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CONCERNING THE DESIGN AND WORK OF THE REDEEMER.
THIS is a subject upon which professing christians are far from being agreed. They differ in opinion respecting it, according to their different views of the 394moral state and character of man; from what he is to be redeemed; and of what is necessary to be done or suffered in order to his redemption. And this lays the foundation of their difference of opinion respecting the person and character of the Redeemer. For he must be answerable to the state of man, and to that which must be done or suffered in order to his being delivered from sin and misery, and made completely happy forever consistent with the divine law, and the wisdom and honour of the moral Governor of man.
There are not a few in the christian world who entertain such ideas of God, his law and moral government; of the character of man, and the nature and crime of sin, that they see no need of a Mediator and Redeemer, in order to the pardon and salvation of men: And therefore consider Jesus Christ as an impostor, and all who believe in him as deluded; and wholly discard divine revelation, and plunge into the darkness of Deism.
The Jews are so ignorant of the nature of the moral law, and their own state, that they think they stand in need of no Redeemer, but one who shall deliver them from the power and oppression of man, and bestow on them temporal, worldly dominion, prosperity and happiness. They therefore reject Jesus Christ, and hope for the deliverance they desire, by their expected Messiah.
There are many professing christians, who have much the same sentiments respecting God, law, sin, and the moral state of man, with Jews and deists; and consequently, though they profess to believe that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of men, they see no need of a Saviour that is more than a man, or a mere creature; and therefore do not believe in his divinity.
Others have such views of God, his law and moral government, of the character and state of man in his apostasy, and of what is necessary to be done and suffered in order to their redemption, that they feel the need of a divine Redeemer; whose person and character has been described in the foregoing chapter, and which they are prepared to see plainly exhibited in the Bible.395
From this view, it appears that in order to understand the work of the Redeemer, the design of his undertaking, and what he does effect, mc must have right views of the law of God which man has transgressed; and of the state into which he is fallen by this rebellion.
The law of God points out the duty of man, and requires of him what is perfectly right, and no more, or less. It cannot therefore be altered in the least degree, so as to require more or less, without rendering it less perfect and good. It is therefore an eternal unalterable rule of righteousness, which cannot be abrogated or altered in the least iota, by an infinitely perfect, unchangeable legislator and governor, consistent with his character, his perfect rectitude and righteousness. This law necessarily implies, as essential to it, a sanction or penalty, consisting in evil, or a punishment, which is in exact proportion to the magnitude of the crime of transgressing it; or the desert of the transgressor, which is threatened to be executed on the offender. This penalty which is threatened must be no more, nor less, than the sinner deserves, or the demerit of the crime. The least deviation from this would render the law so far imperfect, and wrong. Every creature under this law is under infinite obligations to obey it without any deviation from it in the least possible instance, through the whole of his existence; and every instance of rebellion tends to infinite evil, to break up the divine government, and bring ruin and misery on all the moral world: Therefore every transgression of this law, or neglect to obey it, deserves infinite evil as the proper punishment of it. Consequently this evil, this punishment, must be the threatened penalty of the law; which has been shown in a former chapter.
Man by transgression has incurred the penalty of this law, and fallen under the curse of it; “For it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all the things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”411411 Gal. iii. 10. This curse cannot be taken off, and man released, until it has its effect, and all the evil implied in it be suffered, 396which man can never do, so as to be delivered from it, or from suffering, because a finite creature is not capable of suffering the evil contained in the curse in any limited duration; and therefore his sufferings must be without end, or everlasting. And no future obedience, should man repent and live perfectly obedient after he had transgressed, would atone for his sin, or remove the curse in the least degree, according to law: for his obedience, though ever so perfect, and continued ever so long, would be no more than what he constantly owed, and therefore no more than his duty, had he never transgressed. Thus man by sin fell into an irrecoverably lost state, and brought the curse of the law of God upon him, from which it is impossible he should deliver himself, or be delivered, consistent with this law, either by all possible sufferings or obedience of his own.
This is the law of God, and is the voice of God to man, and is an unalterable expression of his heart, or moral character and perfection. It therefore cannot be altered or abated in the requirements of it, or in the threatening. It is as unchangeable as the divine character itself, being founded on the eternal, unchangeable reason and nature of things. And it is not consistent with the truth of God not to execute the threatening of his law: For this would not only be giving up and making void his law; but acting contrary to his own declaration. Divine threatenings are predictions, declaring what shall be, and what God will do in case of transgression of his law. And it is as inconsistent with truth not to execute his threatening, in the true meaning of it, as it is not to accomplish and bring to pass, what he has declared and promised shall take place. This law therefore must be maintained in the true meaning and spirit of it; as the grand and only perfect rule of rectoral justice, rectitude, or righteousness. And if it were possible that God should do any thing in his conduct towards moral agents, which should be inconsistent with this his law, or express the least disregard of it, it would be infinitely wrong, and contrary to truth, rectitude and righteousness, wisdom, and goodness. For this would be injurious to himself, and to his moral kingdom, and subversive of the greatest general good. Therefore if man 397could not be redeemed and saved consistent with maintaining this law, and showing the highest regard to it, God could not be true, just, wise or good, in saving them or showing them any favour.
But to pardon man and restore him to favour and happiness, in this situation, and remove the curse which the divine law fastens upon him, would be acting contrary to this law, repealing and renouncing it as a rule of righteousness, as not good and right: It would be joining with the sinner to disregard and dishonour the law; and favour, justify and encourage rebellion. This therefore would be inconsistent with rectitude, righteousness, wisdom and goodness, and infinitely contrary to these, and would put an eternal end to all perfect moral government. It would dethrone the Governor of the world, destroy his kingdom, and give full scope to the reign of rebellion, confusion and misery forever. Therefore it were better, infinitely better, that rebel man, even all mankind, should have the curse of the law fully executed on them, and they be totally miserable forever, than that this infinitely greater evil should take place by shewing favour to him, contrary to the dictates of the most perfect, righteous, and infinitely sacred law of God.
This otherwise insuperable difficulty, this mighty bar and obstacle in the way of shewing any favour to man, and escaping eternal destruction, is the ground of the necessity of a Mediator and Redeemer, by whom it maybe wholly removed, and man be delivered from die curse of the law; and saved, consistent with the divine character, with truth, infinite rectitude, wisdom and goodness; and so as not to set aside and dishonour, but support and maintain the divine law and government. This is the light in which the scripture very expressly sets this matter. St. Paul, speaking of the pardon and salvation of man by Christ the Redeemer, says, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past: To declare, I say, his righteousness: That he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”412412 Rom. iii. 25, 26. Here the design of the Redeemer 398is expressed, and the great thing he is to accomplish is to maintain and declare the righteousness, the rectitude, and unchangeable truth and perfection of God in opening a way by his blood, his sufferings unto death, for the free pardon of sinful man, consistent with his rectoral justice and truth, and doing that which is right and just both with respect to himself, his law and government, and all the subjects of his kingdom.
The work of the Redeemer therefore has a primary respect to the law of God, to maintain and honour that, so that sinners may be pardoned and saved consistent with that, without setting that aside, or showing the least disregard to it, in the requirements and threatenings of it; but that it may be perfectly fulfilled; and especially that the threatening might be properly and completely executed, without which God could not be true or just in pardoning and saving the sinner. It was therefore predicted that he should “Magnify the law, and make it honourable.”413413 Isaiah xlii. 21. And Christ himself declares that he came into the world to fulfil the law. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you. Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”414414 Matt. v. 17, 18. The law could not be fulfilled by Jesus Christ without his suffering the penalty of it, and obeying it perfectly. For to give up the penalty, and not execute the threatening of the law, when it is transgressed, is to dissolve and destroy the law: For a penalty is essential to a law, and where there is no penalty threatened there is no law, as has been shown. Therefore had the Redeemer undertaken to save man, without regard to the penalty of the law and suffering it himself, he would have come to make void the law and destroy it, to all intents and purposes. He could not “make reconciliation for sin, and bring in everlasting righteousness,” which it was predicted he should,415415 Dan. ix. 24. without suffering the penalty of the law, the everlasting rule of righteousness. In doing this his love of righteousness and hatred of iniquity was exercised and displayed in the 399most signal manner, and to the highest degree. Therefore it is with respect to this regard which he paid to the divine law in suffering the penalty and obeying the precepts of it, that it is said to him, “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”416416 Heb. i. 9. Psal xlv. 7. The same is expressed in other words by St. Paul. “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto deaths even the death of the cross. Wherefore God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.”417417 Phil. ii. 8, 9. His being obedient unto death, strongly expresses his laying down his life for sinners, suffering and dying in their stead, agreeable to the particular command which he had received of his Father.418418 John x. 18. To this end he was “made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.”419419 Gal. iv. 4, 5. Sinful men were under the curse of the law; and in order to redeem them, the Redeemer must take their place under the law, and suffer the penalty, bear the curse for them, and in their room, which is expressed yet more fully, and in the most plain and unequivocal words in the preceding chapter. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” By being made a curse for us, can be nothing else but suffering the penalty, the curse of the law, under which we were, and which man must have suffered, had not the Redeemer suffered it for him, as he could not be redeemed in any other way, without destroying the law.
From this general view of the design and work of the Redeemer of man, taken from the holy scriptures, the way is prepared for a farther stating and explanation of this subject, under the following particulars.
I. One important and necessary part of the work of the Redeemer of man, was to make atonement for their sins, by suffering in his own person the penalty or curse of the law, under which, by transgression, they had fallen; so that sinners might be pardoned and saved, consistent with the divine law, and without the least respect to that, or in any degree making it void; but so as to establish and honour the law.400
There is no truth in the Bible more clearly and abundantly revealed than this. This truth is evident from what has been above observed from the scriptures; but it is proper more particularly to attend to the scripture representation of this important subject.
The institution of sacrifices of beasts and other animals, after the apostasy of man, and the declaration, that redemption should take place by the seed of the woman; and those more expressly appointed under the Mosaic dispensation, do all, more or less, illustrate and confirm this truth, and point out vicarious sufferings as necessary and effectual to make atonement for sin. The guilty person was ordered to bring the beast to the altar, and lay his hands on the head of it, and confess his sin; and then it was put to death and sacrificed on the altar by the priest, instead of the sinner, and he was forgiven, an atonement being made for his sin by the death and blood of the beast.420420 The paschal lamb was an eminent type of Christ, with a principal reference to which he is so often called “The Lamb, the Lamb of God.” Therefore he is called the christian’s passover. “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” [1 Cor. v. 7.] This lamb was slain, and roasted with fire, as an emblem of the sufferings and death of Christ. There was a particular direction and command respecting the blood of this lamb. “And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts, and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.—And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where you are: And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” [Exod. xii. 7, 13.] As the blood of this slain lamb, when applied according to divine direction, secured the Israelites from the destruction which fell on the Egyptians; so Christ was slain and sacrificed, that they to whom his blood is applied by their believing in him, may have their sins forgiven, and be secured from that destruction which they deserve, being delivered from the wrath to come. [Eph. i. 7. 1 Thess. i. 10.] These sacrifices were of various kinds, and offered on different occasions, as types of Christ, and those things which related to him, and the atonement he was to make. For all these sacrifices were designed types of Christ, and in this all their worth and efficacy consisted. The death and blood of a beast could not in any measure or degree make atonement for sin, and was of no avail any farther than it had respect to Christ, and was a type and figure of his death, of his blood which he shed, which was the only real atonement, and which alone avails to take away sin. “For it is impossible 401 that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” It was therefore in early times expressly declared, that sacrifices and offerings were not desirable, or of any worth, in themselves considered, and that God did not institute and require them for their own sake, as making any real atonement for sin; but that this should be made by an incarnate Redeemer, to whom they pointed as types and shadows of him.421421 Psalm xl. 6, 7, 8. Heb. x. 4-9.
