Justification and Praise in the Atonement of Christ

I was in Half Price book’s off of Army Trail rd. and I saw this book on atonement in the antique section. Turns out this copy was published in 1886 and delivered to the recipient that very Christmas (according to the note in the front page). Further proof of this is a note written on a peace of paper with the year 1930 on it. Pretty sweet stuff. The author is a man named Lewis Edwards, a theologian attached to the Calvinistic Methodist movement. Apparently that is not an Oxy moron or contradiction in terms but in fact a real movement! He is really deep and covers a whole lot of ground in an interesting narrative style in the form of a student/ professor dialog. Here are two sections close in page numbers which compliment each other. The first is a quote from a somewhat liberal German theologian named Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette (1780-1849). What is interesting about this quote is it’s orthodoxy. I thought it was a great wrap up of Justification in relation to atonement. The second section is a praise uttered later by the student in response to the doctrine of atonement. Long but worth the read.

Teacher: Pages 147-150

“And what seems at first sight more strange is that the keenest minds among the Germans– who deny the full inspiration of the Bible– still hold this doctrine. Yet, on second thought, it is not so strange; for they have no wish to attack or defend a theological views. One of the foremost in this class is De Wette, and his exposition of the words, “the righteousness of God” (Rom. 1:17), is as follows:

“The Greek word, as well as the Hebrew, sometimes denotes virtue or piety, which men possess or seek; sometimes it has an imputative meaning, and denotes deliverance from condemnation– that is, justification. The latter signification is the most usual in the writings of Paul; ‘righteousness’ is what is righteous before God (Rom. 2:13), the effect of His legal justifying judgment, or the result of imputation (Rom. 4:5). It is true that the supposition may be made that a man attains justification by keeping the law; in that case his righteousness would be ‘his own righteousness’ (Rom 5:3), ‘the righteousness of the law; (Phil. 3:9). But it is impossible for him to attain righteousness of his own, so as to render him acceptable before God (Rom. 3:21; Gal. 2:16). The Jews not only did not keep the law (Rom. 3:9-19), but could not keep it (Rom. 7:7, &c); and the Gentiles in like manner have exposed themselves to the wrath of God (Rom. 1:24-32). God has ordained that all should be shut up in disobedience. If man, then, from being unrighteous is to become righteous, that cannot be except by the grace of God, namely, by God’s declaring him righteous, accounting him just, justifying him (Rom. 3:24; Gal. 3:8). The Greek word translated ‘to justify’ signifies, not only negatively to, set free, like the Hebrew word in Exod. 23:7; Isa. 5:23; Rom. 2:13; but also positively to declare righteous; but not to make righteous by transmitting or communicating the moral power from which perfect morality springs. The correct meaning of ‘justification’ is the one adopted by the Protestant theologians, who understood it in a forensic sense; that is, as the result of imputation. God justifies for the sake of Christ (Rom. 3:22, &c.), on the condition of faith in Him as Mediator. The result of His justification is righteousness of faith; and, because it is given freely, it is the righteousness of God or from God (Phil. 3:9). So Chrysostom, Ruckert, Reiche, Meyer. This justification is certainly an objective act of God; but it must be received also inwardly, because the condition is inward. It includes deliverance from guilt and peace of conscience, which are attained through faith in the grace of God in Christ; the same disposition of mind which would be proper to a perfectly righteous man, if such there were; in others words, the mind is in harmony and peace with God. Every exposition is erroneous that leaves out the fact of imputation.”

On the word “faith,” in the same verse, he says:

“Faith is trust, that is–

  1. The acceptance of any truth in full trust in respect to knowledge; that is, conviction.
  2. The reliance of the mind in full trust in respect to feeling. Here it is to be taken more especially in the later sense, trust reposed in the grace of God in Christ, calming the mind and freeing it from all guilt– especially, trust in the atoning death of Christ. With this is connected– not by the meaning of the word, but by the idea of unconditional trust which shuts out every exception– humility of mind in full renunciation of every merit on the part of the man himself, and recognition of his own unworthiness and need of salvation.

Disciple: Pages 162-165

One result of the whole discussion upon my mind is to deepen my belief in the inspiration of the Bible. This thought sounds like some deep chord underneath, and in harmony with all that is said. By this time I almost think the internal evidence is after all the strongest. Here is revealed a plan which man by his own wisdom could never have conceived. It is clear that it is not the product of the Jewish imagination, for to the Jews it was an offense; and it is equally clear that no inquiring Greek discovered it, for to the Greeks it was foolishness. yet we find that this is the only plan which is in harmony with the instinctive impressions that exist in the mind of every man respecting the evil of sin and his lost condition. Not to speak of the demands of the law of God, no other plan supplies the need of man and answers the questions of his conscience. Whatever some philosophers may say, we feel that there is an essential difference between sin and holiness. We feel that sin is evil in itself, and that holiness is good in itself. We feel that sin in itself deserves punishment. To deny this is the same as to deny that there is conscience in man. When I read or hear of some heinous crime, I wish the transgressor to be punished, and it angers me to be told that he has escaped. This appears to me a healthy feeling, implanted in me by the Creator, and I would not for anything lose it, in spite of all the preaching nowadays of the gospel of treacle, as Carlyle calls it, which has made one unwholesome mixture of good and evil, having more pity on evildoers than on the poor, and attempting to sweep all punishments out of the world. I speak strongly because I am conscious of having been injured by this doctrine, and I conscientiously believe you ought to write against it. Unhealthy sentimentalism of this sort is at the root of most of the opposition shown in our days to the doctrine of eternal punishment, the manifestations under the Old Testament of God’s hatred of sin, and the doctrine of the atonement as it is related to righteousness. But, as Socrates observes in the Phaedo, that pleasure and pain are like two bodies meeting in one head, so that the one cannot be without the other; in the same way, with greater propriety, it may be said that love of holiness and hatred of sin are inseparable. Sincere hatred of the evil obliges us to love the good, and sincere love of the good necessitates our hating the evil. Now, if this principle be admitted, I fail to see how it is possible to reject the conclusions for which you contend. Our conscience declares that sin ought to be punished; consequently, no theory can satisfy the conscience which does not teach that. The merited punishment has been suffered by another Person, who stands in so close a relation to us, that His sufferings answer the same purpose in view of the principles of righteousness, and, as a consequence, produce the same effect of appeasing the conscience, as if we had suffered the punishment of ourselves– a Person in virtue of our relation to whom we are raised into a perfectly righteous state: “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peace of conscience undoubtedly is meant here, and if the commentators had but borne this in mind, they would not have objected so generally to the reading of the oldest manuscripts, “ Let us have peace towards God.” As you have observed, we cannot comprehend this relation between Christ and His people; but that only proves that the revelation of such a doctrine is of God.

Edwards, Lewis. The Doctrine of Atonement. London: Hodder and Stoughton. 1886. Print.


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