Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Imputation of Sin to Christ: George Smeaton

Were the sins of the elect imputed to Christ? The following is a section of George Smeaton's on the atonement of Christ.
We have only further to add, in connection with this interpretation, that when these words are put together, it will be found that the Son of God took sin upon Him, and bore it simultaneously with the taking of the flesh, nay, in a sense even prior to the actual fact of the incarnation. The peculiar character of the Lord's humanity, which was, on the one hand, pure and holy, and yet, on the other, a curse-bearing humanity, plainly shows that in some sense He was the sin-bearer from the moment of His sending, and, therefore, even prior to His actual incarnation. And when it is said that God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh, we have the very same thing. Whether, therefore, We affirm or not that the phrase, "to bear sin," in its application to God, treats of God the Son, it may suffice to say that it refers to the God of redemption. There is, I think, ground to hold that the same constant and uniform rendering should be retained even in this connection. This will intimate that sin was borne by God, not alone in the sense of forbearance, but in such a sense that it was laid on the sin-bearer, to be expiated by a divine fact in the true and proper sense. We assert, then, the constant and uniform sense of this phraseology in all its four fold application ; and when challenged to go through with our interpretation, we reply that we do go through with it. And certainly this last usage furnishes no loophole through which its proper force can be evaded as has been so often. attempted by Socinianizing writers, in former as well as in more recent times. 
Thus the Lamb of God appeared without inherent sin or taint of any kind, but never without the sin of others. The sin of man was not first imputed to Him or borne by Him when He hung on the cross, but in and with the assumption of man's nature, or, more precisely, in and with His mission. The very form of a servant, and His putting on the likeness of sinful flesh, was an argument that sin was already transferred to Him and borne by Him; and not a single moment of the Lord's earthly life can be conceived of in which He did not feel the harden of the divine wrath which must otherwise have pressed on us for ever. Hence, "to hear sin" is the phrase of God's word for freeing us from its punishment.
Because He bore sin, and was never seen without it, it may be affirmed that the mortality which was comprehended in the words, "Thou shalt surely die"—that is, all that was summed up in the wrath and curse of God,—was never really separated from Him, though it had its hours of culmination and its abatements. Hence, without referring further at present to the character of the suffering, it evidently appears that, as the sin-bearer, He all through life discerned and felt the penal character of sin, the sense of guilt, not personal, but as the surety could realize it, and the obligation to divine punishment for sins not His own, but made His own by an official action; and they who evacuate of their true significance these deep words, "that beareth the sins of the world," allowing Christ to have no connection with sin, and only dwelling on His purity and spotless innocence as our example—they who will not have Him as a sin-bearer, who took sin to Himself, and wrapped Himself in it—are the most sacrilegious of robbers and obscurers of His grace. This deep abasement is the glory of His incarnation.
If, then, we put together the elements of this testimony to the Lord's atonement, they are these: (1) It was of God's gracious appointment—"the Lamb of God;" (2) it essentially lay in the vicarious element of the transaction,—it was the bearing of the sin of others, or of the world; (3) it was a bearing or a penal endurance; (4) it was sacrificial, being the truth of the shadows in the previous economy; (5) it was without distinction of nationality.
It follows, that if Christ bore sin, His people do not need to bear it. It follows, also, that since God has appointed this way of deliverance, there is no other way.
Smeaton, George, 1814-1889. The Doctrine of the Atonement : as taught by Christ himself, or The sayings of Jesus on the atonement, exegetically expounded and classified


  1. Smeaton on I Peter 4:1

    I Peter 4:1– “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm
    yourselves with the same way of thinking, for as many as have suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin”

    George Smeaton, p 444, Apostles Doctrine of the Atonement—”Peter
    recapitulates after completing the intervening parenthesis (3:19-22).
    When he resumes his previous expressions, he can only refer to
    Christ’s vicarious sufferings in the flesh. He bids Christians to
    realize the fact that, in Christ’s sufferings as their surety, they
    were co-crucified. Here then we have another instance in which Peter
    and Paul use nearly the same phraseology in speaking of our death to

    Any other explanation is unnatural. Those who represent the
    expressions as alluding to what Christ encountered in his earthly life from men, and explain the second clause of the believer suffering in Christ’s cause and after His example, can produce nothing to satisfy the forcible terms here as to ceasing from sin.

    The meaning of the expression “has ceased from sin” will be that, that we suffered as one person with Christ. Peter considers Christians as one person with Christ, when we died with Christ. There are two modes of speaking in reference to the atonement, either of which presupposes the other. We may say, “Christ suffered for sins, the just for the unjust” or we may say”he that has suffered in the Surety, or in the obedience unto death finished by Him as a public person, has been discharged from sin.” The person who is regarded at the divine tribunal as crucified with Christ is absolved from sin, dead to sin.

    The apostles, when they connect our sanctification with the death of
    Christ, always presuppose His surety-satisfaction in our stead. This
    enables us to meet the only plausible objection to the interpretation
    now advanced, ie, that the word “flesh” must be taken in two different senses in the two different clauses of this verse. By no means. It has the same sense in both, denoting Christ’s representative suffering, and our act considered as one with Him in God’s account.

  2. Romans 4:25, Righteousness will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered because of our trespasses and raised because of our justification.

    Smeaton, Apostles Doctrine, p 147—“The impetration of a righteousness which would be legally applied as the sole foundation of justification, was accepted on behalf of all to whom it WAS TO BE APPLIED, and this was the cause of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

    1. righteousness is one thing, and justification another
    2. righteousness is the cause of justification
    3. the righteousness was accepted by God, even though that righteousness has not imputed to all the elect
    4. justice demands that the righteousness must be imputed to all the elect
    5. Christ was raised from the dead (because of our justification)
    6. this does not mean that all the elect were justified when Jesus was raised from the dead
    7 for example, some of the elect were justified before Jesus was raised from the dead