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A Treatise on Atonement, by Hosea Ballou

Hosea Ballou's 1805 work on Universalist theology, edited by Rev. Dan Harper.
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Continue to chapter 7, Atonement in Its Nature.

Chapter 6: The Personage and Character of the Mediator

We have already stated some of the absurdities contained in the opinions of most Christians, respecting the mediator; we shall now be a little more particular on the subject.

We shall contend, that the Mediator is a created dependent being. That he is a created being, is proved from Rev. iii. 14, where he is said to be "the beginning of the creation of God." His dependency is proved by his frequent prayers to the Father. That he acknowledged a superior, when on earth, is evident from many passages which might be quoted. See. St. John v. 19; Christ here says:

The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.

He acknowledged a superior in knowledge; see Matt. xxiv. 36:

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels in heaven, but my Father only.

This passage implies, that he did not know of that day himself. St. Mark is still more explicit; see chap. xiii. 32:

But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

And further, that he acknowledges a superior, even in his risen glory, may be proved from his own words to his servant John, on the Isle of Patmos; see Rev. iii. 12:

Him that overcometh, will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God, and I will write upon him my new name.

Four times, in the above passage, he acknowledges a being whom he worships. Again, see Psalm xlv. 7:

Thou lovest righteousness and hatest wickedness, because God, thy God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

The reader will observe, I have ventured to put the word "because" in place of the word "therefore" in this quotation; but we have not done it without the authority of a former translation. The difference is so essential, I cannot dispense with it. Observe, the writer of the Psalm addresses one God, and speaks, in his address, of another, see verse 6, "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever." This God is dependant on another, expressed in verse 7, "because God, thy God hath anointed thee," etc.

That the names "God," "Lord," and "everlasting Father" are applied to Christ, I shall not dispute; neither shall I dispute the propriety of it; but I do not admit that they mean the self-existent Jehovah, when applied to the Mediator. In the quotation from the Psalm, Christ is said to be anointed above his fellows. Fellows are equals. Who are Christ's equals? Perhaps the reader may say, they are the Father and the Holy Spirit; but I can hardly believe that Christ was anointed with the oil of gladness above his Father, neither do I believe any one will contend for it. I am sensible that God speaks by the prophet of smiting the man who is his fellow; but this fellowship must be different from the one just spoken of, and stands only in an official sense. The reader will then ask if I would consider the Mediator no more than equal with men ? I answer, yes, were it not that our Father and his Father, our God and his God, hath anointed him above his fellows. See Phillipians ii. 9:

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.

For this exaltation and name, he was dependant on his Father, and received them from him. This name, which is above every name, is the name of God, named on Jesus.

It will be said, Christ taught the people, that he and his Father were one. I grant he did, and if that prove him to be essentially God, the argument must run farther than the objector would wish to have it; see St. John xvii. 11. Christ prays that his disciples may be one, even as he and the Father are one. The oneness of the Father and Son is their union and agreement in the great work which he has undertaken; and he prayed that his disciples might be as well agreed in the Gospel of salvation, as he and his Father were, see verse 18: "As thou hast sent me into the world, so have I also sent them into the world." The Father of all mercies sent his Son Jesus into the world, for a certain purpose; and there was a perfect agreement between them, in all things. He says, he came not to do his own will, but the will of him who sent him. And again, My meat and drink, is to do the will of him who sent me, and to finish his work.

The President of the United States sends a minister to negotiate a peace at a foreign court; this minister must conduct according to the authority which he derives from him, by whom he is sent; and as far as he does, he is, in his official character, the power that sent him. It is evident, Christ received the power which he exercises in the work which he hath undertaken, and that his kingdom was given to him, which goes to prove he did not eternally possess them; see Dan. vii. 14: "And there was given him dominion and glory, and a kingdom." According to the prophecy here quoted, the dominion, glory and kingdom of Christ were given him. The people whom he is to rule are given him, see Psalm ii. 8:
Ask of me, and I shall give the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

St. Matthew xxviii. 18; Jesus saith: "All power is given unto me in heaven and earth." Chap. xi. 27: "All things are delivered unto me of my Father." These and many more passages are found in sacred writ, in support of the dependence of the Mediator on the Supreme Eternal, and that he derives his power and glory from him. But if Christ be essentially God, all those scriptures seem without just signification.