And he is particularly pointed out by Isaiah, as making atonement for sin by suffering the evil which it deserves in the room of sinners, and for them, that they might escape punishment, and be pardoned. He says, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was cut off out of the land of the living: For the transgression of my people was he stricken. It pleased the Lord to bruise him. He hath put him to grief: When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed. By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. He poured out his soul unto death, and he bare the sin of many.”422422 Isaiah liii. chap, throughout. To bear sin, or iniquity, is to suffer the punishment of it, or the evil which it deserves, and with which it is threatened. This appears not only from the plain, natural import of the phrases, but from the use of it in the Bible, of which there are many instances. The following are a few of them. “The holy garments shall be upon Aaron and his sons, when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place, that they bear not iniquity and die.”423423 Exod. xxviii. 43. “They shall therefore keep mine ordinance, lest they bear sin for it, and die therefor, if they profane it.”424424 Levit. xxii. 9. Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die.”425425 Numb. xviii. 22. The apostles express the import of the sufferings and death of Christ by the same phrase. “So Christ was once offered 402to bear the sins of many.”426426 Heb. ix. 28. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.”427427 1 Pet. ii. 24.
In the epistle to the Hebrews, the typical meaning of sacrifices of beasts is explained, and declared to be designed to point out the sacrifice and atonement which Christ has made, when he offered himself once for all, as a sacrifice to put away sin, and bear the sins of many; the plain meaning of which is, that he, by his sufferings, took on him the penalty of sin, and bore the punishment of it, so as effectually to put it away from all who believe in him, that it may never be laid to their charge, to condemn them: he having made full atonement and reconciliation. In this sense he is said to be the propitiation for the sins of men. And men are said to obtain redemption and forgiveness of sins by or through his blood, in allusion to the blood of the sacrifices under the law, which was the most essential thing in them, and is said to make the atonement. “The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar, to make an atonement for your souls: For it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul.”428428 Levit. xvii. 11. Our Saviour says of the sacramental cup, when he instituted the Lord’s supper, “This is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins.”429429 Matt. xxvi. 28. Agreeable to this, St. Paul says, “We are justified by his blood.”430430 Rom. v. 9. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.”431431 Eph. i. 7. And St. John says, “the blood of Christ cleanseth us, (that is, christians) from all sins.”432432 1 John i. 7. St. Peter tells believers that they were “redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot.”433433 1 Pet. i. 19. In heaven the saved adore the Redeemer and say, “Thou art worthy, &c. For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.”434434 Rev. v. 9.
There are a multitude of passages in the New Testament which set this point in this same light, and clearly import that what Christ suffered was in man’s stead, and does avail to release all who believe in him, from suffering the penalty of the law; and that by this alone they 403are redeemed from the curse of the law, which is eternal destruction. These passages are too many to be particularly quoted. Only a few therefore will be mentioned. Christ says, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”435435 Matt. xx. 28. He redeems or ransoms them by giving his life, his suffering unto death; this is the price, the ground of their deliverance. St. Paul says to believers, “Ye are bought with a price.”436436 1 Cor. vi. 20. vii. 23. The word in the original, which is here translated bought, is the same with that in Rev. v. 9. which is translated redeemed. “Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.” The price by which men are bought, and redeemed from the curse of the law, from endless destruction, is the blood of Christ, which he shed for the remission of sins, that is, his suffering unto death. The death of Christ, and the blood of Christ, mean the same thing. In shedding his blood and dying, he was made a curse, by which he has bought, redeemed, and delivered his people from the curse of the law. His life was the ransom he gave, the price which he paid for our redemption. Therefore the death of Christ is mentioned as that by which alone believers are delivered from condemnation, the condemning sentence, the curse of the law. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died.”437437 Rom. viii. 34. “For when we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”438438 Rom. v. 6. “I delivered unto you first of all, that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins.”439439 1 Cor. xv. 3. “For that he died, he died unto sin [or for sin] once.”440440 Rom. vi, 10. “And for this cause he is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first Testament, &c.”441441 Heb. ix. 15. In these passages, and other similar ones, the death of Christ is represented as having respect to the sins of men, and as redeeming them from the curse which sin deserves, by taking the curse on himself. When it is said “Christ died for our sins,” the meaning must be that his death is the atonement and propitiation for sin; and that by it he 404suffered the evil with which sin is threatened in the law, or the penalty and curse of the law; or that which is equivalent. To suffer for sin and for the sinner, is so far to take place of the sinner, as to suffer the evil which he deserves, and which otherwise the sinner must have suffered. Or, which is the same, the sufferings of Christ answer the same end with respect to law, and divine government, that otherwise must be answered by the eternal destruction of the sinner. The same sentiment is strongly expressed by St. Peter. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.”442442 1 Pet. iii, 18. Here it is to be observed, that three things are asserted in this sentence.
1. That the sufferings of Christ make atonement, and are the only ground or means of the sinner’s reconciliation to God.
2. That the sufferings of Christ were therefore for sin, and consequently must be the evil which sin deserves, and that to which the sinner was exposed, and which he must have suffered, had not Christ suffered it in his stead, or that which is equivalent.
3. That the last clause, “That he might bring us to God,” respects the pardon of sinners, their deliverance from the curse of the law, and restoration to favour, which could not take place consistent with the holy righteous law of God, had not Christ suffered for their sin.
On the whole, The scripture represents the atonement which Christ has made, by which sinners are delivered from the curse of the law, the wrath to come, to consist wholly in his suffering unto death for their sins, by which he suffered the evil which the law threatens for sin, or a complete equivalent, so as fully to answer the end of the threatening of the law, and all the purposes of moral government, consistent with the pardon of the sinner, as much as if the curse had been executed on the transgressor: And that this was one great, and the most important, essential and difficult part of the work of the Redeemer, and really implies the whole.
Thus by the death, the blood of Christ, full atonement is made for sin; the curse of the law is executed 405on the Redeemer, by which he has bought, redeemed his people from the curse, and opened the way for their pardon and complete redemption. He has been made a curse that he might deliver all who believe in him from the curse; but not so as in the least degree to remove their unworthiness and ill desert, but this remains, and will remain forever, it being improper, undesirable, and impossible that this should be removed, or that they should ever cease to deserve eternal destruction. They remain, and must continue to be as criminal as ever they were; so long as it remains true that they have been guilty of crimes which are pardoned, and from which they are justified by the blood of Christ.
In order more fully to explain and establish the atonement of Christ, which he has made by his suffering unto death, as it has been represented from the holy scripture; and to obviate as far as possible, every difficulty and objection which may arise in the minds of any, it is proper and necessary to consider the following questions.
Question 1. Where is the justice of an innocent person suffering for the guilty, and, on that account, delivering the criminal from the sufferings which he deserves? How can such a procedure honour the law, and support government?
Answer l. The scripture states the matter so, and abundantly asserts, that Christ, though perfectly innocent and holy himself, did die for sinners, and in their behalf; that he suffered, the just for the unjust; and that by this, all who believe in him are delivered from the evil, the suffering, which they deserve, and saved forever. Therefore every objection to this, is equally an objection to the Bible. Let deists object, and triumph in the imagination that it is unanswerable; but let christians believe, and with care and honest meekness consider, whether this supposed difficulty may not be easily removed.
Answer 2. Can it be reasonably asserted; is it true, that an innocent, worthy person may not justly, and with the utmost propriety, suffer in the room of a criminal, in order to save the latter from suffering, in any case whatsoever? Is not the contrary true, and agreeable 406to the common sense of mankind? Benevolus sustained the best and most worthy character of any man in the kingdom. His wife was publicly guilty of a crime, for which the law of the state denounced a punishment, which she could not suffer and survive it; but it must prove fatal to her, if inflicted on her. The law was so good and important, that if the penalty were not inflicted, and the law were disregarded in favour of the criminal, the consequence would be most fatal to the kingdom, and sap the foundation of all authority, law and government, and introduce endless confusion and misery. The husband saw all this, and had rather his wife should suffer the extremity of the law, than that good government should be dissolved, or the law disregarded, which he loved, and wished to have maintained. He loved his wife so much, that he was willing to suffer the penalty of the law himself, if she might by this means escape it. He knew that he was able to go through this suffering, however dreadful, and survive it; and that his doing this in the sight of the whole kingdom, would do more honour to the law, and government would be better established and maintained, than if his wife should suffer as she deserved. He therefore stepped forward, and offered, and desired to take the evil upon himself, and suffer the penalty of the law in the room of his wife, and for her crime. His offer was accepted, and he suffered the whole, without the least mitigation.
All the inhabitants and good subjects in the kingdom looked on and had not a thought of any injustice done to him, who offered to suffer for his wife; and did actually suffer the evil which she deserved. They saw and admired his benevolence and goodness to his wife, and his disposition and zeal to maintain the law and government. They beheld, and were highly pleased with the uprightness, rectitude and righteousness of their king, and his fixed determination to maintain his law, while he inflicted the penalty of it on a person whom he esteemed and loved above all others in his kingdom, when he stood in the place of the transgressor: And a greater discovery was made of this, and his high displeasure at rebellion, than if the criminal 407herself had been punished. They were struck with the propriety, righteousness, wisdom and goodness, exercised and manifested in the whole affair, and ever after had a more clear apprehension, and greater sense of the sacredness, importance, and excellence of the law, and of the unreasonableness and magnitude of the crime of transgressing it; and loved and revered their king, and his law and government, more than ever they had done before.
The husband and wife were unspeakably more happy in each other, than they were before, or than they could have been, had not all this taken place. Their mutual love was stronger and more sweet and happy. She saw more of his worthiness, excellence and love, than she could otherwise have done, and was most happy and swallowed up in the sweetest exercise of gratitude, and the most endearing affection, which knew no bounds or end.
