John McLeod Campbell’s Theory Of The Atonement -- By: Edwards A. Park

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 030:118 (Apr 1873)
Article: John McLeod Campbell’s Theory Of The Atonement
Author: Edwards A. Park


John McLeod Campbell’s Theory Of The Atonement

Prof. Edwards A. Park

There have somewhat recently passed from earth three men, Thomas Erskine, Frederick Denison Maurice, and John McLeod Campbell, who were not only personal friends, but were also closely allied with each other in many doctrinal views and philanthropic tendencies. Of these three authors Dr. Campbell is the least celebrated in this country. He has been well known in Scotland since the publication of two volumes of his sermons in 1831–32.1 The work, however, by which he has been made known most extensively is an octavo volume of three hundred and eighty-two pages, entitled, “The Nature of the Atonement, and its, Relation to Remission of Sins and Eternal Life.”2 The same spirit which breathes through this treatise is characteristic of another work which he published on “Christ the Bread of Life.” 3 This spirit is one of sobriety, candor, mildness, conscientiousness, meekness, and benevolence. Dr. Campbell was a man not of extensive learning, but of profound thoughtfulness. His style is hard and often obscure. He wrote as he con-

versed, slowly and with obvious painstaking. His views of the atonement occasioned an animated discussion in the Presbyterian church of Scotland, and called forth able essays, pamphlets, books, and chapters of other books; and brought down upon him a severe ecclesiastical censure.4 The present Article is designed not to comment on these views, but to state them. It is not possible, perhaps, to give such an abstract as will fairly and fully represent them. The general character of them, however, may perhaps be apparent in the following irregular compend.

Mr. Campbell opens his discussion with the remark, that the chief questions with regard to the atonement are these three: “1st. For whom was it made? 2d. What was it intended to accomplish? 3d. What has it been in itself?” or, 1st. What is its extent? 2d. What is its designed result? 3d. What is its nature? (pp. 1, 2.) The answer to the first two of these questions depends on the answer to the

third. If Christ endured the real punishment of sinners, and performed the exact obedience required of them, then he must have died for the elect alone, and he must have secured for them a title, in strict justice, to eternal life. The most momentous, then, of the questions with regard to the atonement, is: What is its nature?

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