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Shedd on Edwards on the Atonement

December 5, 2007

I found the following from Shedd. It shows that Shedd, and most probably C Hodge, and Dabney, followed Jonathan Edwards on the atonement, rather than Owen. In the following comment you will see a model of the atonement which clearly rejects Owen’s transactionalist model:

It is needless to remark, that Edwards does not concede that the mere atonement itself gives any and every man a claim upon God for the benefits of the atonement, as is sometimes argued by the advocates of universal salvation. God is under no obligation to make an atonement for the sin of the world; and, after he has made one, he is at perfect liberty to apply it to whom he pleases, or not to apply it at all. The atonement is his, and not man’s, and he may do what he will with his own. Hence, according to Edwards, two distinct acts of sovereignty on the part of God are necessary in order to a soul’s salvation. The providing of an atonement in the first place, is a sovereign act; and then the application, or giving over, of the atonement, when provided, to any particular elected sinner, is a second act of sovereignty. The sufferings and death of Christ constitute the atonement; and even if not a single soul should appropriate it by the act of faith, it would be the same expiatory oblation still, though unapplied. Hence, the second of these sovereign acts is as necessary as the first, in order to salvation. But when both of these acts of sovereignty have taken place, when the atonement has been made, and has actually been given over to and accepted by an individual, then, says Edwards, it is a matter of strict justice that the penal claims of the law be not exacted from the believer, because this would be to exact them twice; once from Christ, and once from one to whom, by the supposition, Christ’s satisfaction has actually been made over by a sovereign act of God. For God to do this, would be to pour contempt upon his own atonement. It would be a confession that his own provision is insufficient to satisfy the claims of law, and needs to be supplemented by an additional infliction upon the believer. It would be an acknowledgment that the atonement, when it comes to be actually tested in an individual instance, fails to satisfy the claims of justice, and therefore is an entire failure. The sum of money which was given to the poor debtor, with the expectation that it was large enough completely to liquidate his debt, is found to fall short, and leaves him still in the debtor’s prison, from which he cannot come out ” until he has paid the uttermost farthing.” William Shedd, Discourses and Essays, (Andover: Warren F. Draper, 1862), 321 (footnote).

There are some good things there:

1) The rejection of the superficial transactionalism of Owen’s trilemma fallacy.
2) The true issue of double-payment asserted
3) Actual forgiveness and justification is truly of grace, and not a matter of transactional justice.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Martin permalink
    December 5, 2007 8:19 pm


    Any idea where Shedd finds these thoughts in Edwards?


  2. Flynn permalink
    December 5, 2007 11:18 pm

    No Martin. I thought I might try and search but I have not gotten to it. It does show that Edwards did in fact influence Shedd directly in this way. Its concrete evidence that there is a connection from the New England developments down to Shedd.


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