There were some indeed, who never had been cordial friends to the king; and had no great esteem of his laws or government, or of the husband; who thought the transgression of the wife small and trivial; which might and ought to have been forgiven, without all this ado, and suffering of the husband. They were disaffected, and offended with the whole transaction, and made innumerable and endless objections.
This story may serve, in some measure, to illustrate this point, as well as some others, which will come into view hereafter; and to shew that an innocent, and most worthy person, may suffer for the crimes of the guilty, and yet no injustice be done to the sufferer; and the criminal may be by this, delivered from suffering what he deserves, and yet the law which he has transgressed, be well supported and honoured.
The Redeemer voluntarily took the place of sinners; he chose to suffer in their stead. His language was, ”Then said I, Lo, I come. In the volume of the book it is written of me: I delight to do thy will, O my God; Yea, thy law is within my heart.”443443 Psalm lxvii. 8. “I lay down my life for the sheep. No man taketh it from me; but I lay it down of myself.”444444 John v. 15, 18. “Being in the form of God, he thought it not robbery to be equal with God; yet made 408himself of no reputation; and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”445445 Phil. ii. 6, 7, 8. He suffered in the sight of all the moral world, and the design of his suffering was, and still is publicly declared and known, and that it was his choice thus to bear the evil which sinners deserved, that he might by this redeem them from it. And this is so far from being unjust or improper, that the righteousness and wisdom of God are hereby manifested and declared.
Quest. 2. The curse of the law dooms the sinner to be given up to the dominion of sin, and spiritual death without end: How then could Christ suffer the curse of the law, who knew no sin?
Ans. The curse of the law is the evil, the punishment of sin, and not sin, which is the cause of suffering: the crime itself which is threatened and punished. What is threatened as the penalty of the law, is natural evil, or pain and suffering for transgression, or moral evil. Spiritual death is moral evil; sin, the transgression of the law; for this the penalty is threatened and inflicted, and is not the penalty itself. This consists wholly in natural evil, pain and suffering; and not in actually violating the law. It is true, that being dead in trespasses and sins, or endless continuance under the power and dominion of sin, is implied in the sinner’s suffering the penalty of the law; but this is not the penalty, or any part of it, but the natural evil which attends it, and of which it is the occasion. The Mediator did not suffer precisely the same kind of pain, in all respects, which the sinner suffers when the curse is executed on him: He did not suffer that particular kind of pain which is the necessary attendant, or natural consequence of being a sinner, and which none but the sinner himself can suffer. But this is only a circumstance of the punishment of sin, and not of the essence of it. The whole penalty of the law may be suffered, and the evil suffered may be as much, and as great, without suffering that particular sort of pain. Therefore Christ, though with» out sin, might suffer the whole penalty, that is, as much and as great evil, as the law denounces against transgression. 409The evil which sinners may suffer, on whom the penalty of the law is inflicted, may, and doubtless will, differ in many circumstances, and not be precisely of the same kind, in all respects; and yet each one of them suffer the penalty of the same law.
Quest. 3. How can the sufferings of Christ be suffering the curse of the law, or the evil which the law threatens, or so great an evil as the eternal destruction of the sinner, and of millions of them, since his sufferings were of a short duration, and were not, perhaps, equal in degree, to those which some one of the damned suffers every hour?
Ans. The magnitude of the sufferings of Christ, or the evil of his suffering as he did, docs not wholly consist in the quantity or degree of pain which he endured, or in the duration or length of time in which he suffered. The degree of pain which he suffered was very great; unspeakably greater, no doubt, than ever was, or can be suffered by any mere creature. He did not suffer in the least in his divine nature; but altogether in his human nature, but this was capable of suffering an unspeakably greater degree of pain, than any mere creature, not only by reason of the superior greatness of the human nature, which has been mentioned; but from the perfect union with the divine nature. A consciousness of this, and of the dignity and worthiness implied in it, must aggravate his suffering far beyond conception. And by this union the human nature was sustained and made capable of enduring a degree of sufferings far beyond, and much more dreadful, than what any mere creature is capable of bearing. But, as has been observed, the greatness of the evil of the sufferings of Christ, does not wholly, or chiefly consist in the degree of pain which he suffered, or in the duration of his suffering: But in the greatness, dignity, and worthiness of the person who suffered.
The greatness of the evil, in the sufferings and reproach, and disgrace of any person, does not consist merely in the degree of pain which he suffers; but it is the greater or less, according to the excellence and worth of the person who suffers. This is so in the estimation 401of all, who attend to the matter, and is agreeable, to the common sense and feelings of mankind. It is a greater evil for the excellent head of a family to be condemned, reproached, and spit upon, tortured in the most cruel manner, and put to death, by the servants of the family, than it would be to have one of the servants treated so, and suffer all this. It would certainly be so to the children of the family, who esteemed and loved their father, being sensible of his excellence and worth; and it would be judged so by all. If the general of an army, who had supported his station and character with the greatest dignity and honour, and who is the life and support of his army, should be made the object of reproach and contempt by his soldiers, and dragged through the ranks in a most ignominious manner, to the place of execution, and there put to death for a coward and traitor: This would be an unspeakably greater evil, than it would be for a private sentinel to suffer all this pain and disgrace.
If a king who had long maintained a most righteous, wise and good government, and made a nation happy, being a person of the greatest excellence and true greatness and dignity, and sustaining the best character in the world, should be taken from his throne, by a number of banditti, and openly scourged through the streets of the city, and cast into prison; and then be taken from thence, and publicly put to a most cruel death; this would be a much greater evil, more undesirable and grievous, than for one of the lowest of his subjects to suffer all this reproach and pain. There is need only to mention these instances, in order to gain the assent of every one who will attend to the truth which is asserted, without any long train of reasoning upon it. It seems to be self evident; an irresistible dictate of common sense.
Should such a king have a son of a most amiable and excellent character, having the greatest natural abilities, and being endowed with great wisdom and benevolence, beloved and honoured by all the virtuous, and justly dearer to his father than any other person: And this son should fall into the hands of a number of ruffians, who after they had joined to reproach, ridicule, and mock 411 him, should put him to the most ignominious and cruel death that they could invent: Would not this be with the highest reason, beyond expression, a greater evil, and more grievous to the father, and all the inhabitants of that kingdom, than if the worthless servant in his family were treated thus, and suffered all this contempt and pain? It is presumed every one to whom such a case is proposed, will answer in the affirmative. And this is granting what most certainly none can deny, viz. That the more excellent and honourable any person is, and the more he is justly esteemed and beloved, and the greater his worth and importance, the greater and more grievous is the evil, in his unjustly suffering reproach and pain; and that the evil of such suffering, is great, in proportion to the excellence, dignity, worth and importance of the person who suffers.
From this truth, which is so evident and certain, it follows, as an undeniable consequence, that for the Redeemer to suffer as he did, is an infinite evil. For, as has been shewn, he is a person of infinite greatness, dignity, excellence, worth and importance; and infinitely beloved and dear to the Father. To the Father who sees all things as they are, and most perfectly comprehends the infinite excellence, dignity and worth of his infinitely well beloved and only begotten Son, it must appear an infinite evil for him to suffer what he did for the redemption of sinners. And in the sight of the Son, he undertook to suffer infinite evil, when he came into the world. And to the redeemed, as they grow in a view and sense of the greatness, dignity and worth of their Redeemer, and know more and better who he is, who died on the cross to redeem them, the greater will the evil of his sufferings appear; and consequently, the more clearly will they see the greatness of the price by which they were bought, and the sufficiency of his blood to cleanse from all sin, and how perfectly the threatening of the law is answered in the sufferings of Christ.446446 In the view of the infinite natural evil there is in the sufferings and death of the Son of God, may be seen the magnitude of the crime of which the Jews and all who joined with them, were guilty, who were active in bringing this evil upon him; who condemned, reviled and mocked him, inflicted pain and distress upon him, and put him to an ignominious and most cruel death. The crime of all sin is great in some proportion to the magnitude of the natural evil which is effected by it, or which it tends to produce. In this instance, the natural evil which they effected is infinite; therefore their crime in doing this was infinite, that is, they hereby rendered themselves infinitely guilty and ill deserving. It was just, that they should suffer as great and as much natural evil, as their volitions did actually produce, or tended to produce. And all who have reproached and slighted the Redeemer, all who have opposed and rejected him, from that time to this day, have really joined with those who put him to death, and in their hearts say, “Let him be crucified,” and are guilty of that which is infinitely criminal, and deserve to have infinite evil inflicted upon them. And in this instance of the sin of men, actually producing infinite natural evil, is to be seen the infinitely evil and malignant nature of all sin It tends to produce infinite natural evil; and therefore the sinner deserves to have this evil inflicted upon him, which has been before observed.412
The evil of the sufferings of Christ, being in the magnitude of it commensurate with the dignity and worth of his person, is equal to, is as great as the evil which is threatened to the transgressors of the law, and as great as the sinner deserves; yea, it is as great as the endless sufferings of all mankind; for that is no more than infinite; therefore Christ by his sufferings, paid a price, and made an atonement sufficient to redeem the whole world from the wrath to come: And it is not owing to any want or defect in this, that all are not saved; for it is boundless; but this is owing to something else, which will be considered in the sequel.
Thus it appears that though sin be an infinite evil, and deserves infinite natural evil, which is the penalty of the law of God, and the threatened punishment of sin, yet it could be suffered by Christ in a limited duration, a short time, since the evil of his suffering as he did must be great in proportion to the greatness, dignity, and worthiness of the sufferer, which are infinite.
If it should be asked, how the sufferings of Christ can be considered as an infinite evil, since he is not less, but more happy and glorious, and will be so forever, than if he had not suffered; and the good which comes to his church and kingdom by his suffering, is, and will be so great, as to overbalance and swallow up all the evil? This may be answered by observing,
1. If there be any thing in this argument, and the evil of suffering be not so great, but less, in proportion to the greatness of good of which it is the occasion; then it will follow, that there is no evil at all in the suffering of Christ; because it is the occasion of overbalancing good, and of much more good, on the whole, than 413if he had not suffered. If every degree of good which is the consequence of suffering, and of which suffering is the occasion, does cancel one degree of the evil of suffering, and render it no evil; then the overbalancing good, occasioned by suffering, cancels all the evil of the suffering, and renders it no evil: Which it is supposed none will admit; for all will grant there is some degree of evil, at least, in the sufferings of Christ.
2. The evil of suffering is not the less, in itself considered, however great be the good of which the pain and suffering is the occasion. Therefore the evil of the sufferings of Christ is as great, as if they had been the occasion of no good, but of evil. We must determine what evil there was in the suffering of Christ, not by taking into view the consequences of his suffering, but by considering the suffering itself, and the person suffering; and if the evil appears to be infinitely great, thus considered, as it has been proved it does, then, whatever be the consequence of the evil suffered, and however great the good be of which it is the occasion, it alters not the magnitude of the evil suffered; but it must remain eternally the same, in itself considered.
