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John Brown of Haddington on the Removal of legal Obstacles by way of Andrew Robertson

March 24, 2009

John Brown:

1) After Dr Balmer had concluded, Dr Brown rose to give his sentiments. Premising his concurrence in what had been advanced by his professorial colleague, and referring to the published statement of his opinions, he proceeded to remark:–That he was equally persuaded, that, by divine appointment, the death of Jesus Christ removes the legal bars in the way of the salvation, and opens the door of mercy to all mankind, making if, consistent with the perfections of the divine character, and the principles of the divine government, to make a free offer of salvation to every human being, through the faith of the truth, and that, by the divine appointment, the death of Jesus Christ secures the actual salvation of those whom God,in sovereign mercy, from all eternity, elected to everlasting lifethat the order in which these two, equally true propositions should stand, seemed to him in a great measure, a matter of indifference–that he did not interfere with the Christian liberty of his brethren, in forming or expressing their sentiments as to the ordering the divine decrees respecting the atonement and its objects, so long as they did not throw doubt on one or other of these propositions, both of which seemed to him clearly stated in the Scriptures, and also in our subordinate Standards, but that he felt that ”such knowledge wee too wonderful for him, it was high, he could not attain to it:”–that the proposition Christ died for men,” had been held in three senses. In the sense of the Universalist, that Christ died so as to secure salvation, he held that he died only for the elect. In the sense of the Arminian, that Christ died to purchase easier terms of salvation, and common grace to enable men to comply with these terms, he held that he died for no man. In the sense of the great body of Calvinists, that Christ died to remove legal obstacles in the way of human salvation, by making a perfect satisfaction for sin, he held that he died for all menand whether in thus dying for all men, he expiated the sins of all men, or made atonement for all, depends on the sense you give to the terms expiation and atonement. In one sense he did notin another sense he did. That he firmly held the great doctrines respecting the purposes of grace, and the plan of salvation, usually taught under the head “of the covenant of grace.” That he believed Jesus Christ stood in peculiar relations to the elect when he suffered and died, as their representative and substitute, though at the same time, as suffering those evils which were the expression of the divine judicial displeasure against the sins of mankind, by suffering which the door of mercy has been set open to all, he might so far be viewed as the substitute of the race-the just one standing in the place of the unjust. Andrew Robertson, History of the Atonement Controversy, in Connexion with The Succession Church, From its Origin to the Present Time (Edinburgh: William Oliphant and Sons, 1846), 179-181.

2) (Dr Brown’s Synod Statement, p. 69.)–“The proposition ‘Christ died for men,’ has been employed in three different senses. In the sense that he did with the intention and to the effect of securing salvation, I hold that he died only for the elect. In the sense that he died to secure easier terms of salvation, and grace to enable men to comply with these terms, I hold that he died for no man. In the sense that he died to remove legal obstacles in the way of human salvation, and open a door of mercy, I hold that he died for all men; and whether, in thus dying for all, he expiated the sins of all, or made atonement for all, depends on the senses you affix to these expression. In one sense he did; in another sense he did not. I dislike all extreme statement–all startling expressions on this subject, and would equally shrink from saying that the death of Christ was intended to express no benignant regard, to produce no merciful results, except to the elect; and that it was intended to express no regard, to produce no results to the elect, but what it was intended to express and produce to all mankind. Neither of these modes of speaking seems to me to be words which become sound doctrine,’– ‘speech which cannot be condemned!”   Andrew Robertson, History of the Atonement Controversy, in Connexion with The Secession Church, From its Origin to the Present Time (Edinburgh: William Oliphant and Sons, 1846), 252.

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