It is written, that man was created in the image of God; and, by the tight of the Gospel St. Paul ventured to assert, that Christ is this image. The reader will do well to observe that the image of a person, and the person, are not essentially one, but some knowledge of a person may be obtained by his true image. Christ being the image of God, it is by him we learn the nature of the Father. Christ saith, "No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son revealeth him." Again, "No man cometh unto the Father, but by me." St. Paul is particular, on this subject, in his 1st Epistle to Timothy, see chap. ii. verse 5: "For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." It seems by this testimony that St. Paul was a stranger to the notion of Christ's being essentially God, as it would be improper to call him a man were that the case. If it be argued that Christ is God and man both, I ask, was it the whole divine nature which constituted the divinity of Christ? If this question be answered in the affirmative, I desire to know where that divinity is which constitutes the other two persons in the Godhead. If the question be answered in the negative, and it be argued, that the divinity which Christ possessed was an emanation from Jehovah, it is coming directly to what I contend for, viz. that he is a created being.

As we have seen, from the prophecy of Daniel, that Christ received his kingdom; so we are taught, by St. Paul, that he will deliver up his kingdom to the Father, when he has accomplished the grand object of his reign, see 1 Cor. xv. 24-28:

Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father: when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority, and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

Enough, perhaps, is written, on this part of our query, to make the matter plain to the reader, although much more might be quoted from the scriptures, in support of what we have argued.

I next inquire, has the Mediator power or ability, to perform the great work of atonement, which is the reconciliation of the world to God? Those scriptures, with their connections, which I have quoted to prove the Mediator's dependency, abundantly prove the sufficiency of his power to accomplish the work in which he is engaged. If all power in heaven and earth be committed to Christ, no doubt can be entertained of its sufficiency. If the whole system of law in moral nature be subservient to the designs of the Redeemer, and if he holds in his hands the power of moral government, it certainly must be at his option, whether men shall be reconciled to God or not.


It may not be amiss to inquire, in this place, whether men, in their individual capacity, have the power of moral government. If they have, the great work of reconciliation might be performed by them, which would render the mission of Christ unnecessary. We ought not to suppose the Almighty ever purposed more than one way to produce the same event; if he has given ability to each individual to effect a complete reconciliation in himself, it is not consistent to believe that this work of reconciliation will be done by a Mediator; but if the work of reconciling all things to God is assigned to Christ, it is not reasonable to believe we have power to perform it ourselves. And I think it will not be deemed admissible that we have power to hinder this work of reconciliation, as that would, in effect, deny the truth of all power being given to Christ.

We ought to consider that Christ was by no means ignorant of man; that he needed none to testify of man, as he knew what was in man. He knew the moral distance which man had wandered from God, he knew all the expense of recovering him to holiness and happiness; and it appears rational, that he knew whether he possessed ability to defray this expense or not; and if he knew he did not possess this ability, he would not have undertaken it. We ought not to suppose the Mediator would act as unwisely as a man who undertakes to build a large house without first counting the cost to know if he be able to finish a building so expensive; or as a king would do, who should make war on another king without first consulting whether he were able to contend with the double numbers which his adversary commanded.

St. Paul, writing to the Colossians, saith of Christ, he is the first born from the dead, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence; for it pleased the Father that in him all fullness should dwell; and that the Father had made peace, through the blood of his cross; and then informs them for what this peace was made; see chap. i. verse 20:
By him to reconcile all things unto himself: by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

In Isaiah ix. 6, we have a beautiful prophetic testimony of the power and kingdom of the Saviour:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

And in the beginning of the next verse, the extent of his dominion is spoken of: "And of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end."

There is a great number of like passages, which, in the course of this work, I shall have occasion to introduce; but enough is already quoted to show for what this power was given to Christ, and that it is sufficient to accomplish the end intended. Again, it may be reasonable to argue that if the Almighty committed power into the hands of Christ, for the performance of anything whatever, if there should be found, at last, a want of power for the work intended, it would prove a want of wisdom in the giver of such power. No one who professes to believe at all in Christ, will dispute his power for the performance of all his will.

But I wish to have the reader satisfied in respect to this power, and in what it consists, which, to make as clear as possible, I connect with our last particular in this general inquiry, which is atonement in its nature.

Continue to chapter 7, Atonement in Its Nature.
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