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Of the death of Christ, the causes, ends, and fruits thereof, with an entrance into the doctrine of his satisfaction thereby.
Mr Biddle’s twelfth chapter is concerning the death of Christ, the causes, and fruits, and ends thereof; the error and mistake whereabout is the second great head of the Socinian religion. Next to his person, there is not any thing they set themselves so industriously to oppose as his death, in the sense wherein it hath constantly hitherto been embraced by all Christians, — as the great foundation of their faith and confidence.
That the Lord Jesus, our mediator, did not, by his death and sufferings, undergo the penalty of the law as the punishment due to our sins; that he did not make satisfaction to God, or make reconciliation for transgressors; that he did not thereby properly redeem us by the payment of a ransom, nor so suffer for us as that our sins should, in the justice of God, be a meritorious cause of his suffering, — is the 412second great article of the creed which they labour to assert and maintain.458458 Vid. Faust. Socin. de Jes. Christ. Servator.; Prælect. Theol. Lect. Sac.; Paræn. adv. Volan.; Epistola ad Niemojev.; Thes. de Justif.; Smalc. Ref. Thes. Fran. adv. Smigl. Nov. Monst.; Cat. Rac., etc.; Crell. de Caus. Mor. Christ.; Vindic. ad Grot.; Volkel. Ver. Relig. Christ.; Ostorod. Instit. cap. xi.; Schlichting. Ep. ad Hebræ., etc.
There is not any thing about which they have laid out so much of their strength as about this, namely, that Jesus Christ is called our Saviour in respect of the way of salvation which he hath revealed to us, and the power committed to him to deliver us and save us, in and by obedience required at our hands, not on the account of any satisfaction he hath made for us, or atonement by the sacrifice of himself.
How Faustus Socinus first broached this opinion, with what difficulty he got it to be entertained with the men of his own profession as to the doctrine of the Trinity, has been before declared. What weight he laid upon this opinion about the death of Christ, and the opposition he had engaged in against his satisfaction, with the diligence he used and the pains he took about the one and the other, is evident from his writings to this purpose which are yet extant. His book, “De Jesu Christo Servatore,” is wholly taken up with this argument; so is the greatest part of his “Prelections;” his “Lectiones Sacræ” are some of them on the same subject; and his “Parænesis” against Volanus, many of his epistles, especially those to Smalcius, and Volkelius, and Niemojevius, as also his treatises about justification, have the same design. Smalcius is no less industrious in the same cause, both in his Racovian Catechism and in his answers and replies with Franzius and Smiglecius. It is the main design of Schlichtingius’ comment on the Hebrews, Crellius, “De Causis Mortis Christi,” and in his defence of Socinus against Grotius, dwells on this doctrine. Volkelius hath his share in the same work, etc.
What those at large contend for, Mr B. endeavours slily to insinuate into his catechumens in this chapter. Having, therefore, briefly spoken of salvation by Christ, and of his mediation in general, in consideration of his sixth and seventh chapters, I shall now, God assisting, take up the whole matter, and, after a brief discovery of his intendment in his queries concerning the death of Christ, give an account of our whole doctrine of his satisfaction, confirming it from the Scriptures, and vindicating it from the exceptions of his masters.
For the order of procedure, I shall first consider Mr B.’s questions; then state the point in difference by expressing what is the judgment of our adversaries concerning the death of Christ, and what we ascribe thereto; and then demonstrate from the Scripture the truth contended for.
Mr B.’s first question is, —
413Q. Was it the will and purpose of God that Christ should suffer the death of the cross? What saith the apostle Peter to the Jews concerning this?
