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Charles Hodge on the Removal of Legal Obstacles

December 16, 2008

Charles Hodge:

1) In assuming this ground, he is guilty of the same one-sidedness, the same contracted view, which he exhibits in his doctrine concerning the nature of the atonement. It is conceded that the work of Christ does lay the foundation for the offer of salvation to all men. Dr. Beman hence concludes that this was its only end; that it merely opens the way for the general offer of pardon. His theory is designed to account for one fact, and leaves all the other revealed facts out of view, and unexplained. The Bible teaches, however, a great deal more in relation to this subject, than that one fact. It teaches, 1. That Christ came in execution of a purpose; that he suffered, as Dr. Beman expresses it, by covenant, and ratified that covenant with his own blood. 2. That his mission was the result and expression of the highest conceivable love. 3. That it not merely removes obstacles out of the way, but actually secures the salvation of his people. 4. That it lays the foundation for a free, full, and unrestrained offer of salvation to all men. 5. That it renders just the condemnation of those who reject him as their Saviour ; that rejection being righteously the special ground of their condemnation. Charles Hodge, “Beman on the Atonement,” Essays and Reviews, in (New York, Robert Carter & Brothers, 1857), 175.

2) Dr. Beman’s theory, therefore, which denies that the death of Christ had a special reference to his own people, is inconsistent with the plainly revealed facts : 1. That he died in execution of a covenant in which his people were promised to him as his reward, to secure which reward is declared to be his specific and immediate design in laying down his life. 2. That the motive which led to the gift of the Son, and of the Son in dying, was not general benevolence, but the highest conceivable love, love for his sheep and for his friends. 3. That the design of his death was not simply to remove obstacles out of the way of mercy, but actually to secure the salvation of those given to him by the Father ; and that it does in fact secure for them the gift of the Holy Ghost, and consequently justification and eternal life…

These suppositions are made simply to show that, according to our doctrine, the reason why any man perishes is not that there is no righteousness provided suitable and adequate to his case, or that it is not freely offered to all that hear the gospel, but simply because he wilfully rejects the proffered salvation. Our doctrine, therefore, provides for the universal offer of the gospel, and for the righteous condemnation of unbelievers, as thoroughly as Dr. Beman’s. It opens the door for mercy, as far as legal obstructions are concerned, as fully as his: while it meets all the other revealed facts of the case. It is not a theory for one fact. It includes them all; the fact that Christ died by covenant for his own people, that love for his own sheep led him to lay down his life, that his death renders their salvation absolutely certain, that it opens the way for the offer of salvation to all men, and shows the justice of the condemnation of unbelief. No MAN PERISHES FOR THE WANT OF AN ATONEMENT, is the doctrine of the Synod of Dort ; it is also our doctrine. Charles Hodge, “Beman on the Atonement,” in Essays and Reviews, (New York, Robert Carter & Brothers, 1857), 181-2.

3) III. The design of God in giving his Son was that men should not perish but have everlasting life. The perdition to which they were exposed included eternal misery and eternal sinfulness. The salvation includes deliverance from that perdition, and eternal holiness and eternal blessedness.

2. It is here, as well as elsewhere taught, that it was the design of God to render the salvation of all men possible, by the gift of his Son. There was nothing in the nature, or the value, or the design of his work to render it available for any one class of men only. Whosoever believeth, etc. This is not inconsistent with other representations that it entered into God’s design to render the salvation of his people certain by the death of his Son. Charles Hodge, ‘God So Loved the World,” in Conference Papers, (New York, Charles, Scribner’s Sons, 1879), 17.

4) The final test of any theory is its agreeing or disagreeing with the facts to be explained. The difficulty with all the Anti-Augustinian views as to the design of Christ’s death, is that while they are consistent with more or less of the Scriptural facts connected with the subject, they are utterly irreconcilable with others not less clearly revealed and equally important. They are consistent, for example, with the fact that the work of Christ lays the foundation for the offer of the gospel to all men, with the fact that men are justly condemned for the rejection of that offer; and with the fact that the Scriptures frequently assert that the work of Christ had reference to all men. All these facts can be accounted for on the assumption, that the great design of Christ’s death was to make the salvation of all men possible, and that it had to every member of our race. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 2:553.

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