The Atonement

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Many have by patiently inquiring found the solution to the difficulties which others have raised in their minds, and got rid of what (partly I believe from human infirmity was the result of flying from Mr. N.'s blasphemies, partly from want of entering in heart into the sorrows of the blessed Lord) I believe was a fatal practical denial of the true sufferings of the blessed Lord. Where there has not been malice, the judgment pronounced on my doctrine has been the effect of a denial of what is essential to the true sufferings of Christ, and indeed (I quite admit without their being aware of it) a denial of the true humanity of Christ. And they are, after all, obliged to admit a third kind of sufferings.
His suffering as a righteous witness for God in the congregation was not the same thing as His being sorrowful unto death, nor His sense of the cutting off of all the present promises of beloved Israel through their sins, in His own cutting off. Nor was this sorrow atonement. The sorrowing at the rejection of the beloved people through their sins, and the scattering even of the sheep, which made Him withal weep over Jerusalem, and which was accomplished in the smiting and cutting off of Messiah in shortening His days, cutting Him off in the midst of His days, was real sorrow, as the sense of death was real sorrow-" sorrowful even unto death." As to Israel, it was occasioned by their sins, the judgment of God on them as a nation. But this, though the cross was the central point of it, was not in itself atonement. The cup of God's wrath, the infinite going out of a holy nature, of eternal judgment against sin itself, was behind all this, so to speak-a thing of infinite depth. From the cutting off of Israel, though for their sins, and having received at the hand of the Lord double for all their sins (a thing impossible to be said of sin as an object of atonement), they, by atonement, can and will be restored. From the true final judgment of sin we cannot be restored. Now Christ suffered in this cutting off, in this depth of Israel's woes; He suffered in having His soul sorrowful even unto death itself, when confessedly He was not drinking the cup, but praying that He might not. He suffered Himself, not atoningly for others, though, as I have said, it led on to atonement. The dark shadow of this cutting off was on all that hour, and the sheep were scattered before the blow was outwardly struck: was their scattering the effect of atonement? or their scattering as the Jewish gathered sheep by the fact of the Shepherd being cut off? Was it the same thing as, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me"?
Now quite admitting that expressions may be obscure in the first statements of these subjects (but which were explained in the latter part), all this is stated in the tract. And I am satisfied that the loss of the sense of these sufferings of Christ is irreparable loss for those who suffer themselves to be deprived of them. If through their confidence in themselves, or listening to others, they suffer 'themselves to be left behind in going on towards Christ and learning what He is, the sorrow may be ours, the loss will be theirs. The difficulty was plain-p. 35 ["Collected Writings," vol. vii. p. 304]. It arose through Mr. N.'s doctrine bringing forward questions as to Christ's position, and the study of the Psalms consequent upon it. In my answer to him (the answer referred to as my excluding a third kind of sufferings), the whole subject is largely gone into-nearly half the tract-and in some passages with language more open to remark than in "The Sufferings," though not called a third kind. But it is totally impossible that those who have cited this expression could have read the tract. Certainly, when it said, "Messiah shall be cut off and have nothing," it was more than man's persecutions. When His soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death, it was more than man's persecution; yet it was not the drinking the cup of atonement, though, as I have largely insisted, He was meeting this also in spirit.
I have felt the difficulty in Psa. 69, and deeply, but submitting to it at any rate as the word of God, and not reasoning against it to save an atonement not fully received in its true character. I had sufficient sense of that atonement as forsaking of God for sin, this dreadful cup of wrath standing wholly and absolutely alone in its nature, not to have it touched or shaken by any other sorrows I might learn of the blessed Lord, and in my feeble measure enter into. These were the two main points which helped to bring me into light as regards the difficulty: such a sense of sin as gave atonement its reality—that I believe to be the grand secret; and such a submission to the word as received its authority and accepted it implicitly, waiting for God to teach.
I think the sense of atonement (not the believing it made peace for themselves, though that may be weak) fails in its measure in those who object; and consequently they are afraid to look at true sorrows as a man, and as a Messiah, which are not that, though they led up to it. The only thing I dread sometimes is, not the separating these sorrows, but the mixing them too much. They were mixed, because as looking to be cut off He was looking to the cup of wrath too. Refer to pages 64-67 [" Collected Writings," vol. vii. pp. 347-353], where this point is gone into. Compare pages 46, 47 [" Collected Writings," vol. vii. pp. 321-323], though there is another point also there. Were all Christ's sufferings bearing iniquity, His soul being made an offering for sin? Was all beside this the simple fruit of suffering for a testimony to His Father (Jehovah) such as He passed through during His whole ministry, or was there a different kind of sorrow (often anticipated) when His hour was come? If so, what was it? Answer this, and feel sufficiently (though indeed who can do that?), and you will get out of the difficulty. Only, if you cannot explain it, hold fast the truth of the atonement on the cross; be assured that scripture is right, and wait for God's teaching.
Your affectionate brother in Christ.
June 21st, 1866.