Christ acting as the second Adam, or according to a covenant with the Father, in the whole of His atoning work.
This idea must be carried with us, whether we consider the fundamental presuppositions of the atonement, as stated in some of the first sections, or discuss the special reference and extent of the atonement, as exhibited in section xli. (p. 312). The doctrine of the atonement cannot be understood without the idea of a conjunction between Christ and His people, whether or not it is called a covenant (pactum salutis), and whether or not we use the terms of the federal theology. The whole scheme of thought relating to the covenant occupied at one time an important. place in the Reformed Church, and in some portions of the Lutheran Church, though it never became general in the latter.
Of various elements which may be said to have concurred, if not to originate, at least to turn attention to this scheme of thought, the two following may be particularly named: the cavils of Socinus, and the subsequent rise of the Arminian controversy. As to the first of these concurring forces, I may mention that one of the objections against the satisfaction on which Socinus laid stress, was, that there ought to be at least some conjunction between the guilty and him that is punished; and he would not admit that there was any such conjunction or bond between Christ and us. This drove the defenders of the truth to assert the affirmative, and to define it. They main tained that Christ was united to us, not only as a partaker of our humanity by becoming one of us, our brother and friend, but also as He entered into a still closer conjunction as the Bridegroom, Head, Shepherd, Lord, King, and Surety of His people. Grotius, in his treatise, De Satisfactione, chap, iv., is particularly emphatic in asserting this close conjunction, on which the possibility of an atonement depends. Thus, in op position to Socinus, Grotius says, "It might be said here that man is not without relation to man, that there is a natural kindred and consanguinity between men, and between our flesh assumed by Christ. But another much greater conjunction between Christ and us was decreed by God, for He was ap pointed by God to be the Head of the body of which we are members. And here it must be observed, that Socinus erroneously confined to the flesh alone that conjunction which is sufficient for laying punishment upon one for another's sins, since here the mystical conjunction has no less power. This appears principally in the example of a king and a people. We cited above the history of the Israelites punished for the sin of David." A little afterwards, Grotius adds that this con junction lays the foundation for vicarious punishment: "There fore the sacred writings do not at all favour Socinus, declaring, as they do, that God did the very thing which he undeservedly accuses of injustice; but neither has he any greater defence from right reason, which it is wonderful that he so often boasts of, but nowhere shows. But that all this error may be re moved, it must be observed that it is essential to punishment that it be inflicted for sin, but that it is not likewise essential to it that it be inflicted on him who sinned; and that is manifest from the similitude of reward, favour, and revenge, — for reward is often wont to be conferred upon the children or relations of a well-deserving person, and favour on the kinsman of him who conferred the benefit, and revenge upon the friends of him that offended. Neither do they, on that account, cease to be what they are — reward, favour, and revenge. Add to this, that if it were against the nature of punishment, then this very thing would not be called unjust, but impossible. But God forbids a son to be punished by men for the father's fault; but impossible things are not forbidden. Moreover, injustice does not properly happen to a relation (such as punishment is), but to the action itself, such as the matter of punishment is. And here the true distinction must be inquired into, why it is not equally free to all to punish one for another's sin, and to bestow a favour or reward for another's merit or benefit; for an act which contains in it a reward or favour is a benevolent act, which, in its own nature, is permitted to all; but an act which has in it punishment, is a hurtful act, which is neither allowed to all, nor against all. Wherefore, that a punishment may be just, it is requisite that the penal act itself should be in the power of the punisher, which happens in a threefold way: either by the antecedent right of the punisher himself, or by the legitimate and valid consent of him about whose punishment the question is; or by the crime of the same person. When the act has become lawful by these modes, nothing prevents its being appointed for the punishment of another's sin, provided there be some conjunction between him that sinned and the party to be punished. And this conjunction is either natural, as between a father and a son; or mystical, as between king and people; or voluntary, as between the guilty person and the surety. Socinus appeals to the judgment of all nations; but as to God, the philosophers doubted not that the sins of parents were punished by Him in the children." I shall not quote further from this memorable chapter of Grotius, in which he overwhelms his opponent by the testimony of all classical antiquity. I have adduced this discussion, only to show how men came during the course of it to adopt and maintain a certain necessary conjunction between the Redeemer and the redeemed, which involved something more than a mere community of the same nature, and, in a word, the elements of a covenant.
But another cause concurred with the former. When the Arminian debates arose, and the five points were debated, many were led, during the course of this discussion, more and more to the conclusion that there was a given party in whose behalf all the provisions of redemption were contrived and carried into effect. Thus, Amesius, Coronis, p. 112, expresses himself: "Addam etiam insuper, si nullo modo versabatur ecclesia in mente divina, quum unctus et sanctificatus fuit Christus ad officium suum, turn caput constitutus fuit sine corpore, ac rex sine subditis ullis in praesentia notis, vel omniscio ipsi Deo: quod quam indignum sit thesauris illis divinae sapientiae qui in hoc mysterio absconditi fuerunt, non opus est ut ego dicam. Hoc unum perpendat cordatus Lector satisfactionem illam Christi pro nobis nocentibus susceptam valere non potuisse, nisi aliqua antecedente inter nos et Christum, conjunctione; tali scilicet qua designatus est a Deo ut caput esset corporis, cujus nos sumus membra; ut Vir cl. Hugo Grotius, relictis remonstrantibus, quos alibi defendit ingenue concedit. — Defensionis fidei Catholicae, pagina 66."