It is granted, and has been proved, in a former chapter, that no evil has taken place in the universe, or ever will, that is not the occasion of an overbalancing good; so that, on the whole, there is more good than if there had been no evil: And in this sense, all evil is turned into good, that is, it is on the whole, all things considered, not evil, but good. But it does not follow from this, that there is nothing of the nature of evil, or no evil, considered in and by itself: There is, notwithstanding, in this view of it, infinite evil.
If the overbalancing good, of which evil is the occasion, cancels the evil, in itself considered, then the damned suffer no evil; for all their sufferings are the occasion of an overbalancing good. The querist, therefore, may as well ask, how eternal damnation can be an infinite evil, or any evil at all, since it is the occasion of an overbalancing good? And he may with equal reason assert, that Joseph suffered no evil by being sold a slave into Egypt, and east into prison there, “whose feet they hurt with fetters, and he was laid in iron,” 414and say there was no evil in all this, since God meant it for good; and it was the occasion of so much good to Joseph himself, and to his father’s house. Ask Joseph. Ask his father. Ask common sense.
Quest. 4. If Christ suffered as great, and as much evil, yea, more than the redeemed would have suffered, had they not been redeemed, but been miserable forever; then there is no less evil in the universe, than there would be, if they had not been redeemed; but really much more. Where is the advantage then of redemption, and what is gained by it?
Ans. The advantage gained by redemption, to the universe, is the overbalancing good which is produced by it. AH natural evil is, in itself considered, undesirable, and cannot be desired for its own sake; but may be desired and chosen, for the sake of the good of which it is the occasion, and which cannot take place in any other way. It would have been undesirable that there should be evil in the universe, and therefore there would have been none, had it not been necessary in order to a greater, overbalancing good: But it is desirable that every instance and degree of evil, which is necessary to promote the greatest good, should take place, however much and great this be. The suffering and death of the Redeemer is in itself an infinite evil; but as this was necessary in order to effect a proportionably greater, overbalancing, superabounding good, it was desirable it should take place; for the sake of ”the glory that should follow.” This event is of infinite advantage to the universe. God is glorified more by the redemption of man than by all his other works, and there will be an eternal, bright, and most happifying display of the divine perfections, which could not have taken place, had not Christ thus suffered. Had he not suffered as he did, he would not have entered into his glory, that glory and felicity which he will enjoy forever as the fruit of his suffering. And an eternal, glorious and most happy kingdom exists in consequence of this. Thus not only the salvation of the redeemed from eternal destruction is effected by the suffering of the Redeemer, but they are eternally happy; and not only so, but they and all holy beings will be unspeakably more happy 415 forever, than they could otherwise have been; and God and the Redeemer are beyond all conception more glorified; so that there will be infinitely more good in the universe, both moral and natural, than could have been, had not Christ suffered and entered into his glory. And all the other evil that has been, or will take place, is, by the sufferings of Christ, made the occasion of much greater good, than it could otherwise have been. Surely no one, who well considers all this, will ask, “Where is the advantage of redemption, and what is gained by it?”
Question 5. To suffer the penalty of the law is to be accursed, the subjects of God’s displeasure and wrath; but God the Father was not displeased with his Son Jesus Christ; for he was always his beloved Son, and even in his sufferings the Father was pleased with him, and loved him because he gave his life for the redeemed. How then could Jesus Christ suffer the penalty of the law?
Ans. St. Paul says, “Christ hath redeemed us. from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: as it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”447447 Gal. iii. 13. In the place to which the apostle refers, the words are, “He that is hanged, is accursed of God.” And there is indeed no real curse but the curse of God. Christ therefore was made such, even the curse of the law, in order to deliver believers in him from this curse. The curse of the law consists in the infinite evil, pain and suffering which sin deserves, as has been shown. He who suffers this for sin, suffers the curse of the law, is accursed, or made a curse. Jesus Christ suffered this curse, the infinite natural evil in which the penalty or the curse of the law consists; and in suffering it for sinners, and in their stead, was made a curse. This might be consistent with his having the approbation of the Father, and his favour and love to the highest degree. The displeasure of God, which was the cause of his sufferings, and which was manifested and expressed in his sufferings when he voluntarily took, and stood In the place of sinners, was displeasure with sin, and the sinner, and not with him who suffered; the 416state of the case being fully understood by the spectators. Great displeasure and wrath was indeed discovered and expressed in the sufferings of Christ. For all natural evil, wherever it takes place, is an expression of the divine displeasure with sin; and could not have been inflicted, in any case, had no moral evil existed; and the greater the natural evil is, which is inflicted, the more or the greater degree of displeasure is expressed. And for the Son of God to suffer all this, the whole curse, without any mitigation or abatement, when he so far espoused the cause of sinners, as to take their place, and suffer for them, when he was not only innocent, but infinitely beloved by the Father, and most honourable and worthy in his sight, was a much greater manifestation and expression of the divine hatred of rebellion, and his unalterable disposition to inflict the penalty of his law, and maintain his moral government, than if every sinner had been punished, and the penalty of the law were inflicted on all transgressors without exception. The Father’s not sparing his own Son, but giving him up to suffer the whole curse of the law, when he espoused the cause of sinners, is a most striking evidence of rectitude and righteousness, and regard to his law, and fixed determination to support it, and inflict the penalty, even though his own well beloved Son must suffer it. And that must be great displeasure and wrath which is expressed by the suffering and death of the Son of God, a person so infinitely worthy, and so beloved by the Father.
When the Son of God is beheld thus suffering, expiring on the cross in the sight of the whole universe, and crying out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” it is natural to inquire and consider, “Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto his only begotten, dearly beloved Son: What meaneth the heat of this great anger?” The answer will be easy to all the discerning: They will understand the reason and design of the whole, and the instruction will dwell on their minds with increasing clearness and energy forever. It will be forever known and kept in view in the kingdom of God, that mankind rose in rebellion, and fell under the curse of the law of God, and his 417high displeasure: And that a way might be opened for a reconciliation, and favour to man, consistent with the divine law which cursed him, and with the righteousness and wisdom of Governor of the world, the Son of God took the place of man, was made under the law, and took the curse upon himself; which therefore was inflicted on him without the least mitigation. This is the reason of these dreadful sufferings of this infinitely great and worthy personage. “It pleased the Lord thus to bruise him, and put him to grief,” as the strongest expression of his great displeasure, and the heat of his anger with the sinners whose cause he espoused, so as to take their place, and answer for them. This wrath is not against the Son of his love; but against the rebellion of those sinners for whom he suffers.448448 See Deut. xxix. 22-28.
The Redeemer being united to those sinners for whom he had undertaken to suffer by the most strong, ardent, benevolent affection, and by thus taking their place as their head and Saviour, was prepared in and by his human nature to be impressed with a clear apprehension and awful sense of the dreadful displeasure of God with them, and with sin, and to have the most painful sensation, of their infinitely miserable situation as deserving and justly exposed to the effects of the heat of his anger and wrath. And thus this anger and wrath, in this sense, fell on him, and his soul, in this situation, and thus united to them, was necessarily filled with the greatest pain and distress. And all things were so ordered, when the time of his most dreadful sufferings came on, as to raise this view and sensation to the highest degree. The comfortable and happifying sense of the love and favour of God was withdrawn, and the human soul was filled with the most dreadful gloom, distress and horror in a most keen sense of the anger and wrath of God, net against himself personally, bur with those whom he loved, and were, in a sense, one with him; so that their evil was his evil, and it even necessarily came on him. In this sense he suffered the displeasure and wrath of God. He felt it as insupportably dreadful, and had an overwhelming sense of it. And 418the displeasure and wrath of God against sinners was the cause of all his sufferings.
This appears to have been the chief source of the sufferings of Christ. What he suffered by his body, by the cruelty and rage of men, who could only torture him in his body, though great, was as nothing, compared with what he suffered in his mind, by the circumstances just mentioned. Many martyrs have suffered, as great bodily pain as was inflicted on the Redeemer; and they have endured it with great comfort and joy. Their minds have appeared to be out of the reach of the bodily tortures which were inflicted on them, so that they hardly felt them; but rejoiced in God, and the light of his countenance. Why then was the soul of the Redeemer troubled, and sorrowful even unto death? Why were there no expressions of comfort and joy even on the cross? Why did he cry out “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The view of the case as stated above, will fully account for it, and appears to be the only satisfactory account of the matter.
Thus we see how Christ suffered for sin, was made a curse, that is, suffered the curse of the law, the curse of God: and in his sufferings, he, in a sense, suffered and felt the displeasure and wrath of God; and the anger of God against sin and the sinner was in a high and eminent degree manifested and expressed in the sufferings and death of Christ, consistent with his not being displeased, but well pleased with Christ himself, and loving him because he laid down his life for his people.
The instance mentioned above, of the husband suffering for the crime of his wife, and in her stead, serves in some measure to illustrate this point. The displeasure of government, or of the king, with the criminal, and the great offence she had given, and his fixed determination to manifest and express this by inflicting the penalty threatened to such offences, were as fully exhibited, and made known by the suffering of the husband in her stead, as if she had suffered, and, in some respects, much more, as the king would not, in this case, spare him, though he was a person so greatly esteemed and beloved. And he might with truth be said to suffer the displeasure and wrath of the king, as this was the 419 cause of his sufferings, and was expressed in them; of which he was not personally the object, but the criminal.
Question 6. How is the threatening of the law in truth and reality executed by the sufferings of another, and not of him who is threatened? The transgressor only is threatened; and if it be not executed on him, it is not really executed at all. How can the sufferings of another, who is not the transgressor, and is not threatened, answer any end with respect to the threatening?
Ans. 1. It has been shown, and it is abundantly evident from scripture, that the sufferings of Christ had respect to the threatening of the law. Were there no such threatening, or were it not to be regarded, there could be no occasion for any suffering, and there would be no reason why Christ should suffer in order to the redemption of man. It has also been made evident that Christ did suffer the curse of the law, or the threatened penalty.
He suffered the evil threatened, or as great evil, a complete equivalent, if not precisely the same evil in every circumstance, which the sinner must have suffered, had the threatening been executed on him. It has, moreover, been shewn that all the ends of die threatening, and of a penalty, are as fully answered by the sufferings of Christ, as they could be by the execution of it on the sinner: As much respect is paid to the divine law; government is as well supported; the rectitude and righteousness of God, is as much declared; and his displeasure with the sinner and hatred of rebellion, and determination to punish it, as much manifested; and in some respects much more, and to greater advantage. If there be any difficulty still remaining in the case, it is, whether a substitute may suffer the penalty in the room of the sinner, and the latter, by this means, escape punishment, consistent with the threatening, and so that it shall be truly and properly executed, and the truth of the legislator in the threatening be maintained. Or whether the threatening can be really executed by vicarious sufferings.420
This leads to
Ans. II. It is evident from scripture, that the law of God does admit of a substitute, both in obeying the precepts, and suffering the penalty of it; and that this is consistent with the true spirit and meaning of it.
