This article will present the patience and providence of God as a proof of universal aspects in the atonement.
I. The Requirements of Justice.
The moment Adam sinned, he forfeited all right to the blessings of God. If Adam had obeyed, the bestowal of the blessing would have been without delay. Likewise, when he sinned, the full curse would have fallen without delay unless there was a provision of God to stay the infliction of the penalty, for a wise purpose. "God has revealed Himself to be too holy to look on sin with allowance. His holiness and justice, therefore, require, not only the execution of the penal sanctions of law but that execution should immediately follow transgression . . . . Without a Mediator there could have been no reprieve, no delay, no abatement of the penal requirements of the law. The human family, would, consequently have been extirpated early in the world's history," William C. Buck, "The Philosophy of Religion," page 64, 66.
That is to say that God's justice required two things: immediate withdrawal of blessings and instant infliction of the penalty. Any theory that claims that patience and providence grow from His attributes without just satisfaction destroys altogether His holiness and righteousness.
II. The Facts of Patience and Providence.
No further reproof of these is needed than to note how long a sinful world has run and how many blessings even the worst of men have enjoyed in this life.
III. The Ground of Patience and Providence.
This is the heart of this discussion. Some explanation of the facts of patience and providence in God's dealings with sinful men must be sought. To say that as a sovereign, God does it without satisfaction is in principle to deny the necessity of the atonement. Because of the widespread confusion on t1:lis theme, we introduce the testimony of several important writers. Add this to what we have just quoted from Buck, "The fact that Adam and Eve survived the breach of the law a single day, is proof positive that the penalty of the law was arrested by the mediatorial scheme" (page 97).
E. Y. Mullins, "The Christian Religion," page 336, "God's anger against human sin is restrained in order that men may repent."
Jonathan Edwards, "A History of the World of Redemption," page 28, "There was mercy in the forbearance of God that He did not destroy man, as He did the angels when they fell. But there is no mercy exercised towards man except through a mediator."
Smith, "System of Christian Theology," page 479, "All men receive some benefits from the atonement. . . . The continuance of probation and many temporal blessings."
Evans, "The Great Doctrines of the Bible," page 45, "If God dealt with them in justice, they would have been cut off long before."
A. A. Hodge. "The Atonement," page 358f. "The instant damnation of the heads of the race, or the introduction of a scheme of redemption, appear to be the only possible alternatives. But the scheme of redemption is conditioned exclusively upon the expiatory work of Christ . . . . The entire history of the human race, from the apostasy to the final judgment is, as Candlish says, "a dispensation of forbearance in respect to the reprobate, in which many blessings, physical and moral, affecting their characters and destinies forever, accrue even to the heathen."
B. H. Carroll, "Studies in Romans," pages 30 and 34, "The original penalty due to Adam's sin was suspended by the intervention of the gospel of Jesus Christ under a probation of grace. From that day all men, whether Jews or Gentiles, have been freed from the immediate execution of that divine wrath . . . . In Christ God bears with the sins of the heathen in a way that the law could not bear."
These Scriptures need to be pondered just here. "And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them who do such things and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasureth up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God," Romans 2:3-5. There is no doubt that the man so addressed was lost, at least some of them; yet they rejected His goodness. And a goodness of God toward lost men that is not thru Christ is love of evil.
The longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah" I Peter 3:20. "Account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation," II Peter 3:15.
Some object, "If Christ died for all men, then He died for many who were already in hell." Exactly so. The light of the cross shined back to the garden of Eden as well as forward to the end of this age. The delay in the penalty in Old Testament times was, prospective of the cross; the delay today is retrospective of the cross. His forbearance in each age is grounded on the death of Christ and proves one phase of its universality. Cain and Abel both shared in benefits from the coming atonement of Christ, but not in the same degree. God, patiently waited before the final punishment fell on Cain; Abel knew the fullness of redemption thru the blood that speaketh better things than his own. The antediluvians and Noah's family shared in the influences of Christ's death but in no wise in the same degree. Noah's family rode to safety above the flood of divine wrath in Christ the Ark. The others felt the strivings of the Spirit of God and the repeated appeals of Noah.
"There were false prophets . . . . even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction." II Peter 2:1. None seem to doubt that these went to hell. Therefore, if we can establish the fact that the death of Christ touched them, we have proven our conviction that some for who Christ died do actually go to hell. The most common dodge offered on this passage is that "the Lord" refers to God the Father and not to Jesus Christ. From this they conclude that Christ's death was for them in no sense. We grant that it may refer to God the Father. But we as readily ask what effect that has on the issue before us? We answer, "Absolutely none," and proceed to give the proof, not dodges or opinions. How could the Father buy or purchase any blessings to men, either temporal or spiritual blessings? For men who have forfeited because of their sins even the right to live, the Father cannot consistently buy any blessing for them except thru the death of Christ. To deny this is to deny the whole fabric of justice and mercy consistent with justice. We challenge anyone to disprove this fact, either Hardshell Baptists or any from our own ranks.
"We trust in the living God Who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe," I Timothy 4:10. The objectors claim that God is the beneficent and providential Protector and Preserver of all men. They acknowledge that He is the special Savior of those that believe. By what line of reasoning is Savior different for all and for believers? The specialty here is more in the degree of the benefit than in the nature and ground of it. The thing that kills their theory is that the ground of each is wholly in Christ Jesus.
But let us grant that it means no more than that he is the providential Preserver of all men? What does God as Judge owe all men? All sinful men deserve wrath; unmixed with mercy or leniency. To be merciful would destroy justice. On what ground can a rebellious sinner receive protection? Only on the ground of mercy, and all mercy comes thru the cross of Jesus. The argument proves too much for those who deny any universal element in His death. It is the climax of blunders for Calvinistic theologians to speak of Savior (whether the Father or the Son) in connection with sinful men apart from the cross. That makes a dangerous approach to Modernism . Brother follow your theory to its logical conclusion or renounce it and come to the truth. Therefore, we conclude that there is without doubt a universal element in the death of Christ, and we are willing to let the opposition be the judges.
[From Roy O. Beaman, editor, The West Kentucky Bible School Voice paper, Murray, KY, February, 1936, pp. 1-2. The document is from Boyce Digital Library, Archives and Special Collections, SBTS, Louisville, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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