, and therefore cannot be regarded as in itself efficacious to any; the latter they describe as an increasing quantity, and as a sort of complacential approbation of a state of mind or mental act which is acceptable to God. But the redeeming love of Christ, as the source of all saving benefits, does not, properly speaking, receive additions or increase, though there may be, and doubtless are, ampler manifestations of it, as well as a keener sense of it on the mind. This is emphatically brought out by Paul, when he sets forth the immutable constancy and omnipotent efficacy of the divine love in a remarkable argument à fortiori (Rom. v. 5–11). He argues, that if God could set His love on the saints when we were yet sinners and enemies, without strength and ungodly, much more shall that love be continued to them when they are justified. The argument is, that if God’s love found an outlet to us when we were aliens and enemies, much more will it be continued now that we are friends. But the foundation of the whole argument is, that His love is special and redeeming love, and directed to individuals, whom God will never abandon or let go.

The text on which we already commented demonstrates the special love of Christ (John xv. 13). They for whom He died were the objects of supreme and special love, which of necessity secured their ultimate salvation. For them He must be considered as acting at every step; their names being on His heart in the same way as the names of the tribes of Israel were on the high priest’s breastplate. And the same special reference confronts us in every form. Thus He is described as loving His own that were in the world (John xiii. 1), which cannot be affirmed of all and every man, without distinction, and in precisely the same form. We have only to recall such phrases as co-suffering (1 Pet. iv. 1), cocrucifixion (Gal. ii. 20), co-dying (Rom. vi. 8), co-burying with Christ (Rom. vi. 4), to perceive that He bore the person of a chosen company, who are spoken of as doing what He did at every important turn of His history. It was for His own that He was incarnate (Heb. ii. 14); and He must be regarded, all through His history, as uniting Himself to His own, or as loving His own that were in the world, and loving them to the end (John xiii. 1). This special love, according to which He acted in the name of a chosen company, and laid down His life for them, is a love that finds them out over every impediment or hindrance. And it were to think unworthily of Christ, to suppose such a conjunction established between Him and the objects of redemption, as is presupposed in the very nature of this transaction, without the certain effect that salvation is secured to many by His death. It were as absurd as to suppose a king without subjects, a bridegroom, without a bride, a vine without branches, a head without the members.

—George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 377–379.

Posted 2018·06·13 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Arminianism/Pelagianism · Atonement · Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement · George Smeaton · Limited Atonement

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