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PREACHED ON GOOD FRIDAY,
BEFORE THE UNIVERSITY,
MARCH 20, 1668.
—For the transgression of my people was he stricken.
THIS great and eloquent prophet, the evangelist of the Jewish church, (as without any impropriety he may be called,) from ver. 13 of the foregoing chapter to the end of this, seems rapt up with the contemplation of a great person under strange and unusual afflictions, whose character, with all the heights of rhetoric which the genius of grief and prophecy together could raise him to, he here sets himself with full purpose to describe. In all which description there is no one passage which does not speak something extraordinary and supernatural of the person described, and withal represent the describer of it in the highest degree of ecstasy and rapture; so that nothing could transcend the height of the expression but the sublimity of its subject. For still it fastens upon him the marks and tokens of something 469more than a man, indeed more than a creature; ascribing actions to him which surmount any created power, and so visibly, upon all principles of reason, above the strength and reach of the strongest arm of flesh, that if the person here spoken of be but a man, I am sure it requires the wit of more than a man to make sense of the prophecy. Who that great person therefore was, here so magnificently set forth by the prophet, is the thing now to be inquired into. In which inquiry we shall find several opinions, and every one of them pretending to give the right interpretation of the place. I shall reduce them all to these two.
First, The opinion of the ancient.
Secondly, The opinion of some later interpreters.
First, as for the ancient interpreters, I may boldly and truly say, that it was the general sense of all the old Jewish rabbies, that the person intended in this prophecy was the Messias. Take the affirmation of Rabbi Alschech, in his comment upon this prophecy, Rabbini nostri beatae memoriae uno ore statuunt juxta receptam traditionem hic de rege Messia sermonem esse. And though their opinion of the temporal greatness of their Messias might (if any thing) tempt them to draw this prophecy another way, (since it declares the low, abject, and oppressed condition of the person here treated of,) yet, to shew that a suffering Messias was no such paradox in the divinity of the ancient Jewish rabbies, it was a constant received speech among them, that, dividing all the afflictions of the people of God into three parts, one third was to fall upon the Messias.
And as for the doctors and fathers of the Christian church, they do all, with one unanimous breath, declare 470this to be a prophecy of the Messias, and this Messias to be Jesus Christ. And so full are they to this purpose, that Esaias, upon the account of this prophecy, is styled by some of them evangelista, and Paulus propheticus. Nor was ever the least intimation given of any other sense of it, till, a little before this last century, a new Christianity has endeavoured to get footing in the Christian world.
Second. The other opinion is of the later interpreters, amongst which I account the Jewish, that is, such as have wrote after a thousand years since Christ’s time; whose opinion in this matter will be found to have this eminent property of falsity, that it is very various. For having departed from the old received interpretation, they are no ways agreed what they shall substitute in the room of it. Some will have the subject of this prophecy to have been the people of Israel. Some indefinitely any just or righteous person. Some affirm it to have been Josiah; and one among the rest will needs have the person here spoken of to have been the prophet Jeremy. The authors of each of which opinions give us such insipid stories upon this chapter, as are fitter to be ushered in with the grave and solemn preface of once upon a time, than to be accounted interpretations of the word of God.
He who contends for the prophet Jeremy is one Rabbi Saadias Haggaon, and he stands alone, not being countenanced by any of his Jewish brethren, till one in the Christian church thought fit to be his second, and out of his zeal, forsooth, to the Christian faith, to wrest one of the strongest arguments out of the hands of the Christian church, which it has fought with against Judaism ever since 471it was a church. And thus much I shall with confidence (because with evidence) affirm, that if such prophecies may be proved to have had their first and literal completion in the person of any besides Jesus of Nazareth, all arguments proving them to belong to him at a second hand, and by accommodation, as the word is, are but vain and precarious to the Jews, who will, and indeed upon his hypothesis may reject them, as easily as we can allege them, and then convince him who can.
