MacDonald on the Atonement

The following is excerpted from Justice, which appears in Volume III of Unspoken Sermons, by George MacDonald. 

"I believe that Jesus Christ is our atonement; that through him we are reconciled to, made one with God. There is not one word in the New Testament about reconciling God to us; it is we that have to be reconciled to God. I am not writing a treatise on the atonement, my business being to persuade men to be atoned to God; but I will go so far to meet the commonly held view as to say that, even in the sense of the atonement being a making-up for the evil done by men toward God, I believe in the atonement. Did not the Lord cast himself into the eternal gulf of evil yawning between the children and the Father? Did he not bring the Father to us, let us look on our eternal Sire in the face of his true son, that we might have that in our hearts which alone could make us love him—a true sight of him? Did he not insist on the one truth of the universe, that God was just what he, Jesus, was? Did he not thus lay down his life persuading us to lay down ours at the feet of the Father? Has not his very life by which he died passed into those who have received him? 


"I believe that Jesus Christ is our atonement; that through him we are reconciled to, made one with God. There is not one word in the New Testament about reconciling God to us; it is we that have to be reconciled to God. I am not writing a treatise on the atonement, my business being to persuade men to be atoned to God; but I will go so far to meet the commonly held view as to say that, even in the sense of the atonement being a making-up for the evil done by men toward God, I believe in the atonement. Did not the Lord cast himself into the eternal gulf of evil yawning between the children and the Father? Did he not bring the Father to us, let us look on our eternal Sire in the face of his true son, that we might have that in our hearts which alone could make us love him—a true sight of him? Did he not insist on the one truth of the universe, that God was just what he, Jesus, was? Did he not thus lay down his life persuading us to lay down ours at the feet of the Father? Has not his very life by which he died passed into those who have received him?

"Did Jesus Christ not foil and slay evil by letting all the waves and billows of its horrid sea break upon him, spend their rage, fall defeated, and cease? Verily, he made atonement! God sacrificed his own son to us; there was no way else of getting the gift of himself into our hearts. Jesus sacrificed himself to his father and the children to bring them together—all the love on the side of the  Father and the Son, all the selfishness on the side of the children. If the joy that alone makes life worth living, the joy that God is such as Christ, be a true thing in my heart, how can I but believe in the atonement of Jesus Christ? I believe it heartily, as God means it. And I believe in it as the power that brings about a making-up for any wrong done by man to man. Who that believes in Jesus does not long to atone to his brother for the injury he has done him? Who is the causer, the creator of the repentance, of the passion that restores fourfold? Jesus, our propitiation, our atonement. He could not do it without us, but he leads us up to the Father’s knee: he makes us make atonement.   Learning Christ, we are not only sorry for what we have done wrong, we not only turn from it and hate it, we are able to offer our whole being to God to whom by deepest right it belongs. Have I failed in love to my neighbor? Shall I not now love him with an infinitely better love than was possible to me before? That I can and will make atonement, thanks be to him who is my atonement, my life, my joy, my lord, my owner, the perfecter of my being. I dare not say with Paul that I am the slave of Christ; but my highest aspiration is to be the slave of Christ.”