When man was first created, and placed under the law of God, and moral government, Adam, the Father of the human race, was constituted their public head and representative, to obey the law for them, so that they should have the benefit of his obedience, and obtain eternal life by it, if he persevered in obedience through the appointed time of trial. Thus Adam was made a substitute, to obey the divine law for all mankind, in their room and stead. And it was hereby publicly declared by God, the Legislator, that his law admitted of a substitute. And if the law admitted of a substitute to obey for all the rest, of whom he was made the natural and constituted head; and by his single act of disobedience to bring sin and ruin on ail his posterity; and God had declared that this was the best and most wise way of administering his moral government in this world: then a substitute might suffer the penalty of the law for man, and redeem him from that sin and ruin which was brought upon him by the disobedience of a substitute, if a proper person, sufficient to suffer this, and survive the suffering, can be found. Had Adam, after he transgressed and incurred the penalty of the law, been able to suffer it, and survive and perfect the obedience which was required, this would have answered the law, according- to the declared meaning of it: He would have retrieved himself, and saved his posterity from sin and ruin. Adam was infinitely unequal to this: But a “second Adam” was found; a second public head and representative, of whom the first Adam was a type, figure or model, who was able to suffer the penalty of the law for man, and in his stead, and survive the dreadful scene; and by it redeem man, even all who are united to him by believing in him, from the curse of the law.449449 See Rom. v. 14. 1 Cor. xv. 45, 47. Gal. iii. 13. Ps. lxxxix. 19, 20.
Therefore, this being the declared meaning of the law, that it admitted a substitute, both to obey the precepts 421of it, and to suffer the penalty, and that the threatening of it was to be so understood; a second public head and substitute, who was revealed and promised when the first Adam had ruined himself and his posterity, has risen and suffered the penalty, in the room of sinners. Thus the threatening has been fully executed according to the true and declared meaning of it, when it was given; and as it has been fully explained in the divine conduct, in constituting a second man, the last Adam, and inflicting the threatened penalty on him. And in this way, “mercy and truth are met together: Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”450450 Psalm lxxxv. 10. God has, agreeable to the strictest truth, executed the threatening of his law, according to the true intent and meaning of it; and by this has opened a way for reconciliation and peace with man, while his truth and righteousness are maintained, and gloriously manifested.
Quest. 7. Do not the sufferings of Christ remove the ill desert of those who believe in him? Christ has suffered all the evil that sin deserves, all that to which the sinner is liable, from the threatening and his ill desert, as great, and as much as could justly be inflicted on the sinner. If the sinner could have suffered all this evil himself, and survive such sufferings, he would then have no ill desert, it would not be just to inflict any more evil upon him. And if Christ has suffered it all for him, and in his stead, how can he deserve any punishment? And what grace is there then in pardoning the sinner who believes in Christ; or rather, What need has he of pardon?
Ans. The sufferings of Christ do not alter the character of the sinner, in the least. His ill desert is according to his whole moral character, according to what he is, and has done, as a moral agent; he may justly be treated according to this. And to treat him thus, would be doing him no injury. Therefore not to treat him according to his moral character, but to treat him better and more favourably, is mere grace and undeserved favour. The sufferings of Christ, therefore, do not make the least alteration, or any abatement of his ill desert, as the sinner’s own character is not hereby made better.422
If the sinner were to suffer the penalty himself, in his own person; and were able to do this, and survive his suffering; this would alter his moral character, as he would then have completely compensated for his crime, it being extinguished by his suffering all the evil which it deserves; no more could be required, or justly inflicted upon him. His whole character being considered, his crimes and sufferings, he would stand right in law, and have no need of a pardon, and there would be no grace in not punishing him yet more. The vicarious sufferings of a substitute are quite different, and opposite, in this respect, to the sufferings of the sinner, which have been supposed, though really impossible. For in the case of vicarious sufferings, the sinner’s character remains the same, and he continues as ill deserving as ever, and must feel so, if his discerning and feeling be according to truth. Had Adam persevered in obedience, to the end of the time of his trial, by his vicarious obedience, all his children would have been admitted to the enjoyment of the favour of God, and eternal life; but this vicarious obedience of their substitute would not have rendered them in the least degree more deserving of such favour, than if there had been no such obedience. For Adam’s obedience was not their own personal obedience, and never could be; and therefore could not be considered as such. So the sufferings of Christ, not being the sufferings of the sinner, but of a substitute, cannot render the sinner less ill deserving in himself, or personally considered, more than the vicarious obedience of a substitute can render those for whom he obeys more worthy of reward.
The husband’s suffering for his wife, the punishment which she deserved, may serve to illustrate this point. His suffering did not render her in the least less deserving of punishment, as it did not alter her character; and it was as much an act of mere grace to pardon her, as if her husband had not suffered. The end that his suffering answered, was to open the way for her pardon, consistent with public justice, and the general good; and not to reader her the less ill deserving.423
Ques. 8. Would it not have been a higher exercise of mercy and grace to save sinners without an atonement; without buying and redeeming them at so great a price? Many have thought that the doctrine of an atonement stated above, as necessary m order to the exercise of divine grace, in pardoning and saving sinners, gives a dishonourable notion of the goodness of God, and represents his mercy unspeakably less, than it would appear to be, if sinners were forgiven and saved, without any price paid for their redemption, or atonement made for their sins.
Ans. If the nature and design of an atonement be well understood, and kept in mind, as it has been stated and represented in the beginning of this chapter, it will appear that the benevolence and grace of God, in saving sinners without an atonement, were this consistent with rectitude and wisdom, would have been unspeakably less, than that which is now exercised in the redemption of sinners by the atonement of Christ; this being necessary to render their salvation possible, consistent with righteousness, truth, and goodness itself. Indeed, as the case was, there would have been no grace in pardoning sinners, and saving them without an atonement, for this would have been contrary to infinite goodness. A full answer to this question is found in the first chapter of this part.
Having considered the atonement which it was necessary for the Redeemer to make by his own sufferings, in order to redeem man; and which he has actually made by suffering the penalty of the law, which was the greatest, and most difficult part of his work, as the Redeemer of men, it must in the next place be observed,
II. The work of the Redeemer consists, in part, in his perfect obedience to the law of God. This is an essential part of the character and work of the Redeemer of man; for he could not directly honour the precepts of the law in any way, or by any thing, but by obeying them; and the least instance of disobedience or disregard to any one of them would have ruined his character as the Redeemer of man.
The Son of God, united to the human nature, and considered as God and man in one person, was not under 424any original obligation to that obedience which he voluntarily took upon himself to perform. This divine person was above any obligation to obedience, as a subject and servant. He was, in the human nature, perfectly holy, as God is holy; but this he might be, and continue so forever, and yet not be under obligation to yield the obedience to which he submitted. The Son of God did not take upon him the form of a servant, merely by becoming man, by being made flesh, and taking the human nature into a personal union; but as he became flesh, and was made in the likeness of men, that hereby he might be capable of obeying and suffering in the human nature, he voluntarily took upon himself the form of a servant, and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death.451451 Phil. ii. 7, 8. The words in our translation are, “He took upon him the form of a servant, and was found in the likeness of men.” But it is more agreeable to the original, to render it thus: Being made in the likeness of man; (or as Dr. Doddridge translates it, “When made in the likeness of men”) he took upon him the form of a servant. “When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.”452452 Gal. iv. 4. The Son of God being made of a woman, that is, being made flesh, and becoming man, uniting himself to the human nature, did not necessarily put him under the law, or lay him under obligation to obey it, as a subject, or servant, or to suffer the penalty of it. Therefore, the apostle, in these words, distinguishes between these; he was not only made of a woman, took the human nature into a personal union with himself; but was also made under the law. When he was originally above law, or any obligation to obedience, he voluntarily took the place of sinners, and was made under the law, and became obliged to suffer the penalty, and obey the precepts of it, “to redeem them that were under the law, and under the curse of it, and that they might receive the adoption of sons.” It was necessary that he should suffer the curse of the law, to redeem men from the curse of it; and it was equally necessary that he should obey the precepts of the law, in man’s stead, that believers in him might receive the adoption of sons, and obtain complete deliverance from sin, and become heirs of eternal life.425
The atonement made by Christ, in his suffering the penalty of the law, has respect only to the threatening of the law, that by suffering what was threatened, and what sin deserves, sinners who believe in him might be delivered from the curse. Thus Christ died for sin; was sacrificed or offered to bear the sins of many; and he shed his blood for the remission of sins, as the scripture asserts. This atonement therefore only delivers from the curse of the law, and procures the remission of their sins who believe in him; but does not procure for them any positive good: It leaves them under the power of sin, and without any title to eternal life, or any positive favour, or actual fitness or capacity to enjoy positive happiness. This would be but a very partial redemption, had the Redeemer done no more than merely to make atonement for sin, by suffering the penalty of the law for sinners, and in their stead. It was therefore necessary that he should obey the precepts of the law for man, and in his stead, that by his perfect and meritorious obedience, he might honour the law in the preceptive part of it, and obtain all the positive favour and benefits which man needed, be they ever so many and great.
It has been observed, that when man was first created, it was made known by the Legislator, that his law admitted of vicarious obedience; that the obedience of one might be the proper ground of granting the greatest favours to all whom he represented, and for whom, and in whose stead he acted. This he did by constituting Adam a public and federal head of his posterity, and substituting him to act for them all, so that by his obedience through the time of his trial, his children should obtain eternal life. If this were proper and wise, and consistent with the exercise of the most perfect moral government, and with the true design and spirit of the moral law, as it most certainly was; then there is equal propriety and wisdom in substituting the second public head, the Redeemer of men, to act, to obey, for all the redeemed, who shall believe in him, so that they shall have as. much favour, at least, as if they had performed perfect obedience in their own persons. The obedience of the second Adam, the Son of God, must be infinitely 426more worthy of regard, and meritorious, than the obedience of the first Adam, for two reasons.
1. He was infinitely greater and more excellent, and worthy, than Adam was. Therefore his obedience was proportionally more excellent, meritorious and pleasing to God. And it was proportionally more honourable to the law, which he obeyed, and to the Legislator and divine government. It may be truly said, that the obedience of Christ to the divine law had more excellence and worth in it, than the highest, most perfect and all possible obedience of all the mere creatures in the universe; and the law of God is unspeakably more dignified and honoured in the precepts of it, by the former, than it can be by the latter.
