Unedited Summary Notes on “Essay on the Scripture Doctrine of Atonement” by Caleb Burge

Chapter 1: The Subject Introduced

Not only:

1. Penitence of sinner
2. Benevolence of God

But also:
3. Public good/Public justice

God could freely pardon in private justice but the atonement is necessary for public justice.

No justification apart from the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

Chapter 2: Some obstacles Pointed Out, Which Stood in the Way of God’s pardoning Sinners without an Atonement

The atonement was not necessary to cool the divine anger and to make God loving towards sinners. / The appeasement theory is not Scriptural.

Again, God could freely pardon in private justice but the atonement is necessary for public justice.

God could not freely pardon (= pardon without atonement). He would be unjust if he did, because:

1. He would have been unjust to His holy and just law. (This is the same as being unjust towards a just man)

=>  “something else must be done, which would manifest for the law as much respect as the complete execution of its penalty” (= the atonement).

2. He would have been unjust to his kingdom.

He needs to use all proper means to promote the best interest of his kingdom.
Moral beings “must be placed under the authority of good and wholesome laws, which are calculated to discountenance vice, and encourage virtue.” / “God was under a moral necessity of placing moral beings under moral laws.”

Those laws have to be “faithfully executed.”

The execution of those laws on criminals deters wickedness. It discourages others from transgressing them.

=> the atonement must do the same thing; public discouragement – as I would call it – as effectually as the execution of the law on guilty sinners.

3. He would have been unjust to Himself by misrepresenting His own character.

3.1. For example: in not showing that he likes holiness over sin.
(For example: doing this only in words but not in actions)

=> “if God had pardoned sinners without any atonement, he could not have manifested either his goodness, wisdom, or consistency of conduct.” / “In no other way could he be just to himself, unless it were by something, which, as a substitute for the execution of the penalty of the law, would make an equally bright display of his hatred of sin.” / “if they perceived that he would never pardon sinners without an atonement, this would show them his regard for holiness and his hatred of sin, and would secure their confidence and inspire their love. Thus it appears that an atonement was necessary to the pardon of sinners, in order that God might manifest his hatred of sin, and thus be just to himself.”

3.2. In not showing that it was wise to give the law. = In showing inconsistency of conduct.

If the execution of the law was entirely neglected, it would be completely useless.
“If it is not good, why did he give it? If it is good, why does he not execute it? In either case, he must be chargeable with imperfection.” = SHOWS THE IMPORTANCE OF GOD’S LAW.
If God did this once, (without atonement) His character would be forever imperfect.

(“If it would be wrong in God to execute what he has threatened, it must follow, that he has threatened to do wrong. But if it would not be wrong in God to execute his threatening, then, certainly, it must be wrong not to execute it; for if he should not execute his threatening, it would be in reality an acknowledgment that his threatening was unreasonable and unnecessary, and that, on this account, it ought not to be executed.”)

=> “God should execute what he has threatened, unless something be done by way of atonement, which, as a substitute, will fully answer the same purpose, in order that his own character may remain unsullied, and he appear glorious in holiness.” / “It was necessary, therefore, that God, if he would do justice to his own character, should execute, literally, all his threatenings, unless something could be done by way of atonement which, as a substitute, would fully answer all the same purposes. Hence it is evident that an atonement was necessary, in order that sinners might be pardoned.”

“The necessity and design of atonement; that it was to manifest the rectitude of the divine character; that God might be just in the justification of sinners.”

Chapter 3: Whether the Sufferings of Christ were Sufficient to Remove the Obstacles which Stood in the Way of the Pardon of Sinners


“It was necessary that it should manifest as high respect for the law, and do as much for the support of its authority, as the complete execution of its penalty would have done. Otherwise, God could not be just to his law in pardoning sinners. It was necessary that it should be calculated as effectually to deter others from disobedience, as the full execution of the penalty of the law would have been. Otherwise, in pardoning sinners, God could not be just to his kingdom. It was also necessary, that it should manifest God’s regard for holiness, and hatred of sin, as clearly as the full execution of the penalty of the law would have done. Otherwise, in granting pardon, he could not be just, to his own character. In short, that his righteousness might be declared, and he be just, and the justifier of any sinner, it was necessary that the atonement should fully and completely answer all the purposes which the full and complete execution of the penalty of the law would have answered.”

New items found in this chapter:

QUESTION: Did the atonement of Christ consist in His suffering and His active obedience or did it only consist in His suffering or His active obedience?


king -> execution of death penalty -> beloved general = manifestation of respect for His law towards His citizens.
king -> execution of death penalty -> hated general = no manifestation of respect for His law towards His citizens.

