“The doctrine of the forgiveness of sins is a capital doctrine of the gospel, and is much insisted on by the writers of the New Testament; above all, by the author of this epistle. In our text he asserts that we are forgiven according to the riches of grace; not merely in the exercise of grace, as the very term forgiveness implies; but in the exercise of the riches of grace; importing that forgiveness is an act of the most free and abundant grace. Yet he also asserts that this gratuitous forgiveness is in consequence of a redemption by the blood of Christ. But how are these two parts of the proposition consistent? If we be, in the literal sense, forgiven in consequence of a redemption, we are forgiven on account of the price of redemption previously paid. How then can we he truly said to be forgiven; a word which implies the exercise of grace? And especially how can we be said to be forgiven according to the riches of grace? This is, at least, a seeming inconsistence. If our forgiveness be purchased, and the price of it be already paid, it seems to be a matter of debt, and not of grace. This difficulty hath occasioned some to reject the doctrine of Christ's redemption, satisfaction, or atonement. Others, who have not been driven to that extremity by this difficulty, yet have been exceedingly perplexed and embarrassed. . . .”
Thus Edwards opens his treatise on the Atonement, and follows that introduction by seeking to answer three fundamental questions:
(1) Are sinners forgiven through the redemption or atonement of Jesus Christ only?
(2) What is the reason or ground of this mode of forgiveness?
(3) Is this mode of forgiveness consistent with grace, or according to the riches of grace?