Joined: 07 Jan 2005
|Posted: Sun Dec 23, 2007 5:14 pm Post subject: A Parable on the Atonement
|Note to Steve: It seems to me we should have a separate category for posts and discussion of Christ's passion, death, burial, and resurrection. I can think of no more important topic.
The following is excerpted from Albion F. Ballenger's work "The Proclamation of Liberty and the Unpardonable Sin, written circa 1910:
That the sinner's ignorance and folly in attempting to earn salvation may more clearly appear, note the following:
A black man in North Carolina decides to go go to Washington and pay for his freedom. With a silver dollar he starts on his long journey, talking to himself in a most satisfied manner thus: "I don't propose to enjoy this freedom for nothing. I pay for what I get. I want President Lincoln to know there is one man in North Carolina that appreciates being free; and when I have paid for my freedom, I'll be under obligations to nobody. All the rest of the black folks in our neighborhood will be nothing but charity folks, dependent on the president for their liberty. But I'll be different; I'll be one who has paid for his freedom. All the rest will be people who were given their freedom like poorhouse folks who get their freedom from charity. I feel like a superior person already, and when I get home I'll be head and shoulders above the other brethren. And I'll never stop telling them how I bought my freedom while theirs was given to them. I expect they will make me a deacon or elder, or something I deserve like that."
At length he reaches the Capitol and, obtaining an interview with the President, immediately makes known his business.
Uncle Works - Mr. President, I've come all the way from North Carolina to pay for my freedom. I want you to know that there's one man in North Carolina that appreciates being free; and here is the pay for my freedom. (Offers the President a dollar.)
President Lincoln - Wait a moment, Uncle. What did you pay for being a slave?
Uncle Works - I didn't pay anything; I was born that way. My father was a slave and my mother was a slave, and I was just born a slave and could not help myself.
President Lincoln - Yes, just as I supposed. Did you make any bargain with the government that in case it would set you free you would pay it a dollar?
Uncle Works - O dear no; I didn't know anything about it till it was all done.
President Lincoln - Then, since you were not responsible for being made a slave, and did not promise to pay for your freedom, and since the government did not require or desire that you pay for your liberty, why do you insist on paying for it?
Uncle Works - I insist on paying for it, Mr. President, because I don't want to humble myself to accept it as a charity. I don't want to be under obligations to anybody. I want to be able to say I payed for my freedom.
President Lincoln - Then you insist on paying for it, do you?
Uncle Works - I certainly do.
President Lincoln - Then must tell you that your dollar will not pay for it. And I want you to see that your offer to pay for it only shows how little you appreciate it. Can you figure, Uncle?
It cost the lives, or limbs, or health of five hundred thousand able-bodied men to set you free. How many silver dollars would it take to equal in value 500,000 husbands and fathers, sons and brothers?
And besides these, there are 500,000 widows and orphans, and sonless mothers, and brotherless sisters, who mourn the loss of husbands and fathers and sons and brothers.
Furthermore, in order that you may get some little idea of what it cost to set you free, go to some churchyard where a widowed mother and her orphan children are kneeling around a newly made grave that holds a husband and father, and watch them weep, and hear their moans, and remember there are 500,000 widows and orphans and mothers and sisters who weep for their fallen husbands and fathers and sons and brothers.
Uncle, how many silver dollars will it take to balance this mountain of human woe? And now since you insist on paying the price of your freedom, down with its millions!
Uncle Works - O Mr. president! I can't pay it. I never thought it cost so much. I am ashamed that I ever thought of paying for it. As you talked, this dollar that looked so big to me when I began, kept getting smaller and smaller until I am so ashamed of it I just want to get it out of my sight.
But, Mr. President, isn't there something that a poor old black man can do to show his appreciation of the liberty that cost so much? Since you talked about what it cost to set me free, I believe I do really begin to appreciate my freedom. I will never try to pay for it. But can't I do something to show my appreciation of it?
President Lincoln - Yes, indeed you can. Go home, Uncle, and live like a free man. Be obedient to the laws of your State, be respectful of your neighbors, pay your honest debts, do unto others as you would be done by, and show by your life you appreciate your freedom.