=> “For the same reason, if, when mankind transgressed, God had not viewed their misery as an evil, he could not have manifested respect for his law, by executing upon them its penalty.”

=> “whatever evil God has submitted to on account of his law, must manifest his respect for it. If, then, the sufferings of Christ were really an evil in the sight of God, and he submitted to them on account of his law, it must be evident that they are sufficient to show his respect for his law.”

CONCLUSION: the sufferings of Christ are sufficient to manifest God’s respect for his law.

Note: it is not necessary that the sufferings of Christ should be, in themselves considered, so great an evil in the view of God, as the misery of all mankind would have been.
(It is sufficient if God shows as much respect to his law, by the sufferings of Christ, as he would have done by the execution of the penalty on mankind.)

Note 2: It is not necessary, therefore, that the sufferings of Christ should appear to be so great an evil, in his view, as he has now manifested the misery of mankind to be; but only as great as he would have manifested it to be if Christ had not suffered. If this is done, God will manifest as much respect for his law, by the sufferings of Christ, as he could have done by the execution of the penalty on sinners, although the real evil, in the former case, is less than in the latter.

Christ’s death also deters people from wanting to imitate guilty people as the law does. When they see in their minds that Christ suffered for the guilty under God’s law, they understand that God is serious about His law and especially if they neglect such a great warning.

Chapter 4: Whether the Obedience of Christ constitutes any Part of the Atonement

QUESTION: Does the obedience of Christ constitute any part of the atonement?

No, because:

1) It was not an evil punishment (= a token of divine displeasure) as a result of transgressing the law, thus it could not have shown God’s respect for His law.
2) It cannot impose any restraint upon the ill disposed.
3) It cannot show God’s abhorrence of sin, and love for holiness.
4) It is as absurd asking for the release of a murderer because he himself has not murdered.

CONCLUSION: We can conclude that Christ’s obedience does not constitute any part of the atonement, since it cannot furnish any ground in which the pardon of the guilty can be just to God’s law, His kingdom or His own character.

His obedience was necessary for Himself, for not becoming a sinner.

His sufferings were voluntary => They must have been for the purpose of atonement.

Jewish animal blood-sacrifices prefigured Christ’s own blood-sacrifice.

Believers are forgiven and justified solely on account of the death of Christ, or the effusion of His blood as a sacrifice for sin. All, who obtained salvation, are saved by virtue of Christ’s atonement: his sufferings and death, many Scripture passages clearly teach this.

Chapter 5: Full Atonement, and Salvation wholly by Grace, Consistent with Each Other

QUESTION: Can Christ’s sacrificial atonement for sin be reconciled with salvation by grace?

If the atonement did consist in the payment of debt literally => no grace excercised in the acquittance of sinners but rather satisfaction of justice would have been made.

=> no salvation by grace, since the debt is paid, it cannot be forgiven/pardoned. (<-> Rom. 3:24)
Pardon, on the ground of justice, would be a contradiction in terms. The pardoned criminal has no claim to the favor of pardon. A paid debt can never be forgiven. Grace and justice are opposite terms. The bestowment of a favor, which might have been withholden without any injustice, is an act of grace; but nothing short of this can be grace.

If sinners may be pardoned for Christ’s sake, then their debt is not paid; and cosequently, God is under no obligation to exercise pardon on account of the atonement. => universal salvation impossible.

Payment terms are figurative expressions, like healing terms. They are designed to communicate this idea, that as the payment of money as the price of liberty is the ground on which prisoners are released from captivity, so the atonement of Christ is the ground on which sinners are pardoned, or set free from a sentence of condemnation. These passages, thus understood, appear intelligible and consistent; whereas, understood literally, they would contradict other plain declarations of the Word of God. For sinners are certainly represented in Scripture as being pardoned of free grace; which, it is evident, cannot be said with propriety of captives whose liberty is purchased.

Not justice in relation to the property of individuals and justice in relation to the moral character of individuals has been satisfied. however, public justice has been satisfied.

=> He may now pardon sinners without doing any injustice to His kingdom in general.

Chapter 6: Answer To an Objection; in Which It is Shown in What Sense Christ Died in the Room and Stead of Sinners; That His Sufferings were Not Punitive, etc

Same idea: literal payment would not be pardon by grace. Scriptures which state that Christ died in the room of sinners, and as giving his life a ransom for them, are not to be understood literally. They are to be regarded as metaphorical expressions, as said before.

If Christ took away the ill desert of sinners, then there could be no grace manifested in their salvation.

We should not think that Christ has literally replaced our punishment by His sacrifice so that there is no more punishment left for the impenitent. Christ did not suffer punitive justice!