Hence the doctrine of the covenant was the concentrated essence of Calvinism, and appeared especially in a formed and jointed system, after the Synod of Dort. Cloppenburg maintained it just after that Synod. Thus these two elements above named led many of the greatest divines of the Reformed Church to bring out, and" to lay stress upon, a pactum salutis, or foedus, as necessary to a full understanding of the atonement. This doctrine has fallen out of the prominence it at one time occupied in theology. But whatever view may be held as to that scheme of thought, there is no room for two opinions as to the scriptural character of the doctrine, that there must be a certain conjunction between Christ and the redeemed.
It is due to the federal theology to state, that it was only meant to ground and to establish the undoubtedly scriptural doctrine of the two Adams (Rom. v. 12-20; 1 Cor. xv. 47). These are by no means to be regarded as two different lines of thought, or as two mutually exclusive modes of representing truth. They proceed on the same principle, and they come to precisely the same result, — the one from the view-point of humanity, the other from the counsels of the Trinity. No one can doubt, who examines the federal theology, that the design of those who brought that scheme of thought into general reception in the Reformed Church for two centuries, was principally to ground, and to put on a sure basis, the idea of the two Adams; that is, to show that there were, in reality, only two men in history, and only two great facts on which the fortunes of the race hinged. The leading federalists were Cloppenburg, Dick son the Scottish divine (who developed it so early as 1625 — see Life of Robert Blair, in the Wodrow publications — several years before the work of Cocceius, De Foedere, appeared in 1648), Cocceius, Burmann, Witsius, Strong, Owen, etc. etc. It became a magnificent scheme of theological thought in the hands of these men, and of others who took it up with ardour. That foreign thoughts afterwards came to be introduced into it, and that it became complicated by many additional elements, brought in to give it completeness, but which only lent it an air of human ingenuity and artificial construction, cannot be denied. But as to the point already referred to, there is no doubt that they intended to establish, by this mode of representation, that Christ and His people were to be regarded as one person in the eye of law; and that, properly speaking, there were only two heads of families, and only two great facts in history — the fall and the atonement.
Against this whole scheme of thought, a reaction set in a century ago. Nor can this be wondered at, when we remember that it was overdone at that time, and that a reaction was only the effort of the human mind to regain its equilibrium — as is always the case when anything is carried too far. It was over done, and now it is neglected.
But it is by no means to be repudiated, or put among the mere antiquities of Christian effort. This, or something like it, whether we adopt the federal nomenclature or not, must occur to every one who will follow out the revealed thoughts uttered by Christ Himself to their legitimate consequences. The only objection of any plausibility is, that the notion of a covenant presupposes a twofold will in God. To meet this objection, springing from an exclusive regard to the unity of the Godhead, it may be remarked, that the supposition of a council or covenant, having man's redemption for its object, has no more difficulty than the doctrine of a Trinity. Each person wills, knows, loves, and exercises acts to one another and to us; and as they are personally distinct in the numerical- unity of the divine essence, so, according to the order of subsistence, they each will, though not apart and isolated. Accordingly, Dr. Owen remarks against Biddle, in his Vindiciae: "Because of the distinct acting of the will of the Father, and of the will of the Son, with regard to each other, it is more than a decree, and hath the proper nature of a covenant or compact."
Whatever view may be taken, however, of that scheme of thought, the one important matter on which no doubt can be entertained by any scriptural divine, is, that as Adam was a public person, the representative of all his family, according to the constitution given to the human race, as contradistinguished from that of other orders of being, so Christ, the Restorer, stands in the same position to His family or seed. The world could be redeemed on no other principle than that on which it was at first constituted. Augustin's formula, ilk unus homo nos omnes fuimus, as applied to the first man, is perhaps the very best that has ever been given; and the same formula may be applied with equal warrant to the second man, the Lord from heaven. As applied to the atonement, this principle of a covenant, or of a conjunction between Christ and His seed, is simple and easily apprehended. The conditions being fulfilled by the second man, His people enter into the reward.
Thus Christ was commissioned to do a work for a people who were to reap the reward. The Father laid on Him the conditions given to Adam, with the additional one derived from guilt, and claimed satisfaction from the Son undertaking to act for a seed given to Him. Man could be redeemed only on the principle or constitution on which God placed him at first, and not on one altogether different; and the one aim of the federal theology was meant to base and to ground this biblical truth.
George Smeaton, The Doctrine of the Atonement as Taught by Christ Himself, Appendix on Sec. X.