Uncle Works - I will do all that gladly, Mr. President.
President Lincoln - But, Uncle, ever remember that should you keep all the laws of the land perfectly, pay all your debts, do unto others as you would be done by, all your life, it would have no part in paying for your freedom; that is already paid for, and is a free gift. Remember that all your efforts to pay for it will only show how little you appreciate its cost.
Reader, if you are ever tempted try to pay for your salvation by good works, by law keeping, go back in mind to Gethsemene and Calvary where the debt was paid, where the millstone of a world's wickedness was carried to the cross, and cast into the sea of God's forgetfulness.
Go back to Gethsemane's garden, where the mountain weight of a world's woes weighs the Redeemer to earth, and presses from His pores His precious blood. Watch while He staggers from the shadow of death to the weary watchmen who, for sorrow, are heavily sleeping.
Watch, while alone He turns again and falls upon the blood-bathed earth, and in agony of soul which no pen can picture, no tongue can tell, wills to drink to its dregs sin's bitter cup. Watch, while the angel lifts the fainting form, and ministers strength for the struggle that has scarce begun.
Watch Him all the way from the garden to the grave. Watch the smiting and the spitting. Watch the mockery in the robes and crowning. Watch the scoffing and the scourging.
Now follow the wailing, cursing crowd to Calvary's cross, and see the spiking and the bleeding, the mangling and the moaning, the groaning and the weeping.
Wait through the hours that lengthen like ages. Wait till the shadow of death drapes with its sable mantle the soul-piercing scene. Wait till out from the depths of the deepening darkness there comes that startling, piercing, freezing cry from the heart of the dying Redeemer, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Wait, sinner, wait for that closing, crowning cry, "It is finished." Behold the clashing clouds, the reeling earth, the rifting rocks, the rending veil, and the bursting graves and - the bleeding, broken heart.
Reader, "do not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness come by law, then Christ is dead in vain."
"Oh, why was He there as the bearer of sin,
If on Jesus thy guilt was not laid?
Oh, why from His side flowed a sin-cleansing blood,
If His dying thy debt was not paid?"
"Then doubt not thy welcome since God has declared
There remaineth no more to be done;
That once in the end of the world He appeared,
And completed the work He begun."
Is it not plain the sinner's effort to purchase salvation by good works only descredit the atoning work of Christ by which alone He has been redeemed? Is it not clear that the sinner's self-righteous efforts to earn salvation by law-keeping can only reveal how little he appreciates the cost of salvation?
But is there not something the chief of sinners, saved by grace, can do to manifest the love that is born in his heart from beholding such manner of love? Oh, yes. "If ye love me, keep my commandments." "We love Him because He first loved us." "And this is the love of God that we keep His Commandments, and His commandments are not grievous."
Here is the only place and purpose of commandment-keeping. All commandment keeping that is wrought to earn salvation is but the filthy rags of man's self righteousness. Were we to keep the law perfectly from now to the end of our days, it would and could have nothing to do with earning our salvation. That has already been earned for us, the only thing we can do is to accept it as a free gift of grace, and love and serve the Giver from the heart, in the Spirit, all our days.
Reader, do you see it? I lived and preached many years before I saw it.
Of that which we have written, this is the sum: Commandment keeping has nothing to do with earning salvation; and yet the whole plan of salvation has for its object the transforming of a loveless, law-breaking enemy of God into a loving, law-keeping friend of God.
These two divine truths, hard to understand by the "unlearned and unstable", form, nevertheless, the heart of the gospel. These two apparently contradictory statements are but two halves of a harmonious whole. They are truths for which Paul suffered the loss of all things, and for which he was persecuted by Gentiles, the Jews, and the Judaizing Christian church at Jerusalem.
If there is one truth above another that the prince of lies hates, it is the harmonious blending of these two great and vital truths into one divine whole. It matters little to him which one is preached if only that one is preached as opposed to the other. If grace be preached as "making void the law", or if law keeping is presented so as to "frustrate the grace of God, the father of lies is satisfied.
I disagree with Paidion's view of the Atonement, and I believe Ballenger says it about as well as can be said.