God’s Cure For Sin
If I were asked for the shortest answer I could give to the important question, “What is God’s cure for sin,” I would say, that God’s cure for sin is God himself. Sin is dethroning God from the soul, while holiness is enthroning Him. The root of sin is rebellion against God, and turning Him out of the human temple; while the beginning and the end of righteousness is a humble acceptance of the rule of God and placing Him in the heart,—in the centre of the will and the affections and crowning Him Lord of all. When the sinner thus turns to God his sin is cured and his iniquity is purged.
This may appear to be putting salvation from sin in a new way, but in the last analysis this is the answer of the Bible, and this is the pith or the sum and substance of the teaching of Jesus. But usually there are many steps to take before this final step can be taken, and there are many conditions to meet before the sinner is ready or able to come back to God, while many influences appear to be necessary to incline him to do so. But the question as to God’s cure for sin may be said to have a Godward and a man-ward answer.
The Godward answer to this question. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life,” is a statement which clearly suggests God’s method of curing sin, and the same writer of the above (I John 3:5-9) also states, “And ye know that He was manifested to take away sins; and in Him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither knoweth Him. My little children, let no man lead you astray: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous : he that doeth sin is of the Devil; for the Devil sinneth from the beginning. To this end was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the Devil. Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because His seed abideth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God.”
I do not think in the entire range of literature language can be found which more perspicuously states its subject matter. John doubtless means what he says and he states it in a way which is unmistakably clear.
I have never heard or read a clear and logical theory of the atonement of Jesus, and I doubt if one can be given. I think I have examined most of the human theories that have been advocated, but not one of them to my thinking will stand the test of either reason or Scripture.
The three main theories of the atonement may be summarized as (1) The Sacrificial, (2) The Remedial, and (3) The Moral Influence Theory. Thirty years ago I heard these theories debated by men of great ability before some of the most cultured audiences in London, England, and there always seemed to me to be a lack in each of them. None of them in my estimation can square itself with the Scriptures. Bach attributes to God and to Jesus, qualities which they do not possess. No doubt there is truth in each theory, but not all the truth, and one turns to the story as told in the New Testament, with great relief; but the writers of the New Testament make no attempt to give a theory, they simply state a fact. Jesus gave no theory of atonement, but stated clearly what His mission was.
I most reverently and unequivocally accept the statement of the New Testament, that God gave His son Jesus Christ to the world to save the world; that His life and teaching and suffering and death and resurrection and ascension, in some way, wrought out the at-one-meant of the world with God; that through this great atonement rebels, on laying down their arms, are taken back by God, that the moral and spiritually diseased who desire it, are cured of their maladies, that bad men may be transformed into good men and sinners born again into saints.
The Commercial theory of the atonement growing out of the sacrificial theory, whether as interpreted by Universalists or old school Calvinists, seems to me to be dishonoring to God and hurtful to man. The Universalist theory is, or at least was, that Jesus died for the world, that He paid the debt which the world owed to God, and that therefore the whole world will be saved. The Calvinistic theory in like manner, is that Jesus died for the elect, and made full recompense to God for their sins, and as a consequence all the elect will be saved. Now it must be said that both of these theories are logical if their premises are correct, or if in a commercial sense Jesus actually paid a debt. But the premises are clearly wrong, for Jesus did not in a commercial sense pay a debt, else God would have nothing to forgive.
But the popular theory, if indeed it is a theory, has not even the poor virtue of being logical, for while it claims that Jesus paid the debt which sinners owe to God, it also claims that God will collect that debt from the sinner unless he repents. This represents God as being paid twice for the same debt, which would appear to be unfair. To teach that the atonement is the payment of a debt, except in a poetic or in an allegorical way, is not scriptural, because it is neither true nor sensible, and the Scriptures are both.
Another outgrowth of this theory in effect, represents God as being angry with Jesus and punishing Him for the sins of the world, whereas God never was angry with Jesus but always well pleased with Him. Then to picture God as unwilling to forgive and being about to punish the sinner with everlasting punishment, until Jesus stayed His avenging hand by His own death, is the grossest caricature and the veriest burlesque upon the Heavenly Father revealed in the Gospels.
The atonement of Jesus is not in any sense the cause of God’s love for the sinner but it is the effect of God’s love, which is a very different thing. “For God so loved the world, that He gave is only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
It is such crude views of the plan of salvation as these, which have afforded infidels of the school of Tom Paine, whose chief modern disciples have been Charles Brad-laugh, and Col. Robert Ingersoll, material for their popular denunciations of Christianity. Take away from these men such false views of the atonement of Jesus and they have nothing left upon which to vent their indignation.
The Gospels are at once a record and a picture of God’s infinite love, in giving His Son for the salvation of the world, and both commend themselves to our highest conception of what a perfectly wise, and good, and infinitely loving God would do. Concerning the other two theories of the atonement to which I have referred, namely, the Remedial and the Moral Influence Theory, I have but little to say, as they have but little, if any, direct bearing on my present purpose. I may remark in passing that the Moral Influence Theory is only a part of the truth and therefore I cannot accept it as a true theory. I believe I am more in sympathy with the Remedial Theory than with any of the others, but so far as I have been able to understand it, it does not furnish solid ground for my feet to walk on and so I pass it by.
I conclude, however, that God’s cure for sin is in Jesus, because He is the way to the Father, as He is also the truth and the life, and no man cometh to the Father but by Him.
Jesus lived in the heart of God and pleased Him in all things. He knew the profound secret how to live without sin, and the sole purpose He sought to accomplish was to impart that secret to the world. By believing in Him and continuing in His word, we learn the truth and the truth makes us free from sin. We become free from sin as soon as we lose ourselves in God, in answer to Jesus’ prayer: “That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us:
“And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them and Thou in Me.” This is God’s only plan for the cure of sin, to be indwelt of God, and to live in God, to become one with God as Jesus was; then it is consciously true, “That in Him we live, and move, and have our being,” and that our “Bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost.” These it seems to me are some of the ideas which show the Godward side of the cure of sin.