The Atonement In Christian Consciousness -- By: William Henry Walker

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 077:306 (Apr 1920)
Article: The Atonement In Christian Consciousness
Author: William Henry Walker


The Atonement In Christian Consciousness

William Henry Walker, Ph.D.

“Now I saw in my dream that he ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending, and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream that just as Christian came up with the cross his burden loosed from off his shoulder, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more. Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said with a merry heart, ‘He hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death.’ Then he stood still awhile to look and wonder, for it was very surprising to him, that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden.”

With these words does Bunyan describe the experience of the Christian in the forgiveness of his sins. They were written well nigh two hundred and fifty years ago, yet they find a response in every age. From Paul, “reconciled unto God by the death of his Son,” through Augustine, Thomas k Kempis, Luther, Wesley, down to the brutal murderer whom Dr. W. J. Dawson found at midnight in his death cell singing,

“What though my sins as mountains rise,”

the experience is fundamentally the same. Accompanying circumstances and conditions are as varied as human nature -and the characteristics of widely different ages, but the fundamental fact is ever the same. The Christian life begins, not with an act of self-assertion, but with one of self-surrender — with a “making connection with the higher powers,” as Professor James vaguely and yet correctly describes it; and out of that connection comes an experience of relief.

Analyzing this fundamental fact of Christian experience there will be found these elements: First, the Christian knows himself to be forgiven, and forgiveness means the

restoration of immediate fellowship with God. Secondly, he knows that this forgiveness is immeasurably precious, and hence immeasurably costly. He has been redeemed “not with corruptible things, as silver and gold,” but with something infinitely more precious. Thirdly, he knows that that cost has not been paid by himself. The forgiven man is a grateful man because of the immeasurably costly boon which he has received. Fourthly, the cost of this immeasurably costly boon is indissolubly associated with the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ. Fifthly, this costly forgiveness flows out of the boundless grace of his Heavenly Father.

It might be difficult to secure unanimous assent to these propositions, but that is due to the fact that a meaning has been attached to...

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