A. Acts ii. 22, 23.
To which he subjoins, —
Q. What say the disciples in general concerning the same?
A. Acts iv. 24–28.
It is not unknown what difference we have both with the Socinians and Arminians about the purposes and efficacious decrees, and the infallibility of the prescience of God. Something already hath been spoken to this purpose, in our discourse concerning the prescience of God, as formerly in that of perseverance. How unable Mr B.’s companions are to disentangle themselves from the evidence of that testimony which is given to the truth we contend for by these texts which here he with so much confidence recites, hath been abundantly by others demonstrated. I shall not here enter into the merits of that cause, nor shall I impose on Mr B. the opinion of any other man which he doth not expressly own; only I shall desire him to reconcile what he here speaks in his query with what he before delivered concerning “God’s not foreseeing our free actions that are for to come.” What God purposes shall be and come to pass, he certainly foresees that that will come to pass. That Christ should die the death of the cross was to be brought about by the free actions of men, if any thing in the world was ever so, and accomplished in the same manner; yet that this should be done, yea, so done, God purposed: and therefore, without doubt, he foresaw that it should be accomplished, and so foresaw all the free actions whereby it was accomplished. And if he foresaw any one free action, why not all, there being the same reason of one and all? But at the present let this pass. His second question is, —
Q. Did Christ die to reconcile and bring God to us, or, on the contrary, to bring us to God?
That I may by the way speak a little to this question, reserving the full discussion of the matter intended to the ensuing discourse, the terms of it are first to be explained:—
1. By “reconciling God,” we intend the making of such an atonement as whereby his wrath or anger, in all the effects of it, is turned away. Though we use not the expression of “reconciling God to us,” but of “reconciling us to God,” by the taking away or removal of his wrath and anger, or the making reconciliation with God for sin, yet, as to reconcile God intends the appeasing of the justice and anger of God, so that whereas before we were obnoxious to his displeasure, enmity, hatred, and wrath, thereby and on that account, we come to be accepted with him, we say Christ died to reconcile God to us; 414which in the progress of this discourse, with plentiful demonstrations from the Scripture, shall be evinced.
2. Of “bringing God to us” we speak not; unless by “bringing God to us” he intends the procurement of the grace and favour of God toward us, and his loving presence to be with us, and then we say in that sense Christ by his death brought God to us.
3. “Our reconciliation to God,” or the reconciliation as it stands on our part, is our conversion unto God, our deliverance from all that enmity and opposition unto God which are in us by nature; and this also we say is the effect and fruit of the death of Christ.
4. “Our bringing unto God,” mentioned 1 Pet. iii. 18, is of a larger and more comprehensive signification than that of our reconciliation, containing the whole effect of the death of Christ, in the removal of every hinderance and the collation of every thing necessarily required to the perfect and complete accomplishment of the work of our salvation; and so contains no less the reconciliation of God to us than ours to him, and is not proper to make up one member of the division there instituted, being a general expression of them both.
Now, concerning these things Mr B. inquires whether Christ by his death reconciled God to us, or, on the contrary, us to God; so insinuating that one of these effects of the death of Christ is inconsistent with the other. This seems to be the man’s aim:—
1. To intimate that this is the state of the difference between him and us, that we say Christ died “to reconcile God to us;” and he, that he died “to reconcile us to God.”
2. That these things are contrary, so that they who say the one must deny the other; — that we, who say that Christ died to reconcile God to us, must of necessity deny that he died to reconcile us to God; and that he also, who saith he died to reconcile us to God, may and must deny, on that account, the other effect by us ascribed to his death. But this sophistry is so gross that it is not worth the while to insist upon its discovery. We say that Christ died to reconcile God to us, in the sense before explained, and us unto God; and these things are so far from being of any repugnancy one to another, as to the making up of one entire end and effect of the death of Christ, that without them both the work of reconciliation is by no means complete.
Not to prevent the full proof and evidence hereof, which is intended, it may at present suffice that we evince it by the light of this one consideration: If in the Scripture it is expressly and frequently affirmed, that, antecedently to the consideration of the death of Christ and the effects thereof, there is not only a real enmity on our part against God, but also a law enmity on the part of God against us, and that both of these are removed by virtue of the death of 415Christ, then the reconciliation of God to us and our reconciliation to God are both of them one entire effect of the death of Christ. That there is in us by nature a real enmity against God, before it be taken away by virtue of the death of Christ, and so we reconciled to him, is not denied; and if it were, it might be easily evinced from Rom. viii. 7, 8, Tit. iii. 3, Eph. ii. 12, and innumerable other places. And certainly the evidence on the other side, that there was a law-enmity on the part of God against us, antecedent to the consideration of the death of Christ, is no less clear. The great sanction of the law, Gen. iii., Deut. xxvii. 26, considered in conjunction with the justice of God, Rom. i. 32, Hab. i. 13, Ps. v. 4–6, 2 Thess. i. 5, 6, and the testimonies given concerning the state and condition of man in reference to the law and justice of God, John iii. 36, Rom. v. 18, Eph. ii. 3, 12, etc., with the express assignation of the reconciliation pleaded for to be made by the death of Christ, Dan. ix. 24, Heb. ii. 14, do abundantly evince it. There being, then, a mutual enmity between God and us, though not of the same kind (it being physical on our part, and legal or moral on the part of God), Christ, our mediator, making up peace and friendship between us doth not only reconcile us to God by his Spirit, but God also to us by his blood. But of this more afterward, under the consideration of the death of Christ as it was a sacrifice.