But how can this prophecy be made to agree to Jeremy? With what truth or propriety could he be said to have been exalted and extolled., and to have been very high; to have been stricken for our transgressions; and to have had the iniquity of us all laid upon him? How could it be said of him, Who shall declare his generation? and that he should see his seed, and prolong his days? and also that he should divide the spoil with the mighty? with the like expressions.
Why yes, says our expositor, he was exalted, and very high, because the Chaldeans had him in admiration, which is yet more than we read of, and thanks to a good invention for it: though it must be confessed, that upon his being drawn out of the dungeon he was something higher and more exalted than he was before. In the next place he was stricken for transgression, and had our iniquities laid upon him, because by the sin and injurious dealing of the Jews he was cruelly and unworthily used, as indeed all or most of the prophets were, both before and after him. And then for that saying, Who shall declare his generation? The meaning of that, we are told, is, who shall reckon his years; for 472he shall live to be very aged: though yet we know no more of his age, but that he prophesied about forty years; whereas some others have prophesied much longer, and particularly Hosea, who prophesied about fourscore. As for the other expression of his seeing his seed, and prolonging his days, that we are taught must signify, that he should see many of his converts in Egypt, where he should live for a long time. Though yet we read not of any one of those converts, nor of any such prolonging his days there, but that it is a constant tradition of antiquity that he died an untimely disastrous death, being knocked on the head in Egypt by his wicked countrymen with a fuller’s club. And in the last place, for his dividing the spoil with the mighty; that, we are in formed, was fulfilled in this, that Nebuzaradan, captain of the Chaldean host, as we find it in Jeremy xl. 5, gave him a reward and some victuals, (that is to say, a small supply or modicum of meat and money for his present support,) and so sent him away. A worthy glorious dividing of the spoil indeed, and much after the same rate that the poor may be said to divide the spoil, when they take their shares of what is given them at rich men’s doors.
So then we have here an interpretation, but as for the sense of it, that, for ought I see, must shift for itself. But whether thus to drag and hale words both from sense and context, and then to squeeze whatsoever meaning we please out of them, be not (as I may speak with some change of the prophet’s phrase) to draw lies with cords of blasphemy, and nonsense as it were with a cart rope, let any sober and impartial hearer or reader be judge. For whatsoever titles the itch of novelty and Socinianism has 473thought fit to dignify such immortal, incomparable, incomprehensible interpreters with, yet if these interpretations ought to take place, the said prophecies (which all before1414 Having had the opportunity and happiness of a frequent converse with Dr. Pocock, (the late Hebrew and Arabick professor to the University of Oxon, and the greatest master certainly of the eastern languages, and learning, which this or any other age or nation has bred,) I asked him (more than once, as I had occasion) what he thought of Grotius’s exposition of Isaiah liii. and his application of that prophecy, in the first sense and design of it to the person of the prophet Jeremy? To which, smiling and shaking his head, he answered, Why, what else can be thought or said of it, but .that in this the opiniator overruled the annotator, and the man had a mind to indulge his fancy? This account gave that great man of it, though he was as great in modesty as he was in learning, (greater than which none could be,) and withal had a particular respect for Grotius, as having been personally acquainted with him. But the truth is, the matter lay deeper than so; for there was a certain party of men whom Grotius had unhappily engaged himself with, who were extremely disgusted at the book de Satisfactione Christi, written by him against Socinus, and therefore he was to pacify (or rather satisfy) these men, by turning his pen another way in his Annotations, which also was the true reason that he never answered Crellius; a shrewd argument, no doubt, to such as shall well consider these matters, that those in the Low Countries, who at that time went by the name of Remonstrants and Arminians, were indeed a great deal more. Grotius and the aforesaid rabbi Saadias unanimously fixed, in the first sense of them, upon the sole person of the Messiah) might have been actually fulfilled, and consequently the veracity of God in the said prophecies strictly accounted for, though Jesus of Nazareth had never been born. Which being so, would any one have thought, that the author of the book de Veritate Religlonis Christiana, et de Satisfactione Christi, could be also the author of such interpretations as these? No age certainly ever produced a mightier man in all sorts of learning than Grotius, nor more 474happily furnished with all sorts of arms, both offensive and defensive, for the vindication of the Christian faith, had he not in his annotations too frequently turned the edge of them the wrong way.
