The Atonement, A Satisfaction For The Ethical Nature Of Both God And Man -- By: W. G. T. Shedd

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 016:64 (Oct 1859)
Article: The Atonement, A Satisfaction For The Ethical Nature Of Both God And Man
Author: W. G. T. Shedd


The Atonement, A Satisfaction For The Ethical Nature Of Both God And Man

Prof. William G. T. Shedd

It is a very important question whether, in the reconciliation of man with God, the change of feeling and relationship that confessedly occurs between the parties, is solely upon the side of man, or whether that method which proposes to bring about peace and harmony between the sinner and his Judge, contains a provision that refers immediately to the being and ethical nature of God. Is the Divine Essence absolutely passive, and entirely unaffected by the propitiatory death of Christ, and is all the movement and affection that occurs confined to human nature; or is there in the Godhead itself, by virtue of its essential nature and quality, something that requires a judicial satisfaction for sin, and which when satisfied produces the specific sense of satisfaction, or, to use a Biblical term, of “propitiation,” in the Deity himself? In short, is the reconciliation of man with God merely and wholly subjective, an occurrence in the human soul but no real event and fact in the Divine Mind? Is the sinner merely reconciled to God, God remaining precisely the same towards him that He is irrespective of the work of Christ, and antecedent to his appropriation of that work; or does God first, by and through a judicial infliction, of his own providing and his own enduring in the person of the Son, — Himself the judge, Himself the priest, Himself the sacrifice,1 — conciliate his own holy justice towards

the guilty, and thereby lay the foundation for the consciousness of reconciliation in the penitent?

The phraseology of scripture teaches, beyond a doubt, that the transaction of reconciliation is not confined exclusively to human nature. We are told, for example, by the apostle John, that “Jesus Christ the righteous is the propitiation for our sins.”2 Propitiation is the strong word employed to denote the real nature of Christ’s work by that mild and loving apostle whose intuition of Christianity some Biblical critics would array against that of Paul, and in whose writings they profess to find only the doctrine of spiritual life and sanctification, and not that of expiation and justification. But this term certainly implies two parties, — an offending and an offended one. “A mediator,” argues Paul, in his Epistle to the Galatians, “is not a mediator of one;” that is, in order to mediation, there must be two persons between whom to mediate. In like manner, propitiation implies that one being has wakened the just displeasure of another being, and that the latter needs to be...

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