2dly. The obedience of Adam, the first public head, was but a just debt which he owed to God, for himself, in his own person. The law required perfect obedience of him; he was under indispensable obligation to this every moment of his existence: Therefore it was impossible for him to merit any thing by doing more than his duty, while he gave himself wholly to God, in the strongest love of which he was capable, and in the highest and most difficult acts of obedience; he gave no more than he owed, as an original and just debt, arising from his existence and capacity, as a creature of God. But the Son of God, as has been observed, was under no obligation to obey as he did, as a subject and servant: he owed nothing of this nature for himself, he being above all law, in this respect, until he voluntarily took upon him the form of a servant, and put himself under the law, not only to suffer the penalty of it, not for himself, but for others; but to obey it, not for himself, as if he owed such obedience, but for others, that they might have the benefit of it. In this respect, the obedience of the Redeemer was in the highest sense and degree worthy of reward, and meritorious for himself and those for whom he obeyed. All the glory, which is the consequence of his obedience and sufferings, and all the positive good to himself, and his church, is the reward of the Redeemer, and of the redeemed with him. Because he took upon him the form of a servant, and was obedient unto death: Therefore God hath 427highly exalted him, and given him a name, which is above every name.”453453 Phil. ii. 7, 8, 9. The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness sake, and hath delivered all things into his hands, and made him head over all things to the church, to complete the redemption of it, and give eternal life to as many as were given to him.
In this view it may be said that the reward of the obedience of the Son of God is infinitely greater than that which the first Adam would have obtained, had he obeyed. The Redeemer has by his obedience obtained unspeakably greater good, happiness and glory, for his church, the redeemed, than the obedience of Adam would have procured for his posterity. Speaking of the redeemed, he says, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”454454 John x. 10. They are raised up to sit with him, even on his throne, to reign with him, as kings and priests, sharing with him in his felicity and glory. All this is the fruit and reward of the obedience of the Mediator. The redeemed enjoy the benefit of his obedience as much as if they themselves had performed it, or it were their own obedience, though they, in themselves, in their own persons, are as unworthy as if Christ had not obeyed the law for them.
The obedience of Christ, though most excellent and meritorious, is not an atonement for the sins of men, or really any part of it. It is impossible that any mere obedience, however excellent and meritorious, should make atonement for the least sin. This can be done by nothing but suffering the penalty of the law, the evil with which transgression is threatened, as has been shown, while attending to the sufferings of Christ.
Christ did, indeed, obey in suffering; and this was, perhaps, the highest act or instance of his obedience. As a servant he received a commandment from the Father to lay down his life to make atonement for the sins of men. This was the most difficult part, and the greatest trial of his obedience. He set his face as a flint, and went through the whole with a persevering steadiness and resolution; and in this was the strongest exercise and expression of his love to God and man, 428 and regard for the law of God, and the divine government. And this was therefore the most pleasing to God, and the most meritorious part of his obedience, when he “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross;” as it was also the greatest instance of his suffering, in which the atonement which he made by suffering, chiefly consisted. And it was necessary that his suffering should be voluntary, and so an act of obedience, as far as he was active, in order to his suffering justly, and making any atonement thereby. But though the Redeemer obeyed in sufferings, and suffered in obeying; and his highest and most meritorious obedience was acted out in his voluntary suffering unto death, and in this greatest instance of his suffering, the atonement which he made for sin chiefly consisted; yet his obedience and suffering are two perfectly distinct things, and answered different ends; and must be considered so, and the distinction and difference carefully, and with clearness kept up in the mind, in order to have a proper understanding of this very important subject. The sufferings of Christ, as such, made atonement for sin, as he suffered the penalty of the law, or the curse of it, the evil threatened to transgression, and which is the desert of it, in the sinner’s stead; by which he opened the way for sinners being delivered from the curse, and laid the foundation for reconciliation between God, and the transgressors, by his not imputing, but pardoning their sins, who believe in the Redeemer, and approve of his character and conduct. By the obedience of Christ all the positive good, all those favours and blessings are merited and obtained, which sinners need, in order to enjoy complete and eternal redemption, or everlasting life in the kingdom of God. By this he has purchased and obtained the Holy Spirit, by whom sinners are so far recovered from total depravity, and renewed, as to be prepared and disposed to believe on Christ and receive him, being offered to them: And he carries on a work of sanctification in their hearts, until they are perfectly holy. Therefore Christ says, he will send and give the Holy Spirit, and he Father will send him in his name: and he is called the Spirit of Christ, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, 429 I will send him unto you. And when he is -come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. The Comforter, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things. When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.”455455 John xiv. 26. xv. 26. xvi. 7, 8. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”456456 Rom. viii. 19. This gift of the Holy Ghost really comprises all positive good which Christ has by his obedience purchased for the redeemed. And as “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,”457457 Rom. x. 4. all such being interested in his righteousness, and having the benefit of it as much as if they had in their own persons perfectly obeyed the law, have eternal life made sure to them; the Holy Spirit is given to them to abide with them forever, as the earnest of their eternal inheritance; and they have a divine promise that they shall never perish, but shall persevere in holiness, until they are made perfect, “being kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.” All which favours they receive by the obedience and merit or righteousness of Christ, which is imputed to them, or avails to procure all these benefits for them, in consequence of their union to him by faith. But these matters will be more fully considered in some of the following chapters.
Before this head is dismissed, it may be useful to observe the following things. Though there be a real distinction between the atonement which is made by Christ for sin by suffering; and his obedience, by which sinners who believe in him are recommended to all the positive blessings, which they want, and are bestowed on them; yet both these are generally included and meant by the righteousness of Christ; but a principal respect seems to be had to the latter, and sometimes perhaps that only is intended. He who reads the Bible with care will take notice of this. The righteousness of Christ does most properly consist in his obedience, by which believers in him obtain eternal life, and all positive blessings; yet as his obedience implies his sufferings, and 430his sufferings imply his obedience, and one is as necessary for the salvation of men as the other, they are both included in his righteousness; as they are both necessarily included in his obedience unto death.458458 Phil. ii. 8.
It maybe farther observed, that to be justified by Christ, sometimes means only a being pardoned, or deliverance from the curse of the law by the sufferings and atonement of Christ, or has a principal respect to that; though it includes positive favour, and a title to eternal life, which are given to believers, for the sake of the obedience and worthiness of Christ. Pardon of sin, or deliverance from the evil which sin deserves, is distinguishable from what is called “justification of life,”459459 Rom. v. 18. which implies a tide to eternal life, though these are never separated; for he who is pardoned, is by one and the same act of God, also made heir of eternal life, including all the favours which the believer receives for the sake of the worthiness and obedience of Christ; and is treated as well as if he were perfectly righteous, out of respect to the obedience and righteousness of the Redeemer. The following seem to be instances in which to justify, or be justified, intends only forgiveness of sins on account of the sufferings or atonement of Christ; or, at least, to have a primary and chief respect to that—“Be it known unto you, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”460460 Acts xiii. 38, 39. “Much more then being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”461461 Rom. v. 9. Here justification seems to mean no more than pardon of sin, or rather opening the way to pardon by the suffering and death of Christ in their stead, Christ having died for them.
Redemption seems also to be sometimes used in a more restrained sense, and primarily, if not wholly respects deliverance from the curse of the law by the sufferings of Christ, or forgiveness of sins through the atonement he has made by suffering the curse of the law. The following appear to be instances of this: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of 431 sins.”462462 Eph. i. 7. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.”463463 Gal. iii. 13. Yet this includes, and is connected with deliverance from sin and all evil, and the bestowment of eternal life, and comprehends the whole work of the Redeemer.
III. Another part of the work of the Redeemer, is to complete the salvation of those whom he redeems, and to finish and perfect the work of redemption. This has been in some measure brought into view under the former head, but requires a more particular consideration. In consequence of the suffering and obedience of Christ, and as a reward of the latter, he is exalted, to give repentance and remission of sins, and complete salvation to those who shall be actually redeemed. All things are given into his hands, and all power in heaven and earth: And he is made head over all things to the church; that he might sanctify and cleanse it, and present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish. As all men are naturally in a state of total depravity, enemies to God, his law and government; and therefore enemies to the Redeemer, and all his designs and works; not one of them can be persuaded to come to him, and accept of the offered salvation, unless he be made willing by his mighty power, renewing his heart, taking away the heart of stone, the rebellious heart, and giving a discerning, obedient heart. This is represented in the scripture by a variety of phrases, and abundantly asserted, which may be more fully considered in a following chapter. The Redeemer having renewed by the spirit, those whom he designs to save, so far as to bring them to a union with himself by faith, and to become his real friends, carries on this work through life, until they are brought at death to perfection in holiness; and he will raise their bodies at the last day, and give them eternal life. All this he has declared he will do. He has said, “All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me, and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out. This is the will of the Father, which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise 432 it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son and believeth on him, may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”464464 John vi. 37, 39, 40.
He is exalted to the right hand of God, and sits on the throne of the universe, having all things in his hands, and governing the whole world, so as in the best manner to save the redeemed, and fulfil the good pleasure of his goodness towards them, and totally to disappoint, overthrow and destroy all his and their enemies, putting them under his feet, when he will come to judge the world in righteousness.
The Redeemer, in prosecuting his work, sustains the character, and performs the offices of prophet, priest and king. He is, in the moral world, especially in his church and kingdom, what the sun is in the natural world, the light thereof. He is therefore called “the Sun of righteousness.” He said, “I am the light of the world: He that followeth me, shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me, should not abide in darkness.”465465 John viii. 12. xii. 46. These words of Christ serve to explain what is said by this Evangelist, [Chap. i. 5.] “Who was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” The words of Christ suppose, and implicitly assert, that he who believeth not, is in darkness, and abideth in darkness. And this Apostle asserts the same thing. He says, “He that hateth his brother (which is true of every unbeliever) is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.” [1 John 2.] Therefore Christ’s lightening every man that cometh into the world, cannot mean that he actually illuminates the mind of every man in the world, for the words of Christ, and of his beloved disciple, assert the contrary. The meaning therefore must be, either that he lightens every man in the world without exception, who has any true light; that is, all who believe, and come to the light: Or that he is the only objective light in the world; there being no other light to be seen, but that which he affords objectively: which objective light is set before all men, and is offered to all, in a greater or less degree. It nevertheless remains true that all who are not christians, and do not follow Christ, have no light within them, but walk in total darkness, from which they are turned when they believe. Therefore Christ says, “I am the light of the world. He that followeth me, shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” [John viii. 12] This implies that all who do not follow him, have no degree of that light of which he speaks, when he says, “I am the light of the world;” but are wholly involved in that darkness which is opposed to this light; and live and walk in it.