For the texts cited by Mr B. as making to his purpose, the most, if not all of them, look another way than he intends to use them; they will in the following chapter come under full consideration. Rom. v. 10, “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son,” is the first mentioned. That our being reconciled to God in this place doth not intend our conversion to him, and our deposition of the real enmity that is in us against him, but our acceptance with him upon the account of the atonement made in the blood of Christ, whereby he is reconciled to us, is evident from sundry circumstances of the place; for, —
1. That which is called being “reconciled by his death,” in verse 10, is being “justified by his blood,” verse 9. The observation of the same antithesis in beth verses makes this evident. Now, to be justified by the blood of Christ is not to have our enmity with God slain and destroyed (which is our sanctification), but our acceptation with God upon the account of the shedding of the blood of Christ for us; which is his reconciliation to us.
2. We are thus reconciled when we are enemies, as in the verse insisted on, “When we were enemies, we were reconciled.” Now, we are not reconciled in the sense of deposing our enmity to God (that deposition being our sanctification) whilst we are enemies; and therefore it is the reconciliation of God to us that is intended.
3. Verse 11, we are said to “receive” this “reconciliation,” or, as 416the word is rendered, the “atonement,” καταλλαγήν. The word is the same with that used verse 10. Now, we cannot be said to receive our own conversion; but the reconciliation of God by the blood of Christ, his favour upon the atonement made, that by faith we do receive.
Thus Mr B.’s first witness speaks expressly against him and the design for the carrying on whereof he was called forth, as afterward will more fully appear.
His second also, of Eph. ii. 14, 16, speaks the same language, “He is our peace, who hath made both one, that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” Setting aside the joint design of the apostle, to manifest the reconciliation made of Jews and Gentiles by the cross of Christ, it is evident the reconciliation here meant consists in slaying the enmity mentioned, so making peace. Now, what is the enmity intended? Not the enmity that is in our hearts to God, but the legal enmity that lay against us on the part of God, as is evident from verse 15 and the whole design of the place, as afterward will appear more fully.
There is, indeed, 2 Cor. v. 18–20, mention made of reconciliation in both the senses insisted on; — of us to God, verse 20, where the apostle saith the end of the ministry is to reconcile us to God, to prevail with us to lay down our emnity against him and opposition to him; of God to us, verse 19, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself:” which to be the import of the words is evinced from the exegetical expression immediately following, “Not imputing their trespasses unto them.” God was so reconciling the world unto himself in Christ as that, upon the account of what was done in Christ, he will not impute their sins; the legal enmity he had against them, on the account whereof alone men’s sins are imputed to them, being taken away. And this is farther cleared by the sum of his former discourse, which the apostle gives us, verse 21, declaring how God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself: “For,” saith he, “he hath made him sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Thus he was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, in that he made him to be sin, or a sacrifice for sin, so to make an atonement for us, that we might be accepted before God as righteous on the account of Christ.
Much less doth that of 1 Pet. iii. 18, in the last place mentioned, speak at all to Mr B.’s purpose: “Christ hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” “Bringing to God” is a general expression of the accomplishment of the whole work of our salvation, both in the removal of all hinderances and the collation of all things necessary to the fulfilling of the work. Of this the apostle mentions the great fundamental and procuring cause, which is the suffering of Christ in our stead, the just for the 417unjust. Christ in our stead suffered for our sins, that he might bring us to God. Now, this suffering of Christ in our stead, for our sins, is most eminently the cause of the reconciliation of God to us; and, by the intimation thereof, of our reconciliation to God, and so of our manuduction to him.