The sufferings of Christ were a substitute for the execution of the penalty, rather than for the penalty itself.

Christ was not punished, for punishment implies guilt (on His side).

His suffering is not 100% the same in many aspects.

Chapter 7: An Inquiry Concerning Imputation

QUESTION: Can Christ’s righteousness be imputed to believers?

ANSWER: Righteousness (actions, feelings, attributes = love to God and other beings) belongs to the person and cannot be imputed/transferred to another person.

QUESTION: Cam God view ad represent believers as righteous by virtue of the righteousness of Christ?

ANSWER: God cannot view things differently than they are in reality. He cannot view and represent sinners as being perfectly righteous. God will forever see the believers as deserving hell.

QUESTION: Then what does the imputation of Christ mean?

If Christ obeyed the law for the believer, then strict justice, no forgiveness/grace involved.
= If Christ is the legal substitute => no grace in delivering believers from punishment, but strict justice.

Also this concept does not make sense under the law: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. (…) the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” (Ezekiel 18:20)

We have seen that the atonement does not consist in Christ’s active obedience, nor in removing ill-desert and replacing it with Christ’s obedience, nor in literally paying a debt.
If Christ paid for every person, every person can demand Heaven.

QUESTION: Why was such an interchange of persons necessary?

ANSWER: No one can tell.

The Bible text: “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30) does not mean imputation of righteousness anymore than it means imputation of wisdom.

The Scriptures do not teach that Christ’s righteousness or active obedience is imparted to believers but they do plainly teach that His sufferings and death procure their pardon. (For example: John 3:14,15; 1 Peter 3:18). Through Christ’s sufferings, believers c an be admitted into a right relationship with God.

Only the atonement was necessary to render the believer’s pardon and admission to Heaven consistent (For example: Romans 3:25-26, Hebrews 2:10, Hebrews 9:15, Revelation 5:9)

Chapter 8: Reasons Why Faith in the Blood of Christ is Necessary, in Order that Sinners May Be Justified

QUESTION: Why then is faith in Christ’s blood necessary?

Faith in the blood might be defined as: cordially receiving and approving of Christ’s sufferings as a necessary atonement.

If the atonement was a literal payment -> faith in his blood not necessary.

The great design of the atonement was not to pay the debt of sinners; but to open a way in which they might consistently be forgiven. Instead of paying a debt, therefore, it consisted in making as full a manifestation of God’s respect for his law, and determination, to support it; of his abhorrence of sin, and his love of holiness; and of his determination to promote and secure the highest interest of his kingdom; as could have been made by a literal execution of the penalty of his law on transgressors; that so “he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.”

God cannot justify any in their opposition to the law.

All those who do not have faith, in the blood of Christ, are still acting in opposition to the law of God.

Faith in the blood of Christ, implying a cordial satisfaction with what Christ has suffered for the support of the divine law, as being indispensably necessary for the pardon of sinners, therefore implies respect for the law itself. While, on the other hand, unbelief, as it is a rejection of the atonement of Christ as being unnecessary and useless, dishonors the law which the atonement was designed to support.

He cannot justify those who reject God’s testimony of the atonement and make Him a liar.
Both the atonement and faith are equally necessary for the same reasons.

God cannot be just in justifying sinners, unless they believe in Jesus Christ.

For the interests of His kingdom, He cannot justify sinners who do not have faith, because this would have a tendency to promote unholiness and God would even justify sinners in their wickedness.

“Sinners must either approve or disapprove of what Christ has done. If they disapprove of the atonement, they must disapprove of the divine law; and, consequently, of the character of the Lawgiver, which is there delineated. If they have faith, they acquiesce in Christ’s work of atonement, and approve of the law and character of God; But if they have not faith, they remain in opposition to God, and to the whole economy of grace. No sinner, therefore, can have any true holiness, unless he has faith in the blood of Christ,”

If He justifies sinners who have no faith -> He encourages others in going for disobedience towards God.

People would not find consistency in God’s character,  for in giving His Law and His Son, He showed His beloved regard for holiness and abhorrence of sin… But if He justifies wicked, unbelieving sinners, then He would justify those opposed to Christ and His law. This would make Him join in their opposition! Moral beings would not know what His real character is and they would not be able to t rust Him, neither to love Him.

Faith in Christ -> reconciliation to God
Not pleased with the atonement -> not reconciled to God
Pleased with what God does = pleased with the atonement = faith in Christ’s blood => reconciled to God

In other words, “Faith in the blood of Christ consists very much in being pleased and satisfied with what God has done, in giving his Son to die to make atonement for sin, and in cordially receiving the Son as an all-sufficient Saviour as he is offered in the gospel. But nothing short of this can be called reconciliation to God. Every thing short of this involves opposition and enmity.”