Well therefore, taking it for manifest, and that upon all the grounds of rational and unforced interpretation, that the person here spoken of was the Messias, and that this Messias could be no other than Jesus of Nazareth, the great mediator of the second covenant, very God, and very man, in whom every tittle of this prophecy is most exactly verified, and to whom it does most peculiarly and incommunicably agree; we shall proceed now to take an account of the several parts of the text, in which we have these three things considerable.
First, The suffering itself; he was stricken.
Secondly, The nature of the suffering, which was penal, and expiatory; he was stricken for transgression: and,
Thirdly, The ground and cause of this suffering, which was God’s propriety in, and relation to, the persons for whom Christ was stricken, implied in this word, my people: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
Of each of which in their order: and,
First, For the suffering itself: he was stricken. The very word imports violence and invasion from without. It was not a suffering upon the stock of the mere internal weaknesses of nature, which carries the seeds and causes of its dissolution in its own bowels, and so by degrees withers and decays, and at length dies, like a lamp that for want of oil can burn no longer; but like a torch in its full flame beat and ruffled, and at length blown out by the breath 475of a north wind: so was Christ dealt with in the very prime and vigour of his years, being by main force torn and stricken out of the world. Blows did the work of time, and stripes and spears were in stead of age to put a period to his afflicted life. Now the greatness of this suffering will be made out to us upon these three accounts.
First, Upon the account of the latitude and extent of it.
Secondly, Of the intenseness and sharpness of it: and,
Thirdly, Of the person inflicting it.
First, As for the latitude or extent of it. The blow reached every part of his humanity, carrying the grief all over, till, by an universal diffusion of itself, it entered, according to the Psalmist’s expression, like water into his bowels, or like oil into his bones. It spread itself into every part of his body, as if it had been another soul. Nothing was free from suffering that could suffer. Suffering seemed to be his portion, his inheritance, nay, his very property. Even the religion that he came to propagate and establish was a suffering religion, and by the severest method of establishment, he gave the first and the greatest instance of it in himself. He who would recount every part of Christ that suffered, must read a lecture of anatomy. From the crown of the head to the sole of the foot, there was nothing but the traces of pain and suffering: they made long furrows upon his back, says the Psalmist; they did, as it were, tear and plough up his innocent body. In his person we might have seen grief in its height and supremacy; grief triumphant, crowned, and arrayed in purple; grief reigning, and doing the utmost 476that it was able. It is a subject too well known, and too frequently discoursed of, to make descriptions of the thorns, the spears, and the nails, that acted their several parts in this tragedy, and that so, that the very narrative of our Saviour’s passion cannot but beget another in every pious hearer of it. But when we have said the utmost of his bodily sufferings, we still know that nature has provided a support able to make and stand up against all these: for the strength and firmness of a resolved mind will bear a man above his infirmity, as the breath bears up the body from sinking: but when the supporter itself fails, when the primum vivens and the ultimum moriens has had a mortal blow, and the iron enters into the very soul, then baffled nature must surrender, and quit the combat, unless seconded and held up by something greater and mightier than itself. And this was our Saviour’s condition. There was a sword which reached his very spirit, and pierced his soul, till it bled through his body; for they were the struggles and agonies of the inward man, the labours and strivings of his restless thoughts, which cast his body into that prodigious sweat. For though it was the flesh that sweated, it was the spirit that took the pains. It was that which was then treading the winepress of God’s wrath alone, till it made him red in his apparel, and dyed all his garments with blood. What thought can reach, or tongue express, what our Saviour then felt within his own breast! The image of all the sins of the world, for which he was to suffer, then appeared clear and lively, and express to his mind. All the vile and horrid circumstances of them stood, as it were, particularly ranged before 477his eyes in all their dismal colours. He saw how much the honour of the great God was abused by them, and how many millions of poor souls they must inevitably have cast under the pressures of a wrath infinite and intolerable, should he not have turned the blow upon himself. The horror of which then filled and amazed his vast apprehensive soul, and those apprehensions could not but affect his tender heart, then brimful of the highest zeal for God’s glory, and the most relenting compassion for the souls of men, till it fermented and boiled over with transport and agony, and even forced its way through all his body in those strange ebullitions of blood, not to be paralleled by the sufferings of any person recorded in any history whatsoever. It was this which drew those doleful words from him, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, &c. Περίλυπός ἐστιν ἡ ψυχή μου. It was surrounded, and, as it were, besieged with an army of sorrows. And believe it, his soul was too big and of too strong a make to bend under an ordinary sorrow. It was not any of those little things which make us put the finger in the eye, as loss of estate, friends, preferment, interest, and the like, things too mean to raise a tumult in the breast of a resolved stoick, and much less in his, who both placed and preached happiness, not only in the want, but in the very defiance of them.