Thus, though it be most true that Christ died to reconcile us to God by our conversion to him, yet all the places cited by Mr B. to prove it (so unhappy is he in his quotations) speak to the defence of that truth which he doth oppose, and not of that which he would assert; and which by asserting in opposition to the truth, with which it hath an eminent consistency, he doth corrupt.
The next question I shall not insist upon; it is concerning the object of the death of Christ and the universality thereof. The words of it are, “For whom did Christ die?” The answer is from 2 Cor. v. 14, 15; 1 Tim. ii. 6; Heb. ii. 9; John iii. 16; where mention is made of “all” and “the world,” in reference to the death of Christ. The question concerning the object of the death of Christ, or for whom he died, hath of late by very many been fully discussed, and I have myself spoken elsewhere somewhat to that purpose.459459 Salus Electorum Sanguis Jesu., vol. x. It shall not, then, here be insisted on. In a word, we confess that Christ died for “all” and for “the world;” but whereas it is very seldom that these words are comprehensive of all and every man in the world, but most frequently are used for some of all sorts, — they for whom Christ died being in some places expounded to be “the church, believers, the children, those given unto him out of the world,” and nowhere described by any term expressive constantly of an absolute universality, — we say the words insisted on are to be taken in the latter sense, and not the former; being ready, God assisting, to put it to the issue and trial with our adversaries when we are called thereunto.
Q. What was the procuring cause of Christ’s death?
The expressions are, that Christ was “delivered for our offences,” that Christ was “bruised for our iniquities,” and “died for our sins.”
That in these and the like places, that clause, “For our offences, iniquities, and sins,” is expressive of the procuring cause of the death of Christ, Mr B. grants. Sin can be no otherwise the procuring cause of the death of Christ but as it is morally meritorious thereof. To say, “Our sins were the procuring cause of the death of Christ,” is to say that our sins merited the death of Christ; and whereas this can no otherwise be but as our sins were imputed to him, and he was 418put to death for them, Mr B. hath in this one question granted the whole of what in this subject he contends against! If our sins were the procuring cause of the death of Christ, then the death of Christ was that punishment which was due to them, or in the justice, or according to the tenor, of the law of God, was procured by them; and so, consequently, he in his death underwent the penalty of our sins, suffering in our stead, and making thereby satisfaction for what we had done amiss. Mr B.’s masters say generally that the expression of “dying for our sins” denotes the final cause of the death of Christ; that is, Christ intended by his death to confirm the truth, in obedience whereunto we shall receive forgiveness of sin. This grant of Mr B.’s, that the procuring cause of the death of Christ is hereby expressed, will perhaps appear more prejudicial to his whole cause than he is yet aware of, especially being proposed in distinction from the final cause or end of the death of Christ, which in the next place he mentions, as afterward will more fully appear; although, I confess, he is not alone, Crellius making the same concession.460460 Crell. de Causis Mortis Christi, p. 13.
The last question of this chapter is, “What are the ends of Christ’s suffering and death intimated by the Scripture?” whereunto, by way of answer, sundry texts of Scripture are subjoined, every one of them expressing some one end or other, some effect or fruit, something of the aim and intendment of Christ in his suffering and death; whereunto exceeding many others might be annexed. But this business of the death of Christ, its causes, ends, and influence into the work of our salvation, — the manifestation that therein he underwent the punishment due to our sins, making atonement and giving satisfaction for them, redeeming us properly by the price of his blood, etc., — being of so great weight and importance as it is, lying at the very bottom and foundation of all our hope and confidence, I shall, leaving Mr B., handle the whole matter at large in the ensuing chapters.
For our more clear and distinct procedure in this important head of the religion of Jesus Christ, I shall first lay down the most eminent considerations of the death of Christ as proposed in the Scripture, and then give an account of the most special effects of it in particular, answering to those considerations of it; in all manifesting wherein the expiation of our sins by his blood doth consist.
The principal considerations of the death of Christ are of it, — I. As a price; II. As a sacrifice; III. As a penalty: of which in the order wherein they are mentioned.
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