common conscience, over and above the finite and individual conscience. That common conscience is one in all moral beings. John Watson: ?There is no consciousness of self apart from the consciousness of other selves and things, and no consciousness of the world apart from the consciousness of the single Reality presupposed in both.? This single Reality is Jesus Christ, the manifested God, the Light that lighteth every man, and the Life of all that Eves ( <430104>John 1:4, 9. He can represent humanity before God, because his immanent Deity constitutes the very essence of humanity.

(e) While Christ?s love explains his willingness to endure suffering for us, only his holiness furnishes the reason for that constitution of the universe and of human nature which makes this suffering necessary. As respects us, his sufferings are substitutive, since his divinity and his sinless nature enable him to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. Yet this substitution is also a sharing, not the work of one external to us, but of one who is the life of humanity, the soul of our soul and the life of our life and so responsible with us for the sins of the race.

Most of the recent treatises on the Atonement have been descriptions of the effects of the Atonement upon life and character but have thrown no light upon the Atonement itself, if indeed they have not denied its existence. We must not emphasize the effects by ignoring the cause. Scripture declares the ultimate aim of the Atonement to be that God ?might himself be just? ( <450326>Romans 3:26) and no theory of the atonement will meet the demands of reason or conscience that does not ground its necessity in God?s righteousness, rather than in his love. We acknowledge that our conceptions of atonement have suffered some change. To our fathers the atonement was a mere historical fact, a sacrifice offered in a few brief hours upon the Cross. It was a literal substitution of Christ?s suffering for ours, the payment of our debt by another and upon the ground of that payment we are permitted to go free. Those sufferings were soon over, and the hymn, ?Love?s Redeeming Work is Done,? expressed the believer?s joy in a finished redemption. And all this is true but it is only a part of the truth. The atonement, like every other doctrine of Christianity, is a fact of life and such facts of life cannot be crowded into our definitions because they are greater than any definitions that we can frame. We must add to the idea of substitution the idea of sharing. Christ?s doing and suffering is not that of one external and foreign to us. He is bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh; the bearer of our humanity; yes, the very life of the race.

<- Previous Table of Contents Next ->

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment