|« Prev||Chapter VIII. Imputation of the sins of the…||Next »|
Chapter VIII. Imputation of the sins of the church unto Christ — Grounds of it — The nature of his suretiship — Causes of the new covenant — Christ and the church one mystical person — Consequents thereof
Imputation of sin unto Christ — Testimonies of the ancients unto that purpose — Christ and the church one mystical person — Mistakes about that state and relation — Grounds and reasons of the union that is the foundation of this imputation — Christ the surety of the new covenant; in what sense, unto what ends — Heb. vii. 22, opened — Mistakes about the causes and ends of the death of Christ — The new covenant, in what sense alone procured and purchased thereby — Inquiry whether the guilt of our sins was imputed unto Christ — The meaning of the words, “guilt,” and “guilty” — The distinction of “reatus culpæ,” and “reatus pœnæ,” examined — Act of God in the imputation of the guilt of our sins unto Christ — Objections against it answered — The truth confirmed
Those who believe the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto believers, for the justification of life, do also unanimously profess that the sins of all believers were imputed unto Christ. And this they do on many testimonies of the Scripture directly witnessing thereunto; some whereof shall be pleaded and vindicated afterwards. At present we are only on the consideration of the general notion of 176these things, and the declaration of the nature of what shall be proved afterwards. And, in the first place, we shall inquire into the foundation of this dispensation of God, and the equity of it, or the grounds whereinto it is resolved; without an understanding whereof the thing itself cannot be well apprehended.
The principal foundation hereof is, — that Christ and the church, in this design, were one mystical person; which state they do actually coalesce into, through the uniting efficacy of the Holy Spirit. He is the head, and believers are the members of that one person, as the apostle declares, 1 Cor. xii. 12, 13. Hence, as what he did is imputed unto them, as if done by them; so what they deserved on the account of sin was charged upon him. So is it expressed by a learned prelate, “Nostram causam sustinebat, qui nostram sibi carnem aduniverat, et ita nobis arctissimo vinculo conjunctus, et ἑνωθεὶς, quæ erant nostra fecit sua.” And again, “Quit mirum si in nostra persona constitutus, nostram carnem indutus,” etc., Montacut. Origin. Ecclesiast. The ancients speak to the same purpose. Leo. Serm. xvii. “Ideo se humanæ imfirmitati virtus divina conseruit, ut dum Deus sua facit esse quæ nostra sunt, nostra faceret esse quæ sua sunt;” and also Serm. xvi. “Caput nostrum Dominus Jesus Christus omnia in se corporis sui membra transformans, quod olim in psalmo eructaverit, id in supplicio crucis sub redemptorum suorum voce clamavit.” And so speaks Augustine to the same purpose, Epist. cxx., ad Honoratum, “Audimus vocem corporis ex ore capitis. Ecclesia in illo patiebatur, quando pro ecclesia patiebatur,” etc.; — “We hear the voice of the body from the mouth of the head. The church suffered in him when he suffered for the church; as he suffers in the church when the church suffers for him. For as we have heard the voice of the church in Christ suffering, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? look upon me;’ so we have heard the voice of Christ in the church suffering, ‘Saul, Saul, why persecuteth thou me?’ ” But we may yet look a little backwards and farther into the sense of the ancient church herein. “Christus,” says Irenæus, “omnes gentes exinde ab Adam dispersas, et generationem hominum in semet ipso recapitulatus est; unde a Paulo typus futuri dictus est ipse Adam,” lib. iii. cap. 33. And again, “Recapitulans universum hominum genus in se ab initio usque ad finem, recapitulatus est et mortem ejus.” In this of recapitulation, there is no doubt but he had respect unto the ἀνακεφαλαίωσις, mentioned Eph. i. 10; and it may be this was that which Origen intended enigmatically, by saying, “The soul of the first Adam was the soul of Christ, as it is charged on him.” And Cyprian, Epist. lxii., on bearing about the administration of the sacrament of the eucharist, “Nos omnes portabat Christus; qui et peccata nostra portabet;” — “He bare us,” or suffered in our person, 177“when he bare our sins.” Whence Athanasius affirms of the voice he used on the cross, Οὐκ αὐτὸς ὁ Κύριος· ἀλλὰ ἡμεῖς ἐν ἐκείνῳ πάσχοντες ἦμεν· — “We suffered in him.” Eusebius speaks many things to this purpose, Demonstrat. Evangel. lib. x. cap. 1. Expounding those words of the psalmist, “Heal my soul, for” (or, as he would read them, if) “I have sinned against thee,” and applying them unto our Saviour in his sufferings, he says thus, Ἐπειδὰν τὰς ἡμετέρας κοινοποιεῖ εἰς ἑαυτὸν ἁμαρτίας· — “Because he took of our sins to himself;” communicated our sins to himself, making them his own: for so he adds, Ὅτι τὰς ἡμέτερας ἁμαρτίας ἐξοικειούμενος· — “Making our sins his own.” And because in his following words he fully expresses what I design to prove, I shall transcribe them at large: Πῶς δὲ τὰς ἡμετέρας ἁμαρτίας ἐξοικειοῦται; καὶ πῶς φέρειν λέγεται τὰς ἀνομίας ἡμῶν, ἢ καθ’ ὁ σῶμα αὐτοῦ εἶναι λεγόμεθα; κατὰ τὸν ἀπόστολον φήσαντα, ὑμεῖς ἐστὲ σῶμα Χριστοῦ, καὶ μέλη ἐκ μέρους· καὶ καθ’ ὃ πάσχοντος ἑνὸς μέλους, συμπάσχει πάντα τὰ μέλη, οὕτω τῶν πολλῶν μελῶν πασχόντων καὶ ἁμαρτανόντων, καὶ αὐτὸς κατὰ τοὺς τῆς συμπαθείας λόγους, ἐπειδήπερ εὐδόκησε Θεοῦ Λόγος ὢν, μορφὴν δούλου λαβεῖν, καὶ τῷ κοινῷ πάντων ἡμῶν σκηνώματι συναφθῆναι· τοὺς τῶν πασχόντων μελῶν πόνους εἰς ἑαυτὸν ἀναλαμβάνει, καὶ τὰς ἡμετέρας νόσους ἰδιοποιεῖται, καὶ πάντων ἡμῶν ὑπεραλγεῖ καὶ ὑπερπονεῖ κατὰ τοὺς τῆς φιλανθρωπίας νόμους· οὐ μόνον δὲ ταῦτα πράξας ὁ Ἀμνὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν κολασθεὶς καὶ τιμωρίαν ὑποσχών, ἣν αὐτὸς μὲν οὐκ ὤφειλεν, ἀλλ’ ἡμεις τοῦ πλήθους ἕνεκεν πεπλημμελημένων, ἡμῖν αἴτιος τῆς τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων ἀφέσεως κατέστη, ἅτε τὸν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἀναδεξάμενος θανάτον, μάστιγάς τε καὶ ὕβρεις καὶ ἀτιμίας ἡμῖν ἐποφειλομένας εἰς αὐτὸν μεταθεὶς, καὶ τὴν ἡμῖν προστετιμημένην κατάραν ἐφ’ ἑαυτὸν ἑλκύσας, γενόμενος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν κατάρα· καὶ τί γὰρ ἄλλο ἣ ἀντίψυχος; διό φησιν ἐξ ἡμετέρου προσώπου τὸ λόγιον — ὥστε εἰκότως ἑνῶν ἑαυτὸν ἡμῖν, ἡμᾶς τε αὑτῶ καὶ τὰ ἡμέτερα πάθη ἰδιοποιούμενός φησιν, ἐγὼ εἶπα, Κύριε ἐλέησόν με, ἰάσαι τὴν ψυχήν μου, ὅτι ἥμαρτόν σοι.
I have transcribed this passage at large because, as I said, what I intend to prove in the present discourse is declared fully therein. Thus, therefore, he speaks: “How, then, did he make our sins to be his own, and how did he bear our iniquities? Is it not from thence, that we are said to be his body? as the apostle speaks, ‘You are the body of Christ, and members, for your part, or of one another.’ And as when one member suffers, all the members do suffer; so the many members sinning and suffering, he, according unto the laws of sympathy in the same body (seeing that, being the Word of God, he would take the form of a servant, and be joined unto the common habitation of us all in the same nature), took the sorrows or labours of the suffering members on him, and made all their infirmities his own; and, according to the laws of humanity (in the same body), bare our sorrow and labour for us. And the Lamb of God did not only these things for us but he underwent torments and was punished 178for us; that which he was no ways exposed unto for himself, but we were so by the multitude of our sins: and thereby he became the cause of the pardon of our sins, — namely, because he underwent death, stripes, reproaches, translating the thing which we had deserved unto himself, — and was made a curse for us, taking unto himself the curse that was due to us; for what was he but (a substitute for us) a price of redemption for our souls? In our person, therefore, the oracle speaks, — whilst freely uniting himself unto us, and us unto himself, and making our (sins or passions his own), ‘I have said, Lord, be merciful unto me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.’ ”
That our sins were transferred unto Christ and made his, that thereon he underwent the punishment that was due unto us for them, and that the ground hereof, whereinto its equity is resolved, is the union between him and us, is fully declared in this discourse. So says the learned and pathetical author of the Homilies on Matt. v., in the works of Chrysostom, Hom. liv., which is the last of them, “In carne sua omnem carnem suscepit, crucifixus, omnem carnem crucifixit in se.” He speaks of the church. So they speak often, others of them, that “he bare us,” that “he took us with him on the cross,” that “we were all crucified in him;” as Prosper, “He is not saved by the cross of Christ who is not crucified in Christ,” Resp. ad cap., Gal. cap. ix.
This, then, I say, is the foundation of the imputation of the sins of the church unto Christ, — namely, that he and it are one person; the grounds whereof we must inquire into.
But hereon sundry discourses do ensue, and various inquiries are made, — What a person is? in what sense, and in how many senses, that word may be used? what is the true notion of it? what is a natural person? what a legal, civil, or political person? in the explication whereof some have fallen into mistakes. And if we should enter into this field, we need not fear matter enough of debate and altercation. But I must needs say, that these things belong not unto our present occasion; nor is the union of Christ and the church illustrated, but obscured by them. For Christ and believers are neither one natural person, nor a legal or political person, nor any such person as the laws, customs, or usages of men do know or allow of. They are one mystical person; whereof although there may be some imperfect resemblances found in natural or political unions, yet the union from whence that denomination is taken between him and us is of that nature, and arises from such reasons and causes, as no personal union among men (or the union of many persons) has any concernment in. And therefore, as to the representation of it unto our weak understandings, unable to comprehend the depth of heavenly mysteries, it is compared unto unions of divers kinds and 179natures. So is it represented by that of man and wife; not as unto those mutual affections which give them only a moral union, but from the extraction of the first woman from the flesh and bone of the first man, and the institution of God for the individual society of life thereon. This the apostle at large declares, Eph. v. 25–32: whence he concludes, that from the union thus represented, “We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones,” verse 30; or have such a relation unto him as Eve had to Adam, when she was made of his flesh and bone, and so was one flesh with him. So, also, it is compared unto the union of the head and members of the same natural body, 1 Cor. xii. 12; and unto a political union also, between a ruling or political head and its political members; but never exclusively unto the union of a natural head and its members comprised in the same expression, Eph. iv. 15; Col. ii. 19. And so also unto sundry things in nature, as a vine and its branches, John xv. 1, 2. And it is declared by the relation that was between Adam and his posterity, by God’s institution and the law of creation, Rom. v. 12, etc. And the Holy Ghost, by representing the union that is between Christ and believers by such a variety of resemblances, in things agreeing only in the common or general notion of union, on various grounds, does sufficiently manifest that it is not of, nor can be reduced unto, any one kind of them. And this will yet be made more evident by the consideration of the causes of it, and the grounds whereinto it is resolved. But whereas it would require much time and diligence to handle them at large, which the mention of them here, being occasional, will not admit, I shall only briefly refer unto the heads of them:—
1. The first spring or cause of this union, and of all the other causes of it, lies in that eternal compact that was between the Father and the Son concerning the recovery and salvation of fallen mankind. Herein, among other things, as the effects thereof, the assumption of our nature (the foundation of this union) was designed. The nature and terms of this compact, counsel, and agreement, I have declared elsewhere; and therefore must not here again insist upon it. But the relation between Christ and the church, proceeding from hence, and so being an effect of infinite wisdom, in the counsel of the Father and Son, to be made effectual by the Holy Spirit, must be distinguished from all other unions or relations whatever.
2. The Lord Christ, as unto the nature which he was to assume, was hereon predestinated unto grace and glory. He was προεγνωσμένος, — “fore-ordained,” predestinated, “before the foundation of the world,” 1 Pet. i. 20; that is, he was so, as unto his office, so unto all the grace and glory required thereunto, and consequent thereon. All the grace and glory of the human nature of Christ was an effect 180of free divine pre-ordination. God chose it from all eternity unto a participation of all which it received in time. Neither can any other cause of the glorious exaltation of that portion of our nature be assigned.
3. This grace and glory whereunto he was preordained was twofold:— (1.) That which was peculiar unto himself; (2.) That which was to be communicated, by and through him, unto the church. (1.) Of the first sort was the χάρις ἑνώσεως, — the grace of personal union; that single effect of divine wisdom (whereof there is no shadow nor resemblance in any other works of God, either of creation, providence, or grace), which his nature was filled withal: “Full of grace and truth.” And all his personal glory, power, authority, and majesty as mediator, in his exaltation at the right hand of God, which is expressive of them all, do belong hereunto. These things were peculiar unto him, and all of them effects of his eternal predestination. But, — (2.) He was not thus predestinated absolutely, but also with respect unto that grace and glory which in him and by him was to be communicated unto the church And he was so, —
[1.] As the pattern and exemplary cause of our predestination; for we are “predestinated to be conformed unto the image of the Son of God, that he might be the first born among many brethren,” Rom. viii. 29. Hence he shall even “change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body,” Phil. iii. 21; that when he appears we may be every way like him, 1 John iii. 2.
[2.] As the means and cause of communicating all grace and glory unto us; for we are “chosen in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and predestinated unto the adoption of children by him,” Eph. i. 3–5. He was designed as the only procuring cause of all spiritual blessings in heavenly things unto those who are chosen in him. Wherefore, —
[3.] He was thus fore-ordained as the head of the church; it being the design of God to gather all things into a head in him, Eph. i. 10.
[4.] All the elect of God were, in his eternal purpose and design, and in the everlasting covenant between the Father and the Son, committed unto him, to be delivered from sin, the law, and death, and to be brought into the enjoyment of God: “Thine they were, and thou gavest them me,” John xvii. 6. Hence was that love of his unto them wherewith he loved them, and gave himself for them, antecedently unto any good or love in them, Eph. v. 25, 26; Gal. ii. 20; Rev. i. 5, 6.
[5.] In the prosecution of this design of God, and in the accomplishment of the everlasting covenant, in the fulness of time he took upon him our nature, or took it into personal subsistence with himself. The especial relation that ensued hereon between him and the 181elect children the apostle declares at large, Heb. ii. 10–17; and I refer the reader unto our exposition of that place.
[6.] On these foundations he undertook to be the surety of the new covenant, Heb. vii. 22, “Jesus was made a surety of a better testament.” This alone, of all the fundamental considerations of the imputation of our sins unto Christ, I shall insist upon, on purpose to obviate or remove some mistakes about the nature of his suretiship, and the respect of it unto the covenant whereof he was the surety. And I shall borrow what I shall offer hereon from our exposition of this passage of the apostle in the seventh chapter of this epistle, not yet published, with very little variation from what I have discoursed on that occasion, without the least respect unto, or prospect of, any treating on our present subject.
The word ἔγγυος is nowhere found in the Scripture but in this place only; but the advantage which some would make from thence, — namely, that it being but one place wherein the Lord, Christ is called a surety, it is not of much force, or much to be insisted on, — is both unreasonable and absurd; for, — 1st. This one place is of divine revelation; and therefore is of the same authority with twenty testimonies unto the same purpose. One divine testimony makes our faith no less necessary, nor does one less secure it from being deceived than a hundred.
2dly. The signification of the word is known from the use of it, and what it signifies among men; so that no question can be made of its sense and importance, though it be but once used: and this on any occasion removes the difficulty and danger, τῶν ἅπαξ λεγομένων. 3dly. The thing itself intended is so fully declared by the apostle in this place, and so plentifully taught in other places of the Scripture, as that the single use of this word may add light, but can be no prejudice unto it.
Something may be spoken unto the signification of the word ἔγγυος, which will give light into the thing intended by it. Γύαλον is “vola manûs,” — the “palm of the hand;” thence is ἔγγυος, or εἰς τὸ γύαλον, — to “deliver into the hand.” Ἐγγυητής is of the same signification. Hence being a surety is interpreted by striking the hand, Prov. vi. 1, “My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger.” So it answers the Hebrew עָרַב, which the LXX. render ἐγγυάω, Prov. vi. 1; xvii. 18; xx. 16; and by διεγγυάω, Neh. v. 3. עָרַב originally signifies to mingle, or a mixture of any things or persons; and thence, from the conjunction and mixture is between a surety and him for whom he is a surety, whereby they coalesce into one person, as unto the ends of that suretiship, it is used for a surety, or to give surety. And he that was or did עָרַב, a surety, or become a surety, was to answer for him 182for whom he was so, whatsoever befell him. So is it described, Gen. xliii. 9, in the words of Judah unto his father Jacob, concerning Benjamin, אָנֹכִי אֶעֶרְבֶנּוּ, — “I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him.” In undertaking to be surety for him, as unto his safety and preservation, he engages himself to answer for all that should befall him; for so he adds, “If I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, let me be guilty forever.” And on this ground he entreats Joseph that he might be a servant and a bondman in his stead, that he might go free and return unto his father, Gen. xliv. 32, 33. This is required unto such a surety, that he undergo and answer all that he for whom he is a surety is liable unto, whether in things criminal or civil, so far as the suretiship does extend. A surety is an undertaker for another, or others, who thereon is justly and legally to answer what is due to them, or from them; nor is the word otherwise used. See Job xvii. 3; Prov. vi. 1; xi. 15; xvii. 18; xx. 16; xxvii. 13. So Paul became a surety unto Philemon for Onesimus, verse 18. Ἐγγύη is “sponsio, expromissio, fidejussio,” — an undertaking or giving security for any thing or person unto another, whereon an agreement did ensue. This, in some cases, was by pledges, or an earnest, Isa. xxxvi. 8, הִתְעָרֶב נָא, — “Give surety, pledges, hostages,” for the true performance of conditions. Hence is עֵרָבוֹן, ἀῤῥαβών, “a pledge,” or “earnest,” Eph. i. 14. Wherefore ἔγγυος is “sponsor, fidejussor, præs,” — one that voluntarily takes on himself the cause or condition of another, to answer, or undergo, or pay what he is liable unto, or to see it done; whereon he becomes justly and legally obnoxious unto performance. In this sense is the word here used by the apostle; for it has no other.
In our present inquiry into the nature of this suretiship of Christ, the whole will be resolved into this one question, — namely, whether the Lord Christ was made a surety only on the part of God unto us, to assure us that the promise of the covenant on his part should be accomplished; or also and principally an undertaker on our part, for the performance of what is required; if not of us, yet with respect unto us, that the promise may be accomplished? The first of these is vehemently asserted by the Socinians, who are followed by Grotius and Hammond in their annotations on this place.
The words of Schlichtingius are: “Sponsor fœderis appellatur Jesus, quod nomine Dei nobis, spoponderit, id est fidem fecerit, Deum fœderis promissiones servaturum. Non vero quasi pro nobis spoponderit Deo, nostrorumve debitorum solutionem in se receperit. Nec enim nos misimus Christum sed Deus, cujus nomine Christus ad nos venit, fœdus nobiscum panxit, ejusque promissiones ratas fore spopondit et in se recepti; ideoque nec sponsor simpliciter, sed fœderis sponsor nominatur; spopondit autem Christus pro fœderis 183divini veritate, non tantum quatenus id firmum ratumque fore verbis perpetuo testatus est; sed etiam quatenus muneris sui fidem, maximis rerum ipsarum comprobavit documentis, cum perfecta vitæ innocentia et sanctitate, cum divinis plane quæ patravit, operibus; cum mortis adeo truculentæ, quam pro doctrinæ suæ veritate subiit, perpessione.” After which he subjoins a long discourse about the evidences which we have of the veracity of Christ. And herein we have a brief account of their whole opinion concerning the mediation of Christ. The words of Grotius are, “Spopondit Christus; id est, nos certos promissi fecit, non solis verbis, sed perpetua vitæ sanctitate, morte ob id tolerata et miraculis plurimis;” — which are an abridgment of the discourse of Schlichtingius. To the same purpose Dr Hammond expounds it, that he was a sponsor or surety for God unto the confirmation of the promises of the covenant.
On the other hand, the generality of expositors, ancient and modern, of the Roman and Protestant churches, on the place, affirm that the Lord Christ, as the surety of the covenant, was properly a surety or undertaker unto God for us, and not a surety and undertaker unto us for God. And because this is a matter of great importance, wherein the faith and consolation of the church is highly concerned, I shall insist a little upon it.
And, first, We may consider the argument that is produced to prove that Christ was only a surety for God unto us. Now, this is taken neither from the name nor nature of the office or work of surety, nor from the nature of the covenant whereof he was a surety, nor of the office wherein he was so. But the sole argument insisted on is, that we do not give Christ as a surety of the covenant unto God, but he gives him unto us; and therefore he is a surety for God and the accomplishment of his promises, and not for us, to pay our debts, or to answer what is required of us.
But there is no force in this argument; for it belongs not unto the nature of a surety by whom he is or may be designed unto his office and work therein. His own voluntary susception of the office and work is all that is required, however he may be designed or induced to undertake it. He who, of his own accord, does voluntarily undertake for another, on what grounds, reasons, or considerations soever he does so, is his surety. And this the Lord Christ did in the behalf of the church: for when it was said, “Sacrifice, and burnt-offering, and whole burnt-offerings for sin, God would not have,” or accept as sufficient to make the atonement that he required, so as that the covenant might be established and made effectual unto us; then said he, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God,” Heb. x. 5, 7. He willingly and voluntarily, out of his own abundant goodness and love, took upon him to make atonement for us; wherein he was our 184surety. And accordingly, this undertaking is ascribed unto that love which he exercised herein, Gal. ii. 20; 1 John iii. 16; Rev. i. 5. And there was this in it, moreover, that he took upon him our nature or the seed of Abraham; wherein he was our surety. So that although we neither did nor could appoint him so to be, yet he took from us that wherein and whereby he was so; which is as much as if we had designed him unto his work, as to the true reason of his being our surety. Wherefore, notwithstanding those antecedent transactions that were between the Father and him in this matter, it was the voluntary engagement of himself to be our surety, and his taking our nature upon him for that end, which was the formal reason of his being instated in that office.
It is indeed weak, and contrary unto all common experience, that none can be a surety for others unless those others design him and appoint him so to be. The principal instances of suretiship in the world have been by the voluntary undertaking of such as were no way procured so to do by them for whom they undertook. And in such undertakings, he unto whom it is made is no less considered than they for whom it is made: as when Judah, on his own account, became a surety for Benjamin, he had as much respect unto the satisfaction of his father as the safety of his brother. And so the Lord Christ, in his undertaking to be a surety for us, had respect unto the glory of God before our safety.
Secondly, We may consider the arguments whence it is evident that he neither was nor could be a surety unto us for God, but was so for us unto God. For, —
1. Ἔγγυος or ἐγγυητής, “a surety,” is one that undertakes for another wherein he is defective, really or in reputation. Whatever that undertaking be, whether in words of promise or in depositing of real security in the hands of an arbitrator, or by any other personal engagement of life and body, it respects the defect of the person for whom any one becomes a surety. Such a one is “sponsor,” or “fidejussor,” in all good authors and common use of speech. And if any one be of absolute credit himself, and of a reputation every way unquestionable, there is no need of a surety, unless in case of mortality. The words of a surety in the behalf of another whose ability or reputation is dubious, are, “Ad me recipio, faciet, aut faciam.” And when ἔγγους is taken adjectively, as sometimes, it signifies “satisdationibus obnoxius,” — liable to payments for others that are non-solvent.
2. God can, therefore, have no surety properly, because there can be no imagination of any defect on his part. There may be, indeed a question whether any word or promise be a word or promise of God. To assure us hereof, it is not the work of a surety, but only 185any one or any means that may give evidence that so it is, — that is, of a witness. But upon a supposition that what is proposed is his word or promise, there can be no imagination or fear of any defect on his part, so as that there should be any need of a surety for the performance of it. He does therefore make use of witnesses to confirm his word, — that is, to testify that such promises he has made, and so he will do: so the Lord Christ was his witness. Isa. xliii. 10, “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen;” but they were not all his sureties. So he affirms that “he came into the world to bear witness unto the truth,” John xviii. 37, — that is, the truth of the promises of God; for he was the minister of the circumcision for the truth of the promises of God unto the fathers, Rom. xv. 8: but a surety for God, properly so called, he was not, nor could be. The distance and difference is wide enough between a witness and a surety; for a surety must be of more ability, or more credit and reputation, than he or those for whom he is a surety, or there is no need of his suretiship; or, at least, he must add unto their credit, and make it better than without him. This none can be for God, no, not the Lord Christ himself, who, in his whole work, was the servant of the Father. And the apostle does not use this word in a general, improper sense, for any one that by any means gives assurance of any other thing, for so he had ascribed nothing peculiar unto Christ; for in such a sense all the prophets and apostles were sureties for God, and many of them confirmed the truth of his word and promises with the laying down of their lives; but such a surety he intends as undertakes to do that for others which they cannot do for themselves, or at least are not reputed to be able to do what is required of them.
3. The apostle had before at large declared who and what was God’s surety in this matter of the covenant, and how impossible it was that he should have any other. And this was himself alone, interposing himself by his oath; for in this cause, “because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,” Heb. vi. 13, 14. Wherefore, if God would give any other surety besides himself, it must be one greater than he. This being every way impossible, he swears by himself only. Many ways he may and does use for the declaring and testifying of his truth unto us, that we may know and believe it to be his word; and so the Lord Christ in his ministry was the principal witness of the truth of God. But other surety than himself he can have none. And therefore, —
4. When he would have us in this matter not only come unto the full assurance of faith concerning his promises, but also to have strong consolation therein, he resolves it wholly into the immutability of his counsel, as declared by his promise and oath, chap. vi. 18, 19: 186so that neither is God capable of having any surety, properly so called; neither do we stand in need of any on his part for the confirmation of our faith in the highest degree.
5. We, on all accounts, stand in need of a surety for us, or on our behalf. Neither, without the interposition of such a surety, could any covenant between God and us be firm and stable, or an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure. In the first covenant made with Adam there was no surety, but God and men were the immediate covenanters; and although we were then in a state and condition able to perform and answer all the terms of the covenant, yet was it broken and disannulled. If this came to pass by the failure of the promise of God, it was necessary that on the making of a new covenant he should have a surety to undertake for him, that the covenant might be stable and everlasting; but this is false and blasphemous to imagine. It was man alone who failed and broke that covenant: wherefore it was necessary, that upon the making of the new covenant, and that with a design and purpose that it should never be disannulled, as the former was, we should have a surety and undertaker for us; for if that first covenant was not firm and stable, because there was no surety to undertake for us, notwithstanding all that ability which we had to answer the terms of it, how much less can any other be so, now [that] our natures are become depraved and sinful! Wherefore we alone were capable of a surety, properly so called, for us; we alone stood in need of him; and without him the covenant could not be firm and inviolate on our part. The surety, therefore of this covenant, is so with God for us.
6. It is the priesthood of Christ that the apostle treats of in this place, and that alone: wherefore he is a surety as he is a priest, and in the discharge of that office; and therefore is so with God on our behalf. This Schlichtingius observes, and is aware what will ensue against his pretensions; which he endeavours to obviate. “Mirum,” says he, “porro alicui videri posset, cur divinus author de Christi sacerdotio, in superioribus et in sequentibus agens, derepente eum sponsorem fœderis non vero sacerdotem vocet? Cur non dixerit ‘tanto præstantioris fœderis factus est sacerdos Jesus?’ Hoc enim plane requirere videtur totus orationis contextus. Credibile est in voce sponsionis sacerdotium quoque Christi intelligi. Sponsoris enim non est alieno nomine quippiam promittere, et fidem suam pro alio interponere; sed etiam, si ita res ferat, alterius nomine id quod spopondit præstare. In rebus quidem humanis, si id non præstet is pro quo sponsor fidejussit; hic vero propter contrariam causam (nam prior hic locum habere non potest), nempe quatenus ille pro quo spopondit Christus per ipsum Christum promissa sua nobis exhibet; qua in re præcipue Christi sacerdotium continetur.”
187Ans. 1. It may indeed, seem strange, unto any one who imagines Christ to be such a surety as he does, why the apostle should so call him, and so introduce him in the description of his priestly office, as that which belongs thereunto; but grant what is the proper work and duty of a surety, and who the Lord Jesus was a surety for, and it is evident that nothing more proper or pertinent could be mentioned by him, when he was in the declaration of that office.
Ans. 2. He confesses that by his exposition of this suretiship of Christ, as making him a surety for God, he contradicts the nature and only notion of a surety among men. For such a one, he acknowledges, does nothing but in the defect and inability of them for whom he is engaged and does undertake; he is to pay that which they owe, and to do what is to be done by them, which they cannot perform. And if this be not the notion of a surety in this place, the apostle makes use of a word nowhere else used in the whole Scripture, to teach us that which it does never signify among men: which is improbable and absurd; for the sole reason why he did make use of it was, that from the nature and notion of it amongst men in other cases, we may understand the signification of it, what he intends by it, and what under that name he ascribes unto the Lord Jesus.
Ans. 3. He has no way to solve the apostle’s mention of Christ being a surety, in the description of his priestly office, but by overthrowing the nature of that office also; for to confirm this absurd notion, that Christ as a priest was a surety for God, he would have us believe that the priesthood of Christ consists in his making effectual unto us the promises of God, or his effectual communicating of the good things promised unto us; the falsehood of which notion, really destructive of the priesthood of Christ, I have elsewhere at large detected and confuted. Wherefore, seeing the Lord Christ is a surety of the covenant as a priest, and all the sacerdotal actings of Christ have God for their immediate object, and are performed with him on our behalf, he was a surety for us also.
A surety, “sponsor, vas, præs, fidejussor,” for us, the Lord Christ was, by his voluntary undertaking, out of his rich grace and love, to do, answer, and perform all that is required on our part, that we may enjoy the benefits of the covenant, the grace and glory prepared, proposed, and promised in it, in the way and manner determined on by divine wisdom. And this may be reduced unto two heads:— First, His answering for our transgressions against the first covenant; Secondly, His purchase and procurement of the grace of the new: “he was made a curse for us, … that the blessing of Abraham might come on us,” Gal. iii. 13–15.
(1.) He undertook, as the surety of the covenant, to answer for all the sins of those who are to be, and are, made partakers of the benefits 188of it; — that is, to undergo the punishment due unto their sins; to make atonement for them by offering himself a propitiatory sacrifice for the expiation of their sins, redeeming them, by the price of his blood, from their state of misery and bondage under the law, and the curse of it, Isa. liii. 4–6, 10; Matt. xx. 28; 1 Tim. ii. 6; 1 Cor. vi. 20; Rom. iii. 25, 26; Heb. x. 5–8; Rom. viii. 2, 3; 2 Cor. v. 19–21; Gal. iii. 13: and this was absolutely necessary, that the grace and glory prepared in the covenant might be communicated unto us. Without this undertaking of his, and performance of it, the righteousness and faithfulness of God would not permit that sinners, — such as had apostatized from him, despised his authority and rebelled against him, falling thereby under the sentence and curse of the law, — should again be received into his favour, and made partakers of grace and glory; this, therefore, the Lord Christ took upon himself, as the surety of the covenant.
(2.) That those who were to be taken into this covenant should receive grace enabling them to comply with the terms of it, fulfil its conditions, and yield the obedience which God required therein; for, by the ordination of God, he was to procure, and did merit and procure for them, the Holy Spirit, and all needful supplies of grace, to make them new creatures, and enable them to yield obedience unto God from a new principle of spiritual life, and that faithfully unto the end: so was he the surety of this better testament. But all things belonging hereunto will be handled at large in the place from whence, as I said, these are taken, as suitable unto our present occasion.
But some have other notions of these things; for they say that “Christ, by his death, and his obedience therein, whereby he offered himself a sacrifice of sweet smelling savour unto God, procured for us the new covenant:” or, as one speaks, “All that we have by the death of Christ is, that whereunto we owe the covenant of grace; for herein he did and suffered what God required and freely appointed him to do and suffer. Not that the justice of God required any such thing, with respect unto their sins for whom he died, and in whose stead, or to bestead whom, he suffered, but what, by a free constitution of divine wisdom and sovereignty, was appointed unto him. Hereon God was pleased to remit the terms of the old covenant, and to enter into a new covenant with mankind, upon terms suited unto our reason, possible unto our abilities, and every way advantageous unto us; for these terms are, faith and sincere obedience, or such an assent unto the truth of divine revelation effectual in obedience unto the will of God contained in them, upon the encouragement given whereunto in the promises of eternal life, or a future reward, made therein. On the performance of these conditions our justification, adoption, and future glory, do depend; 189for they are that righteousness before God whereon he pardons our sins, and accepts our persons as if we were perfectly righteous.” Wherefore, by this procuring the new covenant for us, which they ascribe unto the death of Christ, they intend the abrogation of the old covenant, or of the law, — or at least such a derogation from it, that it shall no more oblige us either unto sinless obedience or punishment, nor require a perfect righteousness unto our justification before God, — and the constitution of a new law of obedience, accommodated unto our present state and condition; on whose observance all the promises of the gospel do depend.
Others say, that in the death of Christ there was real satisfaction made unto God; not to the law, or unto God according to what the law required, but unto God absolutely; that is, he did what God was well pleased and satisfied withal, without any respect unto his justice or the curse of the law. And they add, that hereon the whole righteousness of Christ is imputed unto us, so far as that we are made partakers of the benefits thereof; and, moreover, that the way of the communication of them unto us is by the new covenant, which by his death the Lord Christ procured: for the conditions of this covenant are established in the covenant itself, whereon God will bestow all the benefits and effects of it upon us; which are faith and obedience. Wherefore, what the Lord Christ has done for us is thus far accepted as our legal righteousness, as that God, upon our faith and obedience with respect thereunto, does release and pardon all our sins of omission and commission. Upon this pardon there is no need of any positive perfect righteousness unto our justification or salvation; but our own personal righteousness is accepted with God in the room of it, by virtue of the new covenant which Christ has procured. So is the doctrine hereof stated by Curcellæus, and those that join with him or follow him.
Sundry things there are in these opinions that deserve an examination; and they will most, if not all of them, occur unto us in our progress. That which alone we have occasion to inquire into, with respect unto what we have discoursed concerning the Lord Christ as surety of the covenant, and which is the foundation of all that is asserted in them, is, that Christ by his death procured the new covenant for us; which, as one says, is all that we have thereby: which, if it should prove otherwise, we are not beholding unto it for any thing at all. But these things must be examined. And, —
(1.) The terms of procuring the new covenant are ambiguous. It is not as yet, that I know of, by any declared how the Lord Christ did procure it, — whether he did so by his satisfaction and obedience, as the meritorious cause of it, or by what other kind of causality. Unless this be stated, we are altogether uncertain what relation of 190the new covenant unto the death of Christ is intended; and to say that thereunto we owe the new covenant does not mend the matter, but rather render the terms more ambiguous. Neither is it declared whether the constitution of the covenant, or the communication of the benefits of it, is intended. It is yet no less general, that God was so well pleased with what Christ did, as that hereon he made and entered into a new covenant with mankind. This they may grant who yet deny the whole satisfaction and merit of Christ. If they mean that the Lord Christ, by his obedience and suffering, did meritoriously procure the making and establishing of the new covenant, which was all that he so procured, and the entire effect of his death, what they say may be understood; but the whole nature of the mediation of Christ is overthrown thereby.
(2.) This opinion is liable unto a great prejudice, in that, whereas it is in such a fundamental article of our religion, and about that wherein the eternal welfare of the church is so nearly concerned, there is no mention made of it in the Scripture; for is it not strange, if this be, as some speak, the sole effect of the death of Christ, whereas sundry other things are frequently in the Scripture ascribed unto it as the effects and fruits thereof, that this which is only so should be nowhere mentioned, — neither in express words, nor such as will allow of this sense by any just or lawful consequence? Our redemption, pardon of sins, the renovation of our natures, our sanctification, justification, peace with God, eternal life, are all jointly and severally assigned thereunto, in places almost without number; but it is nowhere said in the Scripture that Christ by his death merited, procured, obtained, the new covenant, or that God should enter into a new covenant with mankind; yea, as we shall see, that which is contrary unto it, and inconsistent with it, is frequently asserted.
(3.) To clear the truth herein, we must consider the several notions and causes of the new covenant, with the true and real respect of the death of Christ thereunto. And it is variously represented unto us:—
[1.] In the designation and preparation of its terms and benefits in the counsel of God. And this, although it have the nature of an eternal decree, yet is it not the same with the decree of election, as some suppose: for that properly respects the subjects or persons for whom grace and glory are prepared; this, the preparation of that grace and glory as to the way and manner of their communication. Some learned men do judge that this counsel and purpose of the will of God to give grace and glory in and by Jesus Christ unto the elect, in the way and by the means by him prepared, is formally the covenant of grace, or at least that the substance of the covenant is comprised therein; but it is certain that more is required to complete the whole nature of a covenant. Nor is this purpose or counsel of 191God called the covenant in the Scripture, but is only proposed as the spring and fountain of it, Eph. i. 3–12. Unto the full exemplification of the covenant of grace there is required the declaration of this counsel of God’s will, accompanied with the means and powers of its accomplishment, and the prescription of the way whereby we are so to be interested in it, and made partakers of the benefits of it: but in the inquiry after the procuring cause of the new covenant, it is the first thing that ought to come under consideration; for nothing can be the procuring cause of the covenant which is not so of this spring and fountain of it, of this idea of it in the mind of God, of the preparation of its terms and benefits. But this is nowhere in the Scripture affirmed to be the effect of the death or mediation of Christ; and to ascribe it thereunto is to overthrow the whole freedom of eternal grace and love. Neither can any thing that is absolutely eternal, as is this decree and counsel of God, be the effect of, or procured by, any thing that is external and temporal.
[2.] It may be considered with respect unto the federal transactions between the Father and the Son, concerning the accomplishment of this counsel of his will. What these were, wherein they did consist, I have declared at large, Exercitat., vol. ii.1919 See Exercit. xxviii. in the preliminary dissertations to the “Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews.” — Ed. Neither do I call this the covenant of grace absolutely; nor is it so called in the Scripture. But yet some will not distinguish between the covenant of the mediator and the covenant of grace, because the promises of the covenant absolutely are said to be made to Christ, Gal. iii. 16; and he is the πρῶτον δεκτικόν, or first subject of all the grace of it. But in the covenant of the mediator, Christ stands alone for himself, and undertakes for himself alone, and not as the representative of the church; but this he is in the covenant of grace. But this is that wherein it had its designed establishment, as unto all the ways, means, and ends of its accomplishment; and all things are so disposed as that it might be effectual, unto the eternal glory of the wisdom, grace, righteousness, and power of God. Wherefore the covenant of grace could not be procured by any means or cause but that which was the cause of this covenant of the mediator, or of God the Father with the Son, as undertaking the work of mediation. And as this is nowhere ascribed unto the death of Christ in the Scripture, so to assert it is contrary unto all spiritual reason and understanding. Who can conceive that Christ by his death should procure the agreement between God and him that he should die?
[3.] With respect unto the declaration of it by especial revelation. This we may call God’s making or establishing of it, if we please; though making of the covenant in Scripture is applied principally, if not only, unto its execution or actual application unto persons, 2 Sam. xxiii. 5; 192Jer. xxxii. 40. This declaration of the grace of God, and the provision in the covenant of the mediator for the making of it effectual unto his glory, is most usually called the covenant of grace. And this is twofold:—
1st. In the way of a singular and absolute promise: so was it first declared unto and established with Adam, and afterwards with Abraham. The promise is the declaration of the purpose of God before declared, or the free determination and counsel of his will, as to his dealing with sinners on the supposition of the fall, and their forfeiture of their first covenant state. Hereof the grace and will of God were the only cause, Heb. viii. 8. And the death of Christ could not be the means of its procurement; for he himself, and all that he was to do for us, was the substance of that promise. And this promise, — as it is declarative of the purpose or counsel of the will of God for the communication of grace and glory unto sinners, in and by the mediation of Christ, according to the ways and on the terms prepared and disposed in his sovereign wisdom and pleasure, — is formally the new covenant; though something yet is to be added to complete its application unto us. Now, the substance of the first promise, wherein the whole covenant of grace was virtually comprised, directly respected and expressed the giving of him for the recovery of mankind from sin and misery by his death, Gen. iii. 15. Wherefore, if he and all the benefits of his mediation, his death, and all the effects of it, be contained in the promise of the covenant, — that is, in the covenant itself, — then was not his death the procuring cause of that covenant, nor do we owe it thereunto.
2dly. In the additional prescription of the way and means whereby it is the will of God that we shall enter into a covenant state with him, or be interested in the benefits of it. This being virtually comprised in the absolute promise (for every promise of God does tacitly require faith and obedience in us), is expressed in other places by way of the condition required on our part. This is not the covenant, but the constitution of the terms on our part, whereon we are made partakers of it. Nor is the constitution of these terms an effect of the death of Christ, or procured thereby; it is a mere effect of the sovereign grace and wisdom of God. The things themselves, as bestowed on us, communicated unto us, wrought in us by grace, are all of them effects of the death of Christ; but the constitution of them to be the terms and conditions of the covenant, is an act of mere sovereign wisdom and grace. “God so loved the world, as to send his only begotten Son to die,” not that faith and repentance might be the means of salvation, but that all his elect might believe, and that all that believe “might not perish, but have everlasting life.” But yet it is granted that the constitution of these terms of the covenant does respect the federal transaction between 193the Father and the Son, wherein they were ordered to the praise of the glory of God’s grace; and so, although their constitution was not the procurement of his death, yet without respect unto it, it had not been. Wherefore, the sole cause of God’s making the new covenant was the same with that of giving Christ himself to be our mediator, — namely, the purpose, counsel, goodness, grace, and love of God, as it is everywhere expressed in the Scripture.
[4.] The covenant may be considered as unto the actual application of the grace, benefits, and privileges of it unto any persons, whereby they are made real partakers of them, or are taken into covenant with God; and this alone, in the Scripture, is intended by God’s making a covenant with any. It is not a general revelation, or declaration of the terms and nature of the covenant (which some call a universal conditional covenant, on what grounds they know best, seeing the very formal nature of making a covenant with any includes the actual acceptation of it, and participation of the benefits of it by them), but a communication of the grace of it, accompanied with a prescription of obedience, that is God’s making his covenant with any; as all instances of it in the Scripture do declare.
It may be, therefore, inquired, What respect the covenant of grace has unto the death of Christ, or what influence it has thereunto?
I answer, Supposing what is spoken of his being a surety thereof, it has a threefold respect thereunto:—
1st. In that the covenant, as the grace and glory of it were prepared in the counsel of God, as the terms of it were fixed in the covenant of the mediator, and as it was declared in the promise, was confirmed, ratified, and made irrevocable thereby. This our apostle insists upon at large, Heb. ix. 15–20; and he compares his blood, in his death and sacrifice of himself, unto the sacrifices and their blood whereby the old covenant was confirmed, purified, dedicated, or established, verses 18, 19. Now, these sacrifices did not procure that covenant, or prevail with God to enter into it, but only ratified and confirmed it; and this was done in the new covenant by the blood of Christ.
2dly. He thereby underwent and performed all that which, in the righteousness and wisdom of God, was required; that the effects, fruits, benefits, and grace, intended, designed, and prepared in the new covenant, might be effectually accomplished and communicated unto sinners. Hence, although he procured not the covenant for us by his death, yet he was, in his person, mediation, life, and death, the only cause and means whereby the whole grace of the covenant is made effectual unto us. For, —
3dly. All the benefits of it were procured by him; — that is, all 194the grace, mercy, privileges, and glory, that God has prepared in the counsel of his will, that were fixed as unto the way of this communication in the covenant of the mediator, and proposed in the promises of it, are purchased, merited, and procured by his death; and effectually communicated or applied unto all the covenanters by virtue thereof, with others of his mediatory acts. And this is much more an eminent procuring of the new covenant than what is pretended about the procurement of its terms and conditions; for if he should have procured no more but this, — if we owe this only unto his mediation, that God would thereon, or did, grant and establish this rule, law, and promise, that whoever believed should be saved, — it were possible that no one should be saved thereby; yea, if he did no more, considering our state and condition, it was impossible that any one should so be.
To give the sum of these things, it is inquired with respect unto which of these considerations of the new covenant it is affirmed that it was procured by the death of Christ. If it be said that it is with respect unto the actual communication of all the grace and glory prepared in the covenant, and proposed unto us in the promises of it, it is most true. All the grace and glory promised in the covenant were purchased for the church by Jesus Christ. In this sense, by his death he procured the new covenant. This the whole Scripture, from the beginning of it in the first promise unto the end of it, does bear witness unto; for it is in him alone that “God blesseth us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things.” Let all the good things that are mentioned or promised in the covenant, expressly or by just consequence, be summed up, and it will be no hard matter to demonstrate concerning them all, and that both jointly and severally, that they were all procured for us by the obedience and death of Christ.
But this is not that which is intended; for most of this opinion do deny that the grace of the covenant, in conversion unto God, the remission of sins, sanctification, justification, adoption, and the like, are the effects or procurements of the death of Christ. And they do, on the other hand, declare that it is God’s making of the covenant which they do intend, that is, the contrivance of the terms and conditions of it, with their proposal unto mankind for their recovery. But herein there is οὐδὲν ὑγιές. For —
(1.) The Lord Christ himself, and the whole work of his mediation, as the ordinance of God for the recovery and salvation of lost sinners, is the first and principal promise of the covenant; so his exhibition in the flesh, his work of mediation therein, with our deliverance thereby, was the subject of that first promise, which virtually contained this whole covenant: so he was of the renovation of 195it unto Abraham, when it was solemnly confirmed by the oath of God, Gal. iii. 16, 17. And Christ did not by his death procure the promise of his death, nor of his exhibition in the flesh, or his coming into the world that he might die.
(2.) The making of this covenant is everywhere in the Scripture ascribed (as is also the sending of Christ himself to die) unto the love, grace, and wisdom of God alone; nowhere unto the death of Christ, as the actual communication of all grace and glory are. Let all the places be considered, where either the giving of the promise, the sending of Christ, or the making of the covenant, are mentioned, either expressly or virtually, and in none of them are they assigned unto any other cause but the grace, love, and wisdom of God alone; all to be made effectual unto us by the mediation of Christ.
(3.) The assignation of the sole end, of the death of Christ to be the procurement of the new covenant, in the sense contended for, does indeed evacuate all the virtue of the death of Christ and of the covenant itself; for, — First, The covenant which they intend is nothing but the constitution and proposal of new terms and conditions for life and salvation unto all men. Now, whereas the acceptance and accomplishment of these conditions depend upon the wills of men no way determined by effectual grace, it was possible that, notwithstanding all Christ did by his death, yet no one sinner might be saved thereby, but that the whole end and design of God therein might be frustrated. Secondly, Whereas the substantial advantage of these conditions lies herein, that God will now, for the sake of Christ, accept of an obedience inferior unto that required in the law, and so as that the grace of Christ does not raise up all things unto a conformity and compliance with the holiness and will of God declared therein, but accommodate all things unto our present condition, nothing can be invented more dishonourable to Christ and the gospel; for what does it else but make Christ the minister of sin, in disannulling the holiness that the law requires, or the obligation of the law unto it, without any provision of what might answer or come into the room of it, but that which is incomparably less worthy? Nor is it consistent with divine wisdom, goodness, and immutability, to appoint unto mankind a law of obedience, and cast them all under the severest penalty upon the transgression of it, when he could in justice and honour have given them such a law of obedience, whose observance might consist with many failings and sins; for if he have done that now, he could have done so before: which how far it reflects on the glory of the divine properties might be easily manifested. Neither does this fond imagination comply with those testimonies of Scripture, that the Lord Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it, that he is the end of the law; and that by faith 196the law is not disannulled, but established. Lastly, The Lord Christ was the mediator and surety of the new covenant, in and by whom it was ratified, confirmed, and established: and therefore by him the constitution of it was not procured; for all the acts of his office belong unto that mediation, and it cannot be well apprehended how any act of mediation for the establishment of the covenant, and rendering it effectual, should procure it.
7. But to return from this digression. That wherein all the precedent causes of the union between Christ and believers, whence they become one mystical person, do centre, and whereby they are rendered a complete foundation of the imputation of their sins unto him, and of his righteousness unto them, is the communication of his Spirit, the same Spirit that dwells in him, unto them, to abide in, to animate and guide, the whole mystical body and all its members. But this has of late been so much spoken unto, as that I shall do no more but mention it.
On the considerations insisted on, — whereby the Lord Christ became one mystical person with the church, or bare the person of the church in what he did as mediator, in the holy, wise disposal of God as the author of the law, the supreme rector or governor of all mankind, as unto their temporal and eternal concernments, and by his own consent, — the sins of all the elect were imputed unto him. Thus having been the faith and language of the church in all ages, and that derived from and founded on express testimonies of Scripture, with all the promises and resignations of his exhibition in the flesh from the beginning, cannot now, with any modesty, be expressly denied. Wherefore the Socinians themselves grant that our sins may be said to be imputed unto Christ, and he to undergo the punishment of them, so far as that all things which befell him evil and afflictive in this life, with the death which he underwent, were occasioned by our sins; for had not we sinned, there had been no need of nor occasion for his suffering. But notwithstanding this concession, they expressly deny his satisfaction, or that properly he underwent the punishment due unto our sins; wherein they deny also all imputation of them unto him. Others say that our sins were imputed unto him “quoad reatum pœnæ,” but not “quoad reatum culpæ.” But I must acknowledge that unto me this distinction gives “inanem sine mente sonum.” The substance of it is much insisted on by Feuardentius, Dialog v. p. 467; and he is followed by others. That which he would prove by it is, that the Lord Christ did not present himself before the throne of God with the burden of our sins upon him, so as to answer unto the justice of God for them. Whereas, therefore, “reatus,” or “guilt,” may signify either “dignitatem pœnæ,” or “obligationem ad pœnam,” as Bellarmine distinguishes. De Amiss. Grat., lib. vii. cap. 7, 197with respect unto Christ the latter only is to be admitted. And the main argument he and others insist upon is this, — that if our sins be imputed unto Christ, as unto the guilt of the fault, as they speak, then he must be polluted with them, and thence be denominated a sinner in every kind. And this would be true, if our sins could be communicated unto Christ by transfusion, so as to be his inherently and subjectively; but their being so only by imputation gives no countenance unto any such pretence. However, there is a notion of legal uncleanness, where there is no inherent defilement; so the priest who offered the red heifer to make atonement, and he that burned her, were said to be unclean, Numb. xix. 7, 8. But hereon they say, that Christ died and suffered upon the special command of God, not that his death and suffering were any way due upon the account of our sins, or required in justice; which is utterly to overthrow the satisfaction of Christ.
Wherefore, the design of this distinction is, to deny the imputation of the guilt of our sins unto Christ; and then in what tolerable sense can they be said to be imputed unto him, I cannot understand. But we are not tied up unto arbitrary distinctions, and the sense that any are pleased to impose on the terms of them. I shall, therefore, first inquire into the meaning of these words, guilt and guilty, whereby we may be able to judge what it is which in this distinction is intended.
The Hebrews have no other word to signify guilt or guilty but אָשָׁם; and this they use both for sin, the guilt of it, the punishment due unto it, and a sacrifice for it. Speaking of the guilt of blood, they use not any word to signify guilt, but only say, דָּם לוֹ — “It is blood to him.” So David prays, “Deliver me” מִדָּמִים, “from blood;” which we render “blood-guiltiness,” Ps. li. 14. And this was because, by the constitution of God, he that was guilty of blood was to die by the hand of the magistrate, or of God himself. But אָשָׁם (ascham) is nowhere used for guilt, but it signifies the relation of the sin intended unto punishment. And other significations of it will be in vain sought for in the Old Testament.
In the New Testament he that is guilty is said to be ὑπόδικος, Rom. iii. 19; that is, obnoxious to judgment or vengeance for sin, one that ἡ δίκη ζῇν οὐκ εἴασεν, as they speak, Acts xxviii. 4, “whom vengeance will not suffer to go unpunished;” — and ἔνοχος, 1 Cor. xi. 27, a word of the same signification; — once by ὀφείλω, Matt. xxiii. 18, to owe, to be indebted to justice. To be obnoxious, liable unto justice, vengeance, punishment for sin, is to be guilty.
“Reus,” “guilty,” in the Latin is of a large signification. He who is “crimini obnoxious,” or “pœnæ propter crimen,” or “voti debitor,” or “promissi,” or “officii ex sponsione,” is called “reus.” Especially 198every sponsor or surety is “reus” in the law. “Cum servus pecuniam pro libertate pactus est, et ob eam rem, reum dederit,” (that is, “sponsorem, expromissorem,”) “quamvis servus ab alio manusmissus est, reus tamen obligabitur.” He is “reus,” who engages himself for any other, as to the matter of his engagement; and the same is the use of the word in the best Latin authors. “Opportuna loca dividenda præfectis esse ac suæ quique partis tutandæ reus sit,” Liv. De Bello Punic. lib. v. 30; — that every captain should so take care of the station committed to him, as that if any thing happened amiss it should be imputed unto him. And the same author again, “An, quicunque aut propinquitate, aut affinitate, regiam aut aliquibus ministeriis contigissent, alienæ culpæ rei trucidarentur,” B. P., lib. iv. 22; — should be guilty of the fault of another (by imputation), and suffer for it. So that in the Latin tongue he is “reus,” who, for himself or any other, is obnoxious unto punishment or payment.
“Reatus” is a word of late admission into the Latin tongue, and was formed of “reus.” So Quintilian informs us, in his discourse of the use of obsolete and new words, lib. viii., cap. 3, “Quæ vetera nunc sunt, fuerunt olim nova, et quædam in usu perquam recentia; ut, Messala primus reatum, munerarium Augustus primus, dixerat;” — to which he adds “piratica, musica,” and some others, then newly come into use: but “reatus” at its first invention was of no such signification as it is now applied unto. I mention it only to show that we have no reason to be obliged unto men’s arbitrary use of words. Some lawyers first used it “pro crimine,” — a fault exposing unto punishment; but the original invention of it, confirmed by long use, was to express the outward state and condition of him who was “reus,” after he was first charged in a cause criminal, before he was acquitted or condemned. Those among the Romans who were made “rei” by any public accusation did betake themselves unto a poor squalid habit, a sorrowful countenance, suffering their hair and beards to go undressed. Hereby, on custom and usage, the people who were to judge on their cause were inclined to compassion: and Milo furthered his sentence of banishment because he would not submit to this custom, which had such an appearance of pusillanimity and baseness of spirit. This state of sorrow and trouble, so expressed, they called “reatus,” and nothing else. It came afterwards to denote their state who were committed unto custody in order unto their trial, when the government ceased to be popular; wherein alone the other artifice was of use: and if this word be of any use in our present argument, it is to express the state of men after conviction of sin, before their justification. That is their “reatus,” the condition wherein the proudest of them cannot avoid to express their inward sorrow and anxiety of mind by some outward evidences of them. Beyond this we are not 199obliged by the use of this word, but must consider the thing itself which now we intend to express thereby.
Guilt, in the Scripture, is the respect of sin unto the sanction of the law, whereby the sinner becomes obnoxious unto punishment; and to be guilty is to be ὑπόδικος τῷ Θεῷ· — liable unto punishment for sin from God, as the supreme lawgiver and judge of all. And so guilt, or “reatus,” is well defined to be “obligatio ad pœnam, propter culpam, aut admissam in se, aut imputatum, justè aut injustè;” for so Bathsheba says unto David, that she and her son Solomon should be חַטָּאִים, — sinners; that is, be esteemed guilty, or liable unto punishment for some evil laid unto their charge, 1 Kings i. 21. And the distinction of “dignitas pœnæ,” and “obligatio ad pœnam” is but the same thing in diverse words; for both do but express the relation of sin unto the sanction of the law: or if they may be conceived to differ, yet are they inseparable; for there can be no “obligatio ad pœnam” where there is not “dignitas pœnæ.”
Much less is there any thing of weight in the distinction of “reatus culpæ” and “reatus pœnæ;” for this “reatus culpæ” is nothing but “dignitas pœnæ propter culpam.” Sin has other considerations, — namely, its formal nature, as it is a transgression of the law, and the stain of filth that it brings upon the soul; but the guilt of it is nothing but its respect unto punishment from the sanction of the law. And so, indeed, “reatus culpæ” is “reatus pœnæ,” — the guilt of sin is its desert of punishment. And where there is not this “reatus culpæ” there can be no “pœnæ,” no punishment properly so called; for “pœnæ” is “vindicta noxæ,” — the revenge due to sin. So, therefore, there can be no punishment, nor “reatus pœnæ,” the guilt of it, but where there is “reatus culpæ,” or sin considered with its guilt; and the “reatus pœnæ” that may be supposed without the guilt of sin, is nothing but that obnoxiousness unto afflictive evil on the occasion of sin which the Socinians admit with respect unto the suffering of Christ, and yet execrate his satisfaction.
And if this distinction should be apprehended to be of “reatus,” from its formal respect unto sin and punishment, it must, in both parts of the distinction, be of the same signification, otherwise there is an equivocation in the subject of it. But “reatus pœnæ,” is a liableness, an obnoxiousness unto punishment according to the sentence of the law, that whereby a sinner becomes ὑπόδικος τῷ Θεῷ· and then “reatus culpæ” must be an obnoxiousness unto sin; which is uncouth. There is, therefore, no imputation of sin where there is no imputation of its guilt; for the guilt of punishment, which is not its respect unto the desert of sin, is a plain fiction, — there is no such thing “in rerum nature.” There is no guilt of sin, but in its relation unto punishment.
200That, therefore, which we affirm herein is, that our sins were so transferred on Christ, as that thereby he became אָשֵׁם, ὑπόδικος τῷ Θεῷ, “reus,” — responsible unto God, and obnoxious unto punishment in the justice of God for them. He was “alienæ culpæ reus,” — perfectly innocent in himself; but took our guilt on him, or our obnoxiousness unto punishment for sin. And so he may be, and may be said to be, the greatest debtor in the world, who never borrowed nor owed one farthing on his own account, if he become surety for the greatest debt of others: so Paul became a debtor unto Philemon, upon his undertaking for Onesimus, who before owed him nothing.
And two things concurred unto this imputation of sin unto Christ, — First, The act of God imputing it. Second, The voluntary act of Christ himself in the undertaking of it, or admitting of the charge.
(1.) The act of God, in this imputation of the guilt of our sins unto Christ, is expressed by his “laying all our iniquities upon him,” “making him to be sin for us, who knew no sin,” and the like. For, — [1.] As the supreme governor, lawgiver, and judge of all, unto whom it belonged to take care that his holy law was observed, or the offenders punished, he admitted, upon the transgression of it, the sponsion and suretiship of Christ to answer for the sins of men, Heb. x. 5–7. [2.] In order unto this end, he made him under the law, or gave the law power over him, to demand of him and inflict on him the penalty which was due unto the sins of them for whom he undertook, Gal. iii. 13; iv. 4, 5. [3.] For the declaration of the righteousness of God in this setting forth of Christ to be a propitiation, and to bear our iniquities, the guilt of our sins was transferred unto him in an act of the righteous judgment of God accepting and esteeming of him as the guilty person; as it is with public sureties in every case.
(2.) The Lord Christ’s voluntary susception of the state and condition of a surety, or undertaker for the church, to appear before the throne of God’s justice for them, to answer whatever was laid unto their charge, was required hereunto; and this he did absolutely. There was a concurrence of his own will in and unto all those divine acts whereby he and the church were constituted one mystical person; and of his own love and grace did he as our surety stand in our stead before God, when he made inquisition for sin; — he took it on himself, as unto the punishment which it deserved. Hence it became just and righteous that he should suffer, “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us unto God.”
For if this be not so, I desire to know what is become of the guilt of the sins of believers; if it were not transferred on Christ, it remains still upon themselves, or it is nothing. It will be said that guilt is taken away by the free pardon of sin. But if so, there was 201no need of punishment for it at all, — which is, indeed, what the Socinians plead, but by others is not admitted, — for if punishment be not for guilt, it is not punishment.
But it is fiercely objected against what we have asserted, that if the guilt of our sins was imputed unto Christ, then was he constituted a sinner thereby; for it is the guilt of sin that makes any one to be truly a sinner. This is urged by Bellarmine, lib. ii., De Justificat., not for its own sake, but to disprove the imputation of his righteousness unto us; as it is continued by others with the same design. For says he, “If we be made righteous, and the children of God, through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, then was he made a sinner, ‘et quod horret animus cogitare, filius diaboli;’ by the imputation of the guilt of our sins or our unrighteousness unto him.” And the same objection is pressed by others, with instances of consequences which, for many reasons, I heartily wish had been forborne. But I answer, —
[1.] Nothing is more absolutely true, nothing is more sacredly or assuredly believed by us, than that nothing which Christ did or suffered, nothing that he undertook or underwent, did or could constitute him subjectively, inherently, and thereon personally, a sinner, or guilty of any sin of his own. To bear the guilt or blame of other men’s faults, — to be “alienæ culpæ reus,” — makes no man a sinner, unless he did unwisely or irregularly undertake it. But that Christ should admit of any thing of sin in himself, as it is absolutely inconsistent with the hypostatical union, so it would render him unmet for all other duties of his office, Heb. vii. 25, 26. And I confess it has always seemed scandalous unto me, that Socinus, Crellius, and Grotius, do grant that, in some sense, Christ suffered for his own sins, and would prove it from that very place wherein it is positively denied, chap. vii. 27. This ought to be sacredly fixed and not a word used, nor thought entertained, of any possibility of the contrary, upon any supposition whatever.
