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Containing a removal of some mistakes and false assignations of the end of the death of Christ.
That the death, oblation, and blood-shedding of Jesus Christ is to be considered as the means for the compassing of an appointed end was before abundantly declared; and that such a means as is not in itself any way desirable but for the attaining of that end. Now, because that which is the end of any thing must also be good, for unless it be so it cannot be an end (for bonum et finis convertuntur), it must be either his Father’s good, or his own good, or our good, which was the end proposed.
I. That it was not merely his own is exceedingly apparent. For in his divine nature he was eternally and essentially partaker of all that glory which is proper to the Deity; which though in respect of us it be capable of more or less manifestation, yet in itself it is always alike eternally and absolutely perfect. And in this regard, at the close of all, he desires and requests no other glory but that which he had with his Father “before the world was,” John xvii. 5. And in respect of his human nature, as he was eternally predestinated, without any foresight of doing or suffering, to be personally united, from the instant of his conception, with the second person of the Trinity, so neither while he was in the way did he merit any thing for himself 204by his death and oblation. He needed not to suffer for himself, being perfectly and legally righteous; and the glory that he aimed at, by “enduring the cross, and despising the shame,” was not so much his own, in respect of possession, by the exaltation of his own nature, as the bringing of many children to glory, even as it was in the promise set before him, as we before at large declared. His own exaltation, indeed, and power over all flesh, and his appointment to be Judge of the quick and the dead, was a consequent of his deep humiliation and suffering; but that it was the effect and product of it, procured meritoriously by it, that it was the end aimed at by him in his making satisfaction for sin, that we deny. Christ hath a power and dominion over all, but the foundation of this dominion is not in his death for all; for he hath dominion over all things, being appointed “heir of them, and upholding them all by the word of his power,” Heb. i. 2, 3. “He is set over the works of God’s hands, and all things are put in subjection under him,” chap. ii. 7, 8. And what are those “all things,” or what are amongst them, you may see in the place of the psalmist from whence the apostle citeth these words, Ps. viii. 5–8. And did he die for all these things? Nay, hath he not power over the angels? are not principalities and powers made subject to him? Shall he not at the last day judge the angels? for with him the saints shall do it, by giving attestation to his righteous judgments, 1 Cor. vi. 2, 3; — and yet, is it not expressly said that the angels have no share in the whole dispensation of God manifested in the flesh, so as to die for them to redeem them from their sins? of which some had no need, and the others are eternally excluded: Heb. ii. 16, “He took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham,” God setting him “king upon his holy hill of Zion,” in despite of his enemies, to bruise them and to rule them “with a rod of iron,” Ps. ii. 6, 9, is not the immediate effect of his death for them, but rather all things are given into his hand out of the immediate love of the Father to his Son, John iii. 35; Matt. xi. 27. That is the foundation of all this sovereignty and dominion over all creatures, with this power of judging that is put into his hand.
Besides, be it granted (which cannot be proved) that Christ by his death did procure this power of judging, would any thing hence follow that might be beneficial to the proving of the general ransom for all? No, doubtless; this dominion and power of judging is a power of condemning as well as saving; it is “all judgment” that is committed to him, John v. 22. “He hath authority given unto him to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man;” that is, at that hour “when all that are in their graves shall hear his voice and come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation,” verses 27–29; 2 Cor. v. 10. Now, can it be reasonably asserted that Christ 205died for men to redeem them, that he might have power to condemn? Nay, do not these two overthrow one another? If he redeemed thee by his death, then he did not aim at the obtaining of any power to condemn thee; if he did the latter, then that former was not in his intention.
II. Nor, secondly, was it his Father’s good. I speak now of the proximate and immediate end and product of the death of Christ, not of the ultimate and remote, knowing that the supreme end of Christ’s oblation, and all the benefits purchased and procured by it, was “the praise of his glorious grace;” but for this other, it doth not directly tend to the obtaining of any thing unto God, but of all good things from God to us. Arminius, with his followers, with the other Universalists of our days, affirm this to be the end proposed, that God might, his justice being satisfied, save sinners, the hinderance being removed by the satisfaction of Christ. He had by his death obtained a right and liberty of pardoning sin upon what condition he pleased: so that, after the satisfaction of Christ yielded and considered, “integrum Deo fuit” (as his words are), it was wholly in God’s free disposal whether he would save any or no; and upon what condition he would, whether of faith or of works “God,” say they, “had a good mind and will to do good to human kind, but could not by reason of sin, his justice lying in the way; whereupon he sent Christ to remove that obstacle, that so he might, upon the prescribing of what condition he pleased, and its being by them fulfilled, have mercy on them,” Now, because in this they place the chief, if not the sole, end of the oblation of Christ, I must a little show the falseness and folly of it; which may be done plainly by these following reasons:—
First, The foundation of this whole assertion seems to me to be false and erroneous, — namely, that God could not have mercy on mankind unless satisfaction were made by his Son. It is true, indeed, supposing the decree, purpose, and constitution of God that so it should be, that so he would manifest his glory, by the way of vindicative justice, it was impossible that it should otherwise be; for with the Lord there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning,” James i. 17; 1 Sam. xv. 29: but to assert positively, that absolutely and antecedently to his constitution he could not have done it, is to me an unwritten tradition, the Scripture affirming no such thing, neither can it be gathered from thence in any good consequence. If any one shall deny this, we will try what the Lord will enable us to say unto it, and in the meantime rest contented in that of Augustine: “Though other ways of saving us were not wanting to his infinite wisdom, yet certainly the way which he did proceed in was the most convenient, because we find he proceeded therein.”2424 The reader may be referred to the treatise by the author at the end of this volume, “De Divinâ Justitiâ,” for the full and mature expression of his views on the necessity of the atonement. In the statements above, it is implied that salvation might have been accomplished without the absolute necessity of such a satisfaction to the claims of justice as the death of Christ afforded. Dr Owen, it will be found in the treatise referred to, latterly changed his views on this point, and held the necessity for the satisfaction of divine justice by an atonement, in order to salvation, to be absolute. — Ed.