The Redeemer is the author of all the moral light and instruction afforded to men. He has given the divine 453revelation which we enjoy. He inspired men by his Spirit to write that part of scripture which the church enjoyed before his incarnation.466466 1 Pet. i. 11. He taught and instructed men when in the flesh on earth; and inspired the apostles and others to write what is contained in the New Testament, in which, among other things, all the future, grand events, that relate to his church and kingdom, and to the world of mankind in general, which are to take place to the end of the world, are foretold; and by all which life and immortality are brought to light. And he opens the eyes of blind sinners, and turns them from darkness to marvellous light, causing the light of truth contained in divine revelation to shine in their hearts. And he forms the hearts of his disciples more and more to true discerning, till they are cured of all their mistakes and darkness, and brought into perfect light and day. In order to this he has instituted and maintains all the external means of instruction and knowledge; with reference to which St. Paul says, “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. And he gave some Apostles, and some Prophets, and some Evangelists, and some Pastors and Teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”467467 Eph. iv. 9, 12, 13.
And he not only exerciseth the office of a prophet till he has brought his church to a state of perfect light and knowledge, but he will sustain this character in heaven forever: For the Lamb shall be the everlasting light of it.468468 Rev. xxi. 22. Isai. x. 19. He will make new discoveries, and give increasing light and knowledge without any end. The Redeemer therefore is promised in the character of a prophet, when his incarnation is foretold. “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, a prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, of your brethren, like unto me.”469469 Acts iii. 22. Deut. xviii. 15.
Christ is also a priest in his church. The great high priest, of whom all the priests, constituted by the laws of God given to Moses, were types. He has offered 434the only sacrifice, by which full atonement is made for sin. And in this transaction, he is both the priest, the sacrifice, and the altar. And though by his once offering himself a sacrifice for the sins of his people, he has made complete atonement for sin; yet he continues to exercise the office of the priest, and u ill do so forever. “He is made an high priest forever, after the order of Melchisedec. Because he ever liveth, he hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”470470 Heb. vi. 20, vii. 24, 25. Therefore he appears on the throne in heaven, as a Lamb that had been slain, and is represented as entering and remaining there with his own blood. The atonement of Christ, which he has made by his blood, for the sins of the redeemed, and his meritorious obedience, and the consequent intercession which he will forever make for them, will be their everlasting security from wrath and destruction, and for their enjoyment of the divine favour, and eternal life, as their ill desert, in their own persons, and in themselves considered, will remain without the least diminution forever. Therefore the Redeemer continues a high priest forever, and because he ever lives to make intercession for his people, they shall live also, eternally dependent on his atonement, merit, and worthiness, for safety from evil, and for all the good which they enjoy. “Behold the man whose name is the branch, and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord: (that is, the church.) Even he shall build the temple of the Lord, and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne, and he shall be a Priest upon his throne.”471471 Zech. vi. 12, 13. He will continue in the office of a priest, as long as he shall sit upon his throne, and his kingdom lasts, which shall be forever. This leads farther to observe,
Jesus Christ, in the work of redemption, acts in the character of ruler and king. He is a prophet, and a priest upon his throne. He exerciseth the authority of a king. This is abundantly asserted in scripture. “I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.”472472 Ps. ii. 6. “My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things 435which I have made touching the king.”473473 Ps. xlv. 1. He is the king, by way of eminence. He ib King of kings, and Lord of lords. He has supreme authority as legislator in his church. He has made institutions and laws which are binding on his people, they being obliged implicitly to obey his commands in all things. And he is the only lawgiver. And as all men are naturally in a state of rebellion, and enemies to God, he not only commands them to repent and submit to him; but he effectually conquers and subdues all those who become his willing subjects, by a powerful operation on their hearts, changing a; id renewing them, and bringing them to a cordial obedience to him. Thus his people are all made willing in the day of his power. He protects his church and people from all their enemies, and from all harm; and gradually removes all the disaffection to him in their hearts, until they are all brought to a most cheerful, perfect obedience to him, and his throne is established in their hearts, and he rules there without a competitor. And he rules in the midst of his enemies. They are all under his powder and control, and he restrains, guides and governs them, so that they cannot cross and impede his designs, or do the least hurt to his interest and kingdom, however much they may desire and attempt it; but he uses them all to promote and answer his own ends. The wrath of man shall praise him: and the remainder of wrath he will restrain.474474 Ps. lxxvi. 10. And he will finally subdue all his enemies, and put them under his feet.
The Redeemer now reigns over all. All things are delivered into his hands; both angels, men, and devils are in his hand, and under his direction and control: Yea, all creatures and things, visible and invisible, in the whole created universe, both greater and less, are sustained and guided by him, in all their various circumstances and motions; and he is ordering and using them to answer his own ends, as King of Zion, and head over all things to the church. In the mean time he is forming his church, and will not cease working till he has made it the most perfect, beautiful, happy and glorious society and kingdom, that infinite power, wisdom and goodness can produce; which shall stand and flourish 436forever, as a monument to display all these: and in which his boundless, wonderful love and grace, in the redemption of man, and his unchangeable truth and faithfulness, shall be celebrated without end, and with increasing admiration and praise.
In the exercise of his kingly office, when all the redeemed are brought into his kingdom, and the number of his church is completed, he will appear and sit as judge of all moral agents; will raise the dead; and cause all the angels and devils, and all mankind to stand before his tribunal; and when the moral character of every one shall be properly examined and displayed, he will, as king and the final judge of all, pronounce the blessed sentence on the redeemed, admitting them as the happy members of his eternal kingdom: And he will sentence all those of mankind u ho shall then appear not to have been his friends in this world, to endless punishment, with the devil and his angels.475475 Matthew xxv. 31-46. And having thus completed the work of redemption, by gathering the redeemed into his kingdom; and putting all his enemies under his feet, consigning them to deserved, endless punishment, he will reign forever in his church, his mediatorial kingdom, which shall have no end. That his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and the Redeemer shall reign in it forever, is abundantly declared in the Scripture. It is needless to cite now more than the words of the angel to the virgin Mary. “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”476476 Luke i. 32, 33.
What St. Paul says may be thought, at the first view, to be inconsistent with this. His words are, “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”477477 1 Cor. xv. 24, 28. In order to understand this passage, and see that it is consistent 437with other parts of scripture, where the Redeemer is said to reign in his kingdom forever, the following things must be observed.
1. In consequence of the Son of God, or second Person in the Trinity, undertaking the work of redemption, by becoming the Son of Man, and taking upon himself the form of a servant, and doing and suffering ail that was necessary in order to effect this, and having actually gone through all this; he was exalted, in and by his human nature, and rewarded by having all power, and all things put into his hands, and being made head over all things to the church; and is appointed the supreme and universal king and governor of the universe, to use and dispose of all, so as in the best manner to accomplish and perfect the work of redemption, and complete the salvation of the redeemed, and vanquish and totally overthrow all his and their enemies, by putting them under his footstool. This must be considered as a peculiar kind and degree of power and authority with which he is invested, by which he sits on the throne of the universe, and is sole ruler, in the natural and moral world, until the ends of this investiture shall be answered; and he has finished the work, to accomplish which, he is thus exalted. He will then, when an end to this is come, deliver up to the Father this delegated power and kingdom; and no longer, as God and man, sit at the right hand of the Father, as supreme ruler in the universal kingdom. This leads to observe,
2. When all this is accomplished, the Son of God, being God and man, and considered in the character and capacity of Mediator and Redeemer of his church, will take his proper place which is assigned to him in the economy of redemption, or covenant between the Father and Son; which is not that of supreme ruler and legislator in the universal kingdom of God; but in this respect, and in his human nature he will be subject to the Father. And then God, the Deity, will be all in all, in a higher sense, and more perspicuously, than when the supreme rule was in the hand of a person who is a man, and the Son of man. And who made use of the agency and offices of angels and men in carrying on 438his designs, which will then all be put down: And who is opposed, and his power and authority disputed by his enemies, devils and men, which will then all be subdued, and put out of the way.
3. The Redeemer will still remain the head of his church, and reign forever as king in his mediatorial kingdom; crowned with everlasting honour, happiness and glory, of which he will lose nothing by delivering up the kingdom to the Father, and being subject to him, in the sense abovementioned. He will be admired, praised and glorified by angels and the redeemed forever; and he will be their everlasting, unchangeable prophet, priest and king.
As the covenant between the Father and the Son has been now mentioned, it will be proper here to give a brief explanation of that. It is evident from scripture, as well as from the nature of the case, that there was a mutual agreement and engagement between the Father and the second person of the Trinity respecting the redemption of man, by which the distinct part which each person in the Trinity was to act, was fixed, and undertaken. This mutual agreement is of the nature of a covenant and engagement with each other, to perform the different parts of this great work which were assigned to them. This is an eternal covenant, without beginning, as is the existence of the triune God, and as are all the divine purposes and decrees. The second person was engaged to become incarnate, to do and suffer all that was necessary for the salvation of men. The Father promised that on his consenting to take upon him the character and work of a Mediator and Redeemer, he should be every way furnished and assisted to go through with the work; that he should have power to save an elect number of mankind, and form a church and kingdom, most perfect and glorious’: In order to accomplish this, all things, all power in heaven and earth, should be given to him, until Redemption was completed: And then he should reign in the exercise of all his offices, as Mediator, in his church and kingdom forever.
All this is expressed or implied in the representation the Bible gives of this affair, in the following passages, 439as well as others which might be mentioned. “I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession, &c.”478478 Psalm ii. 6, 7, 8. Here the Father makes promises, and enters into engagements with the Son, which is here called the decree, or covenant. To the same purpose are the following words: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion; rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.”479479 Psalm cx. 1, 2. “Behold my servant whom I uphold, mine elect in whom my soul delighteth: I have put my Spirit upon him, he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and I will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles.”480480 Isaiah xlii. 1, 6. The consent and engagement of the second person is expressed in the following words: “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire, mine ears hast thou opened, (or a body hast thou prepared me.) Burnt offering, and sin offering, hast thou not required. Then said I, lo, I come. In the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart.”481481 Ps. xl. 6, 7, 8. Upon this engagement of the Son, “the Father saith unto the Son, thy throne, O God, is forever and ever. A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”482482 Heb. i. 8, 9. from Ps. xlv. 6, 7. The whole of this is comprehended and implied in the following words of our Saviour when on earth. “All that the Father hath given me, shall come unto me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out; for I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, bat the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will who hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing; but should raise it up again 440at the last day.”483483 John vi. 27, 38, 39. To this covenant Jesus Christ refers when he said to his disciples, after his resurrection, “Behold I send the promise of my Father upon you:” but tarry ye in Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And being assembled together with them, he commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.484484 Luke xxiv. 49. Acts i. 4. By the promise of the Father, he meant the gift of the Holy Ghost, to furnish them for their work as his apostles. And this promise must be the promise made to him in the covenant of redemption, that upon his obedience unto death, the Holy Spirit should be sent, effectually to apply the redemption hereby obtained, to those who were; given to him.