Proving the law to be just in proving the law to be perfectly obeyable does not show that the atonement was necessary.

The atonement was not merely the means of sanctification:

Other things like alms, the preaching of the Gospel,… also cleanse but are never said to make atonement.

The Bible does not teach that God could not have devised and chosen another means of cleansing

This seems to represent God is not seeking His own glory supremely in all that he does [the author of crosstheology does not agree with this Calvinist concept. See Finney’s concept of disinterested benevolence.]

The value of this theory of the atonement must depend on the effect produced in cleansing from sin so that, after all, the sanctification of the sinner would, in fact, be the atonement. If this is t he reason for God pardoning the sanctified sinner, then why can’t the sinner attain to as high a degree of sanctification through some other means? It would follow that the atonement was not necessary that God might be just in pardoning and saving sinners; and that he could not consistently with infinite benevolence, withhold pardon from any penitent. It would, however, be very inconsistent with the Scriptures, which declare that Christ was set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, that God might be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus; and which plainly intimate, that without shedding of the Saviour’s blood, there can be no remission. It would be inconsistent with Romans 3:23.

The atonement did not consist in mere suffering without effect on the universe. This would be useless. No wisdom or virtue in enduring useless or worthless suffering. Christ’s disposition to obey was of infinite worth but did not constitute any part of the atonement.
The atonement of Christ showed His goodness in upholding the Law and His Love in pardoning sinners.

The atonement of Christ has nothing to do with election (God choosing some and passing by others). They are different subjects altogether.

The atonement does not depend on whether anyone will believe or not. All has been done on the part of God, which was necessary, in order that salvation might be freely offered.

The atonement makes sin posses a greater degree of malignity because sinners reject the Saviour and stay in their sins => Greater display of justice. Without the atonement this rejection could not have been shown.

For public justice, the unbelieving sinner could not be pardoned, just as Zaleucus could withhold his rebellious son from the full punishment of having both eyes removed, should he continue in his rebellion, even though atonement had been made by Zaleucus, under public justice. For, if he did, he would completely counteract all the effect of the atonement which he had made.

Appendix: Remarks on the Doctrine of Universal Salvation

Can we find any proof for universal salvation in the analogy of nature?

  • God allows that not all people are happy in His government. Why would He not continue the same in the future world?
  • It is not true that people suffer less and become more happy the older they ge. On the contrary. Why wouldn’t this be the same in the hereafter?
  • A person with an unholy, revengeful and malicious disposition cannot be happy in this life. Why would he be happy in the next life?
  • What proof do you have, from nature, that people become holy at the moment of death?
  • Where do you find proof for the idea that the wicked will suffer a temporary punishment and will be subsequently converted? In this life also, when a wicked person is tormented, he does not become a better person.
  • What proof do you have that God will release those who become repentant in the lake of fire from their suffering?
  • God does not make all people happy now. What evidence do you have that He will make all people happy in the future world?
  • Some people like the Christian religion and all it entails. Others hate it. Some, thus, will like the religion in Heaven, others will hate it. You can have no evidence that this will be changed.
Can we find any proof for universal salvation in the Bible?
  • Why is it not plainly expressed by the inspired writers? hence, people would not be in doubt to its meaning. Why did they supposedly make us doubt and be in danger of misunderstanding their meaning?
    • They have never explicitly stated it.
    • They have always contrasted the final state of the wicked with the final state of the righteous.
    • Christ also compared eternal life to eternal punishment.
    • Ezekiel stated: “… strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life” (Ezekiel 13:22). Was he being dishonest?
    • Christ stated “few will be saved”, not “all will be saved”.
    • Christ was asked whether few will be saved. This is unnatural to ask a teacher of Universal Reconcilliation. It is, however, natural to ask one who teaches that the wicked will perish.
    • Christ did not state that the one who asked that question was mistaken but he positively affirmed the question by stating that few would find the straight gate.
    • He also stated that the door would be closed to the wicked, who are in the lake of fire, when they would ask for it to be opened.


Digitizing this unedited summary of Caleb Burge’s Essay on the Atonement, does not mean that the author of crosstheology agrees with every item which can be found in this book. For example, he disagrees with the idea that faith is not a choice but that instead God gives faith to some and leaves others in their ruin to show His glory. He believes that the responsibility for having faith / trusting in Christ lays within the person himself, thus being responsible for his/her choice. He also disagrees with the idea that the Bible teaches that the lost necessarily have to burn forever in a conscious mode.


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