And now after this his agony in the garden, I need not much insist upon the wounds given his reputation by the sword of a blaspheming tongue, the sharpest of all others, and which, like a poisoned dagger, hurting both with edge and venom too, at the same time both makes a wound and prevents its cure. Even a guilty person feels the sting of a malicious 478report; and if so, much more must one who is innocent, and yet infinitely more must he, who was not only innocent, but innocence itself. Reputation is tender, and for it to be blown upon is to be tainted; like a glass, the clearer and finer it is, the more it suffers by the least breath. And therefore for him, who came to destroy the kingdom of Satan, to be traduced as a partner with, and an agent for Beelzebub; for him, whose greatest repasts were prayer and abstinence, and the most rigid severities upon himself, to be taxed as a wine-bibber, and a good fellow; for him, who came into the world both in life and death to bear witness to the truth, to suffer as an impostor and a deceiver; what could be more grievous and afflicting to a great innocence, joined with as great an apprehension!
However, his church gains this great advantage of comfort by it, that the worst of sufferings comes sanctified to our hands by the person of our grand example, who was reviled and slandered, and tossed upon the tongues of men before us. A greater martyrdom questionless than to be cast, as the primitive Christians were, to the mouths of lions, which are tender and merciful compared to the mouths of men; whether we look upon that bitter spirit which acted in those Jews, or in some Christians nowadays worse than Jews; men, who seem to have out done all before them in the arts of a more refined malice and improved calumny. Qualities lately sprung up out of the stock of a spreading atheism, and a domineering, reigning sensuality; sins now made national and authentic, and so much both judgment and mercy-proof, that it is well if we can be cured without being cut off. But to return to 479the business before us. We have now seen the first thing setting forth the greatness of this suffering; to wit, the latitude and extent of it; as that it seized both body and soul, and every part and faculty of both.
Secondly. The next thing declaring its greatness was the intenseness and sharpness of it. We have seen already how far it went; we are now to consider how deep. It fell not on him like a dew or mist, which only wets the surface of the ground, but like a pouring soaking rain, which descends into the very bowels of it. There was pain enough in every single part to have been spread in lesser proportions over the whole man. Christ suffered only the exquisiteness and heights of pain, without any of those mitigations which God is pleased to temper and al lay it with as it befalls other men; like a man who drinks only the spirits of a liquor separated and extracted from the dull, unactive body of the liquor itself. All the force and activity, the stings and fierceness of that troublesome thing were, as it were, drained and distilled, and abridged into that cup which Christ drank of. There was something sharper than vinegar, and bitterer than gall, which that draught was prepared and made up with. We cannot indeed say, that the sufferings of Christ were long in duration; for to be violent and lasting too is above the methods or measures of nature. But he who lived at that rate, that he might be said to live an age every hour, was able to suffer so too; and to comprise the greatest torments in the shortest space; which yet by their shortness lost nothing of their force and keenness; as a penknife is as sharp as a spear, though not so long. That which promotes 480and adds to the impressions of pain, is the delicate and exact crasis and constitution of the part or faculty aggrieved. And there is no doubt but the very fabric and complexion of our Saviour’s body was a masterpiece of nature, a thing absolutely and exactly framed, and of that fineness as to have the quickest and most sensible touches of every object; and withal to have these advanced by the communion of his admirably made body, with his high and vigorous intellectuals. All which made him drink in pain more deeply, feel every lash, every wound with so much a closer and a more affecting sense. For it is not to be doubted but a dull fellow can endure the paroxysms of a fever, or the torments of the gout or stone, much better than a man of a quick mind and an exalted fancy; because in one pain beats upon a rock or an anvil, in the other it prints itself upon wax. One is even born with a kind of lethargy and stupefaction into the world, armed with an iron body and a leaden soul against all the apprehensions of ordinary sorrow; so that there is need of some pain to awaken such an one, and to convince him that he is alive: but our Saviour, who had an understanding too quick to let any thing that was intelligible escape it, took in the dolorous afflicting object in its full dimensions. He saw the utmost evil of every one of those strokes, which the guilt of our sins inflicted on him; and what his eye saw, his heart proportion ably felt: for surely they must needs have been inconceivably afflicting, in the actual endurance, which were so dreadful in their very approach, that the horror of them put the man of God’s right hand, the man made strong for that very purpose, to start back, 481and decline the blow, could the avoidance of it have stood with the decrees of Heaven. Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: which yet was not the voice of cowardice, but of human nature; nature, which by its first and most essential principle would have saved itself, might it have consisted with the saving of the world.
Thirdly. The third thing setting forth the greatness of this suffering, is the cause and author of it, which was God himself. The measure of every passion is the operation of the agent. And then we know what omnipotence can do; omnipotence employed, or rather inflamed by justice, in whose quarrel it was then engaged. We must not measure the divine strokes by the proportion of those blows which are inflicted by the greatest and most exasperated mortal; the condition of whose nature sets bounds to his power, when it cannot to his rage: so that, in the utmost executions of it, he acts but like a wasp; very angrily indeed, but very weakly. Every blow inflicted by the fiercest tyrant can reach no further than the body; and the body is but the dwellingplace, not any part of the soul; and consequently can no more communicate its ruins to that, than a man can be said to be wounded in his person because a wall of his house was broken down. Upon which account there have been some, whose souls have been so fortified with philosophy and great principles, as to enable them to laugh in Phalaris’s bull, to sing upon the rack, and to despise the flames. For still, when God torments us by the instrumental mediation of the creature, his anger can fall upon us in no greater proportions than what can pass through the narrow capacities of a created being. For be 482the fountain never so full, yet if it communicates itself by a little pipe, the stream can be but small and inconsiderable, and equal to the measures of the conveyance. God can no more give his power than his glory to another; there is no mortal arm can draw his bow: God cannot thunder or lighten by proxy. He alone is the Father of spirits; and none can reach the conscience but he who made it: and therefore, being to discharge the utmost of his vindictive justice upon the sins of mankind, then charged upon our Saviour, he took the sword into his own hand, entered the lists, and dealt with him immediately by himself. And then we find the difference of our Saviour’s suffering by the difference of his behaviour. While he was buffeted, scourged, and nailed to the cross, we hear nothing from him; but, like a lamb before the shearers, he was dumb: not because he could not, but because he scorned to roar under the impressions of a finite anger. But when God reached forth his hand, and darted his immediate rebukes into his very soul and spirit, (as he did while he was hanging upon the cross,) then he cries out, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Silence upon such a loss would have been but stupidity, and patience an absurdity; for when God withdrew his presence from him, that darkness which then covered the face of the whole earth was but a faint emblem of that blacker cloud of despair which had overcast his soul. It is not possible for us to conceive the utmost weight of those heavy strokes inflicted by the Almighty himself upon our Saviour. All the representations and little draughts of them made by words and fancy, are vastly short of the keen impressions of sense. But yet that which gives us the nearest resemblance 483of them, surely, is the torment of a guilty mind under a state of desertion; when God shall turn the worm of conscience into a scorpion, and smite it with the secret invisible stings of his wrath, such as shall fester and rage inwardly, gnaw and rake the very entrails of the soul. The burden and anguish of this has been sometimes so insupportable, that some have professed themselves to envy the condition of Judas and the damned spirits, as thinking the endurance of those flames more tolerable than the expectation, and accordingly have done violence to their own lives, and so fled to hell as to a sanctuary, and chose damnation as a release. Far were such persons, God knows, from bettering their condition by completing that which they could not bear in the very beginnings and foretastes of it; yet, how ever, it demonstrates to us the unspeakable wretchedness of a guilty soul labouring under the hand of God. And by the way, let the boldest, the hardiest, and the securest sinner know, that God is able, with out ever touching him either in his estate, his health, his reputation, or any other outward enjoyment dear to him, but merely by letting a few drops of his wrath fall upon his guilty conscience, so to scald and gall him with the lively sense of sin, that he shall live a continual terror to himself, carry about him an hell in his own breast, which shall echo to him such peals of vengeance every hour, that all the wine and music, all the honours and greatness of the world shall not be able to minister the least ease to his heartsick and desponding soul. Now in these torments of a guilty conscience we have some little image of the pains then suffered by our Saviour, the greatness of both being founded upon the same reason, 484namely, that God is the sole and immediate inflicter of such strokes: and then surely the suffering must needs be grievous, when infinite justice passes sentence, and infinite power does execution.
And thus I have finished the first general thing proposed from the text, which was the suffering itself, expressed in these words, he was stricken, and that by considering the latitude, the intenseness, and also the cause of it: all of them so many arguments to demonstrate to us its unparalleled greatness.
2. The second general thing proposed was the nature and quality of this suffering; namely, that it was penal and expiatory; he was stricken for transgression. And to prove that it was penal, there needs no other argument to any clear, unbiassed understanding, than the natural, genuine, and unconstrained use of the word: for what other sense can there be of a man’s being stricken or suffering for sin, but his being punished for sin? And that I am sure is spoke so plain and loud by the universal voice of the whole book of God, that scripture must be crucified, as well as Christ, to give any other tolerable sense of it. But since heresy has made such bold invasions upon those sacred writings, we will consider both those senses which these words are asserted to be capable of.
1. First of all then, some assert, that to be stricken for transgression imports not here a punishment for sins past, but a prevention or taking away of sin for the future. So that Christ is said to be stricken, to suffer, and to die for sin, because by all this he confirmed to us an excellent and holy doctrine, the belief of which has in it a natural aptness to draw men off from their sins. In a word, because Christianity 485tends to make men holy, and cease from sin, and because Christ by his blood sealed the truth of Christianity, therefore is he said to die for sin; a strange and remote deduction, and such an one as the common rules and use of speaking would never have suggested. But then besides, because it is easy to come upon the authors of this perverse interpretation, by demanding of them, what fitness there could be in Christ’s death to confirm his doctrine? And what reason the world could have to believe Christianity true, because the author of it, a pious, innocent, excellent person, was basely and cruelly put to death? Therefore they further say, that this effect of its confirmation is really and indeed to be ascribed to his subsequent resurrection, though only his death be still mentioned; that being the most difficult and heroic passage of all, that he either did or suffered for our sakes, and consequently the greatest instance of his patience, and persuasion of the truth of that doctrine for which he suffered. But by their favour, if Christ is said no otherwise to die for sin, than because he delivered a doctrine, the design of which was to draw men off from sin, and which was confirmed to be true only by his resurrection; how comes it to pass that this effect is still joined with his death, but never with his resurrection? It being said over and over, that he died for sin, suffered and bled for sin, but never that he rose again for sin. It is indeed said once, that he rose again for our justification; but in the very foregoing words it is said, that he was delivered to death for our offences: which shews that those words, for our offences, and for our justification, have there a very different sense, and bear a different relation to the words 486with which they are joined, in that as well as in the other scriptures. But this whole invention is so forced and far-fetched, and so much out of the road of common reason, that it is impossible it should gain but by the strengths and prepossessions of prejudice; and where prejudice stands for judgment, for ought I see, it is as vain to urge arguments as to quote scriptures.
