The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ has come under much sustained attack in recent years, even by some who claim the name ‘evangelical’, so in George Smeaton’s defence of Christ’s saving work through an atoning, substitutionary sacrifice – written back in 1868 against similar attacks – we are reminded of the words of the Preacher of Ecclesiastes, that ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ (Eccl. 1:9).
In this first volume of two, Smeaton works with great reverence and detail through Jesus’ own teaching on the atonement as recorded in the four Gospels. Smeaton shows a great awareness of the key issues (still) at stake, as well as the importance of understanding Christ’s atoning work correctly. There is also much devotion in this work. Smeaton’s response to the array of attacks upon Christ’s work isn’t simply to defend that work, but also to draw the reader more deeply into its wondrous nature.
The exegesis is deeply biblical, deeply doctrinal and deeply spiritual. I have benefitted greatly from Smeaton’s dealing of John 1:29 on the nature of the sin-bearer, as well as Jesus’ acceptance of our guilt, especially. Four years after first reading this book they are thoughts that still leave me with a sense of profound awe.
This book has the potential to teach us new truths as well as show us old truths in a deeper and fuller way. As a preacher, this enables me to preach the gospel in more of its glorious fullness. As a Christian, this opens up more of the wonder and awe that’s to be found in Christ’s atoning work.
We will be hard pressed to find a more comprehensive answer in this age, than in George Smeaton’s enduring work, to the request put forth in the classic hymn:
O make me understand it,
Help me to take it in,
What it meant to Thee, the Holy One,
To bear away my sin.
George Smeaton, like the hymnwriter, Katherine A.M. Kelly, knew that we need to understand what Christ’s atoning meant for him before we can begin to understand what it means for us.