[2.] None ever dreamed of a transfusion or propagation of sin from us unto Christ, such as there was from Adam unto us. For Adam was a common person unto us, — we are not so to Christ: yea, he is so to us; and the imputation of our sins unto him is a singular act of divine dispensation, which no evil consequence can ensue upon.
[3.] To imagine such an imputation of our sins unto Christ as that thereon they should cease to be our sins, and become his absolutely, is to overthrow that which is affirmed; for, on that supposition, Christ could not suffer for our sins, for they ceased to be ours antecedently unto his suffering. But the guilt of them was so transferred unto him, that through his suffering for it, it might be pardoned unto us.
202These things being premised, I say, —
First, There is in sin a transgression of the preceptive part of the law; and there is an obnoxiousness unto the punishment from the sanction of it. It is the first that gives sin its formal nature; and where that is not subjectively, no person can be constituted formally a sinner. However any one may be so denominated, as unto some certain end or purpose, yet, without this, formally a sinner none can be, whatever be imputed unto them. And where that is, no non-imputation of sin, as unto punishment, can free the person in whom it is from being formally a sinner. When Bathsheba told David that she and her son Solomon should be חַטָּאִים (sinners), by having crimes laid unto their charge; and when Judah told Jacob that he would be a sinner before him always on the account of any evil that befell Benjamin (it should be imputed unto him); yet neither of them could thereby be constituted a sinner formally. And, on the other hand, when Shimei desired David not to impute sin unto him, whereby he escaped present punishment, yet did not that non-imputation free him formally from being a sinner. Wherefore sin, under this consideration, as a transgression of the preceptive part of the law, cannot be communicated from one unto another, unless it be by the propagation of a vitiated principle or habit. But yet neither so will the personal sin of one, as inherent in him, ever come to be the personal sin of another. Adam has upon his personal sin communicated a vicious, depraved, and corrupted nature unto all his posterity; and, besides, the guilt of his actual sin is imputed unto them, as if it had been committed by every one of them: but yet his particular personal sin neither ever did, nor ever could, become the personal sin of any one of them any otherwise than by the imputation of its guilt unto them. Wherefore our sins neither are, nor can be, so imputed unto Christ, as that they should become subjectively his, as they are a transgression of the preceptive part of the law. A physical translation or transfusion of sin is, in this case, naturally and spiritually impossible; and yet, on a supposition thereof alone do the horrid consequences mentioned depend. But the guilt of sin is an external respect of it, with regard unto the sanction of the law only. This is separable from sin; and if it were not so, no one sinner could either be pardoned or saved. It may, therefore, be made another’s by imputation, and yet that other not rendered formally a sinner thereby. This was that which was imputed unto Christ, whereby he was rendered obnoxious unto the curse of the law; for it was impossible that the law should pronounce any accursed but the guilty, nor would do so, Deut. xxvii. 26.
Secondly, There is a great difference between the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us and the imputation of our sins 203unto Christ; so as that he cannot in the same manner be said to be made a sinner by the one as we are made righteous by the other. For our sin was imputed unto Christ only as he was our surety for a time, — to this end, that he might take it away, destroy it, and abolish it. It was never imputed unto him, so as to make any alteration absolutely in his personal state and condition. But his righteousness is imputed unto us to abide with us, to be ours always, and to make a total change in our state and condition, as unto our relation unto God. Our sin was imputed unto him only for a season, not absolutely, but as he was a surety, and unto the special end of destroying it; and taken on him on this condition, that his righteousness should be made ours for ever. All things are otherwise in the imputation of his righteousness unto us, which respects us absolutely, and not under a temporary capacity, abides with us for ever, changes our state and relation unto God, and is an effect of superabounding grace.
But it will be said that if our sins, as to the guilt of them, were imputed unto Christ, then God must hate Christ; for he hates the guilty. I know not well how I come to mention these things, which indeed I look upon as cavils, such as men may multiply if they please against any part of the mysteries of the gospel. But seeing it is mentioned, it may be spoken unto; and, —
First, It is certain that the Lord Christ’s taking on him the guilt of our sins was a high act of obedience unto God, Heb. x. 5, 6; and for which the “Father loved him,” John x. 17, 18. There was, therefore, no reason why God should hate Christ for his taking on him our debt, and the payment of it, in an act of the highest obedience unto his will. Secondly, God in this matter is considered as a rector, ruler, and judge. Now, it is not required of the severest judge, that, as a judge, he should hate the guilty person, no, although he be guilty originally by inhesion, and not by imputation. As such, he has no more to do but consider the guilt, and pronounce the sentence of punishment. But, Thirdly, Suppose a person, out of an heroic generosity of mind, should become an Ἀντίψυχος for another, for his friend, for a good man, so as to answer for him with his life, as Judah undertook to be for Benjamin as to his liberty, — which, when a man has lost, he is civilly dead, and “capite diminutus,” — would the most cruel tyrant under heaven, that should take away his life, in that case hate him? would he not rather admire his worth and virtue? As such a one it was that Christ suffered, and no otherwise. Fourthly, All the force of this exception depends on the ambiguity of the word hate; for it may signify either an aversation or detestation of mind, or only a will of punishing, as in God mostly it does. In the first sense, there was no ground why God should hate Christ on this imputation of guilt unto him, whereby he became “non propriæ sed 204alienæ culpæ reus.” Sin inherent renders the soul polluted, abominable, and the only object of divine aversation; but for him who was perfectly innocent, holy, harmless, undefiled in himself, who did no sin, neither was there guile found in his mouth, to take upon him the guilt of other sins, thereby to comply with and accomplish the design of God for the manifestation of his glory and infinite wisdom, grace, goodness, mercy, and righteousness, unto the certain expiation and destruction of sin, — nothing could render him more glorious and lovely in the sight of God or man. But for a will of punishing in God, where sin is imputed, none can deny it, but they must therewithal openly disavow the satisfaction of Christ.
The heads of some few of those arguments wherewith the truth we have asserted is confirmed shall close this discourse:—
1. Unless the guilt of sin was imputed unto Christ, sin was not imputed unto him in any sense, for the punishment of sin is not sin; nor can those who are otherwise minded declare what it is of sin that is imputed. But the Scripture is plain, that “God laid on him the iniquity of us all,” and “made him to be sin for us;” which could not otherwise be but by imputation.
2. There can be no punishment but with respect unto the guilt of sin personally contracted or imputed. It is guilt alone that gives what is materially evil and afflictive the formal nature of punishment, and nothing else. And therefore those who understand full well the harmony of things and opinions, and are free to express their minds, do constantly declare that if one of these be denied, the other must be so also; and if one be admitted, they must both be so. If guilt was not imputed unto Christ, he could not, as they plead well enough, undergo the punishment of sin; much he might do and suffer on the occasion of sin, but undergo the punishment due unto sin he could not. And if it should be granted that the guilt of sin was imputed unto him, they will not deny but that he underwent the punishment of it; and if he underwent the punishment of it, they will not deny but that the guilt of it was imputed unto him; for these things are inseparably related.
3. Christ was made a curse for us, the curse of the law, as is expressly declared, Gal. iii. 13, 14. But the curse of the law respects the guilt of sin only; so as that where that is not, it cannot take place in any sense, and where that is, it does inseparably attend it, Deut. xxvii. 26.
4. The express testimonies of the Scripture unto this purpose cannot be evaded, without an open wresting of their words and sense. So God is said to “make all our iniquities to meet upon him,” and he bare them on him as his burden; for so the word signifies, Isa. liii. 6, “God has laid on him” אֵת עֲוֹן כֻּלָּנוּ, “the iniquity,” (that is, the guilt) 205“of us all;” verse 11, וַעֲוֹנֹתָם הוּא יִסְבֹּל, “and their sin or guilt shall he bear.” For that is the intendment of עָוֹן, where joined with any other word that denotes sin: as it is in those places, Ps. xxxii. 5, “Thou forgavest” עֲוֹן חַטָּאתִי, “the iniquity of my sin,” — that is, the guilt of it, which is that alone that is taken away by pardon; that “his soul was made an offering for the guilt of sin;” that “he was made sin,” that “sin was condemned in his flesh,” etc.
5. This was represented in all the sacrifices of old, especially the great anniversary [one], on the day of expiation, with the ordinance of the scape-goat; as has been before declared.
6. Without a supposition hereof it cannot be understood how the Lord Christ should be our Ἀντίψυχος, or suffer ἀντὶ ἡμῶν, in our stead, unless we will admit the exposition of Mr Ho, a late writer, who, reckoning up how many things the Lord Christ did in our stead, adds, as the sense thereof, that it is to bestead us; than which, if he can invent any thing more fond and senseless, he has a singular faculty in such an employment.
|« Prev||Chapter VIII. Imputation of the sins of the…||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version