206Secondly, This would make the cause of sending his Son to die to be a common love, or rather wishing that he might do good or show mercy to all, and not an entire act of his will or purpose, of knowing, redeeming, and saving his elect; which we shall afterward disprove.
Thirdly, If the end of the death of Christ were to acquire a right to his Father, that notwithstanding his justice he might save sinners, then did he rather die to redeem a liberty unto God than a liberty from evil unto us, — that his Father might be enlarged from that estate wherein it was impossible for him to do that which he desired, and which his nature inclined him to, and not that we might be freed from that condition wherein, without this freedom purchased, it could not be but we must perish. If this be so, I see no reason why Christ should be said to come and redeem his people from their sins; but rather, plainly, to purchase this right and liberty for his Father. Now, where is there any such assertion, wherein is any thing of this nature in the Scripture? Doth the Lord say that he sent his Son out of love to himself, or unto us? Is God or are men made the immediate subject of good attained unto by this oblation? Rep. But it is said, that although immediately, and in the first place, this right did arise unto God by the death of Christ, yet that that also was to tend to our good, Christ obtaining that right, that the Lord might now bestow mercy on us, if we fulfilled the condition that he would propose. But I answer, that this utterly overthrows all the merit of the death of Christ towards us, and leaves not so much as the nature of merit unto it; for that which is truly meritorious indeed deserves that the thing merited, or procured and obtained by it, shall be done, or ought to be bestowed, and not only that it may be done. There is such a habitude and relation between merit and the thing obtained by it, whether it be absolute or arising on contract, that there ariseth a real right to the thing procured by it in them by whom or for whom it is procured. When the labourer hath wrought all day, do we say, “Now his wages may be paid,” or rather, “Now they ought to be paid”? Hath he not a right unto it? Was ever such a merit heard of before, whose nature should consist in this, that the thing procured by it might be bestowed, and not that it ought to be? And shall Christ be said now to purchase by his meritorious oblation this only at his Father’s hand, that he might bestow upon and apply the fulness of his death to some or all, and not that he should so do? “To him that worketh,” saith the apostle, “is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt,” Rom. iv. 4. Are not the fruits of the death of Christ by his death as truly procured for us as if they had been obtained by 207our own working? And if so, though in respect of the persons on whom they are bestowed they are of free grace, yet in respect of the purchase, the bestowing of them is of debt.
Fourthly, That cannot be assigned as the complete end of the death of Christ, which being accomplished, it had not only been possible that not one soul might be saved, but also impossible that by virtue of it any sinful soul should be saved; for sure the Scripture is exceedingly full in declaring that through Christ we have remission of sins, grace, and glory (as afterward). But now, notwithstanding this, that Christ is said to have procured and purchased by his death such a right and liberty to his Father, that he might bestow eternal life upon all upon what conditions he would, it might very well stand that not one of those should enjoy eternal life: for suppose the Father would not bestow it, as he is by no engagement, according to this persuasion, bound to do (he had a right to do it, it is true, but that which is any one’s right he may use or not use at his pleasure); again, suppose he had prescribed a condition of works which it had been impossible for them to fulfil; — the death of Christ might have had its full end, and yet not one been saved. Was this his coming to save sinners, to “save that which was lost?” or could he, upon such an accomplishment as this, pray as he did, “Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory?” John xvii. 24. Divers other reasons might be used to evert this fancy, that would make the purchase of Christ, in respect of us, not to be the remission of sins, but a possibility of it; not salvation, but a salvability; not reconciliation and peace with God, but the opening of a door towards it; — but I shall use them in assigning the right end of the death of Christ.
Ask now of these, what it is that the Father can do, and will do, upon the death of Christ; by which means his justice, that before hindered the execution of his good-will towards them, is satisfied? and they tell you it is the entering into a new covenant of grace with them, upon the performance of whose condition they shall have all the benefits of the death of Christ applied to them. But to us it seemeth that Christ himself, with his death and passion, is the chief promise of the new covenant itself, as Gen. iii. 15; and so the covenant cannot be said to be procured by his death. Besides, the nature of the covenant overthrows this proposal, that they that are covenanted withal shall have such and such good things if they fulfil the condition, as though that all depended on this obedience, when that obedience itself, and the whole condition of it, is a promise of the covenant, Jer. xxxi. 33, which is confirmed and sealed by the blood of Christ. We deny not but that the death of Christ hath a proper end in respect of God, — to wit, the manifestation of his glory; whence he calls him “his servant, in whom he will be glorified,” Isa. xlix. 3. And 208the bringing of many sons to glory, wherewith he was betrusted, was to the manifestation and praise of his glorious grace; that so his love to his elect might gloriously appear, his salvation being borne out by Christ to the utmost parts of the earth. And this full declaration of his glory, by the way of mercy tempered with justice (for “he set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus,” Rom. iii. 25, 26), is all that which accrued to the Lord by the death of his Son, and not any right and liberty of doing that which before he would have done, but could not for his justice. In respect of us, the end of the oblation and blood-shedding of Jesus Christ was, not that God might if he would, but that he should, by virtue of that compact and covenant which was the foundation of the merit of Christ, bestow upon us all the good things which Christ aimed at and intended to purchase and procure by his offering of himself for us unto God; which is in the next place to be declared.
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