The blessed Trinity in the one God may be considered as a most exalted, happy and glorious society, or family, uniting in the plan of divine operations; especially in accomplishing the work of redemption, which really comprehends all things, and is the grand design and end of all. In this each one has his part to perform according to a most wise, mutual regulation and agreement, which may be called a covenant. In performing these several parts of this work, one acts as superior, and another as inferior; or one acts under another; and by his authority, as appointed and sent by him. This is by divines called the economy of the work of redemption; or the economical agreement or covenant between the persons of the adorable Trinity respecting the redemption of man.485485 Economy is derived from a compound Greek work, and signifies the regulations and rules of a household or family, by which each member is to act his proper part. According to this economy, the Son, the Redeemer, acts under the Father, and by his will and appointment; and in this respect takes an inferior part; and in this sense he is supposed to speak, when he says, “The Father is greater than I.”486486 John xiv. 28.
Though in the passages of scripture which have been mentioned, and others of the same kind, the third person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is not expressly 441mentioned as covenanting, or engaging to perform any part of this work; yet he is necessarily understood as concerned and included in this covenant, as he is m the holy scripture every where represented as acting an equal part in the redemption of man; and therefore must be considered as taking that particular part by consent and agreement. This covenant is called by most divines now, the covenant of redemption, to distinguish it from what is called the covenant of grace, which takes place between God, or the Redeemer, and believers in him, which will be particularly considered hereafter.
The work of the Redeemer, which has been in some measure described above, consists in his actually performing the part assigned to him, and undertaken by him, in the covenant of redemption; and in his sustaining the character and executing the offices which he inherits as a reward for his humiliation; in which he will continue forever, even when he has delivered up the delegated rule and kingdom which he now has, to the Father, and is, in the sense above explained, subject to the Father.
I. WE learn from the view which has been now given from the scriptures, of the work of the Mediator and Redeemer, how important and essential the doctrine of his divinity is: As he must be God as well as man, in order to perform this work. A mere creature would be infinitely unequal to this.
It is necessary that this should be believed; that his infinitely high and glorious person and character, as the true God, should be kept in view, in order to trust in him as the Redeemer of man from the infinite evil which he deserves; from a state of total moral depravity, to the favour of God, to perfect holiness and eternal life, by his suffering and obedience, and by his power, wisdom and goodness.
It is necessary that he should be a person of infinite dignity, excellence and worthiness, in order to make atonement for sin by suffering the penalty of the law, as 442it has been explained above from the scriptures. The sufferings of a mere creature could do nothing towards this; and had such an one offered to undertake this, it would have been so far from pleasing the governor of the world, that it must be considered as an affront offered to him, most dishonourable to his character, law, and government. And the obedience of a mere creature, or of all creatures, could not so honour the law, and the divine authority expressed by it, which sinners had reproached and trampled under foot by their rebellion, as to obtain favour, recovery from a state of sin, and eternal life for them, out of respect to the merit and worthiness of such obedience. This could be done by none but a person of infinite greatness and worth; and one who was under no obligation to obey antecedent to his voluntarily taking upon him the form of a servant. And it requires infinite power, skill and wisdom to recover a rebel from total depravity and enmity against God and his law, to obedience and holiness; and infinite condescension and goodness. All this is ascribed to the Redeemer in the holy scripture, as has been shown. And surely none can believe all this, and rely with confidence on the Redeemer for such redemption, who does not believe him to be truly God, infinitely great, honourable, powerful, wise and good.
They who have such a low and dishonourable idea of the divine character, his law and moral government, as to believe sin to be infinitely less criminal than it really is, that it is not infinitely odious and criminal, and does not deserve infinite natural evil as the just punishment of it; That it is not necessary that the threatening of the law should be in any sense executed, in order to the maintenance of public truth and righteousness: That man is not so depraved but that he may recover himself from sin to holiness when proper methods are taken with him, and motives set before him to induce him to repent, and renounce his rebellion, without any supernatural renovation by the Spirit of God; and that in this wav he may obtain forgiveness, and recommend himself to the divine favour, so as to obtain eternal life: They who have such wrong notions of God, and his law, of sin and of themselves, do not, and cannot see the 443need of a divine person, of one that is really the true God united to the human nature, to be the Redeemer of men: Therefore they cannot believe that Jesus Christ is such an one. Consequently they read the Bible under this prejudice, and find things there which appear to them contrary to the real divinity of Christ. They greedily catch at them, and make the best use of them they can, in their opposition to that doctrine; at the same time, exerting all their abilities to show the unreasonableness and absurdity of such a doctrine, and in the most plausible manner possible to explain away those passages of scripture, which are understood by those who believe in the divinity of the Redeemer of man, plainly to assert this doctrine; and to make them consistent with his being a mere creature. This appears to be the case with the Arians and Socinians, both in former ages, and in this, who join in the denial of the divinity of Christ, though they differ in other things respecting him; the former holding that he is the first and greatest creature that God has made, who after he had existed thousands of years a mere spirit, took a body in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and was born of her, &c. The latter suppose he had no existence before he was conceived and brought forth by the virgin, his mother.
But others, who view the divine character, and the law of God, the nature and desert of sin, the depravity, and lost, undone state of man, in the scriptural light in which they have been set in the preceding part of this system, are prepared to see their need of such a Redeemer as the Bible reveals; they consult that, and find that he is there declared to be “God with us,” God, who created, and upholds all things, manifest in the flesh; that he has given his life a ransom for sinners; has been made a curse to deliver men from the curse, dying for their sins; that he has obeyed the divine law in its requirements; that he is risen from the dead, and exalted to the right hand of the Father, able effectually to draw men unto him, and to save to the uttermost all them who come to God by him. They believe and are sure, and address him as Nathaniel did, “thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel.” And as Thomas, “My Lord; and my God.” And say with 444 the beloved disciple, “We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding that we may know him that is true; and we are in him that is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” And they rest satisfied in the natural and plain sense of the words of this same John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we beheld his glory, as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
II. From the view we have had, by attending to the Bible, of the atonement for sin made by Christ, we learn, that they have made a great mistake, who think that this consists wholly in the obedience of the Redeemer; and that his sufferings, as such, and as distinguished from his obedience, are no part of the atonement: And therefore that he did not in any sense suffer the penalty of the law, in whole or in part; nor had his sufferings any direct reference to this; and answered no end, except that hereby his love to God and man, was exercised in a higher degree, and his obedience was more tried and conspicuous by obeying unto death, than if he had not been obliged thus to suffer.
This notion of the atonement entirely excludes and denies the real atonement, clearly and abundantly stated and taught in the scriptures; and places it in that in which it does not consist. Therefore as this error wholly subverts the true scripture doctrine of the atonement of Christ, it is great, dangerous, and hurtful, in proportion to the importance and necessity of an atonement, and of believing and confiding in that atonement, which, according to divine revelation, is the only foundation of the hope of a christian.
If the threatening and penalty of the law may be disregarded, and set aside, so as to pass wholly unexecuted, in order to pardon and favour the transgressor, without any vicarious sufferings of another in his stead, it will be difficult, and doubtless impossible, to show or see why a vicarious obedience to the precepts of the law is necessary in order to the sinner’s salvation. And why the obedience only of the Redeemer should be a sufficient ground, or any reason at all, why man should be delivered 445from the curse of the law, it is presumed no one can tell; or why it was necessary that a substitute should obey the law in man’s stead, if there was no need of his suffering the penalty also. Upon this plan there appears to be no need of a Redeemer, unless it be to reveal the mercy of God to sinners, and his readiness to pardon and save all who repent and return to obedience, and persevere therein: And to set an example of holy obedience, and to lay down his life in confirmation of the truths which he had taught: And what need there is that the Redeemer should be more than a mere man, in order to do all this, it is believed, none can tell. The Socinian’s Redeemer is therefore equal to the whole of this work.
III. We farther learn what a great delusion they embrace, who think they, in their own persons, are become innocent and worthy, by the atonement and obedience of Christ: That his sufferings and obedience are so imputed to them, that they are really become their own sufferings and obedience; that his righteousness and holiness is in such a sense and degree, their own righteousness and holiness, that they themselves are, in the sight of God, perfectly innocent and holy. And some go so far as to say they have no ill desert or sin; nor can they sin, let them do what they will. This is to a dreadful degree, perverting the doctrine of the atonement of Christ, and his work, as the Redeemer of sinners, and of pardon and justification through him.
It has been shewn, that the sinner who is interested in the atonement of Christ, and is delivered from the curse of the law, is left as ill deserving as he ever was, in his own person; and this his ill desert, never will, or can be removed. And it is equally true, that the sinner who is interested in all the merit and worthiness of Christ, and is for the sake of that, justified, and made heir of eternal life, is still as unworthy as ever in himself, in his own person, of the least favour: as unworthy as he could be, if the Redeemer had merited nothing for him, or he had no interest in his righteousness; and must remain so, and know that he is so, forever; And the least thought to the contrary would be infinitely 446 criminal, and a most ungrateful and horrid abuse of the atonement and righteousness of Christ.
Every thing contrary to the divine law, in the believer, is his own sin, and as criminal, as if he had no interest in the righteousness of Christ; and much more so. What the Redeemer has done and suffered is imputed to him; that is, is reckoned in his favour, so that he has the benefit of it, as much as if it were his own; and it avails to obtain deliverance, from the curse of the law, for him, and eternal life: But it leaves him as unworthy of any favour, as deserving of eternal destruction, and as great a criminal as he ever was.
IV. The work of the Mediator, and his design in it, as it has been now considered, brings into view his wonderful love and grace, which is exercised towards man.
In order to have an adequate view of this, we must rise in our conceptions to the height from which he descended; and comprehend his greatness, worthiness and glory; and then take a full and comprehensive view of the depth to which he descended in his humiliation; and the magnitude of the evil which he suffered, in order to redeem man. But this is absolutely impossible to men or angels; therefore, the love of Christ never will be fully known by angels, or the redeemed: For it “passeth knowledge,” as inspiration has declared. This, therefore, must be an endless theme, and has laid a foundation for endless progression in knowledge, love and happiness. The more the redeemed shall know of Christ, the greater view they will have of the evil which he suffered for their redemption. This infinitely exceeds all instances of love among creatures. This will be exhibited forever, as infinitely the greatest instance of love and grace in the universe, except the love of the Father, in giving his Son; which w ill be celebrated by the redeemed, and all the friends of God, without end. St. Paul dwelt on this theme, when on earth. “I live, said he, by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”487487 Gal. ii. 20. “Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us.”488488 Eph. v. 2. “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that 447 though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”489489 2 Cor. viii. 9.
The love of Christ, exercised towards sinners, is great in proportion to the greatness of the evil he suffered for their redemption. The latter is infinite, so therefore is the former. And though he sought the glory of God, and the general good, in what he did and suffered, yet his love to sinners is not in the least diminished, or the less, by reason of this: For he gave himself for them. “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins, in his own blood. And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to Him be glory and dominion, forever and ever, Amen.”490490 Rev. i.
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