2. The other sense of these words, and which alone the catholic church receives for true, is, that Christ’s being stricken for sin, signifies his being punished for sin; the word for in this case denoting the antecedent meritorious cause of his suffering, and not the final, as the school of Socinus does assert; and consequently must directly relate to the removal of the guilt of sin, and not the power, as is also affirmed by the same persons. Now that Christ’s suffering and being stricken for transgression, imports that suffering to have been penal and expiatory, as it might with the highest evidence be demonstrated from several scriptures; so at this time I shall confine myself within the limits of the chapter from whence I took my text: and here I shall found the proof of it upon these two expressions.
First, That Christ is said to have borne our sins, in the 12th verse. Now, to bear sin is an Hebrew phrase for that which in Latin is luere peccatum, and in English to be punished for sin. And if to bear another man’s sin or iniquity by suffering, does not imply the undergoing of the punishment due to that man’s sin; we must invent a new way of expounding profane writers as well as sacred, and of interpreting the common speeches of men, as well as the word of God.487
Secondly, The other argument shall be taken from that expression which declares Christ to have been made a sacrifice or an offering for sin, in the 10th verse, When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin. The proof of what I here affirm is grounded upon the use and design of a sacrifice, as it has been used by all nations in the world, which was to appease the Deity by paying down a life for sin; and that by the substitution of a sacrifice, whether of man or beast, to die and pay down his life instead of the sinner. For there was a tacit acknowledgment universally fixed in the hearts of all mankind, that the wages of sin was death, and that without shedding of blood there could be no remission: upon which was built the reason of all their sacrifices and victims. So surely, therefore, as Christ was a sacrifice, and as the design of a sacrifice is to pay down a life for sin, and as to pay down a life for sin is to be punished for sin; so sure it is that Christ’s death and sufferings were penal. Now it being clear that the foundation of all punishment is compensation or exchange, that is to say, something paid down to divine justice for something done against it; and since all compensation implies a retribution equivalent to the injury done, therefore, that Christ might be qualified to be a sacrifice fit to undergo the full punishment due for the sins of mankind, two things were required.
1. An infinite dignity in his person; for since the evil and demerit of sin was infinite, and since Christ was so to suffer for it, as not to remain under those sufferings for an infinite duration, that infinity therefore was to be made up some other way; which could not be, but by the infinite worth and dignity of his 488person, grasping in all the perfections and glories of the Deity, and by consequence deriving an infinite value to his sufferings.
2. The other qualification required was a perfect innocence in the person to suffer: for so much was specified by the paschal lamb, of which we still read in scripture, that it was to be a lamb without blemish. And there is no doubt but had Christ had any sin of his own to have satisfied for, he had been very unable to satisfy for other men’s. He who is going to gaol for his own debts, is very unfit to be a security for another’s.
But now this perfect innocence, which I affirm necessary to render Christ a fit and proper sacrifice, is urged by our adversaries to be the very reason why Christ’s sufferings could not be penal, since punishment, in the very nature and essence of it, imports a relation to sin. To this I answer, that punishment does indeed import an essential relation to sin, but not of necessity to the sin of the person upon whom it is inflicted; as might be evinced by innumerable instances, as well as undeniable reasons.
If it be replied, that God has declared that the soul that sins shall die;
I answer, that this is only a positive law, according to which God declares he will proceed in the ordinary course of his providence; but it is not of natural and eternal obligation, so as universally to bind God in all cases; but that he may, when he pleases, deal otherwise with his creature. But this will receive further light from the discussion of the third and last general head, to which we now proceed. Namely,
3. The ground and cause of this suffering, which 489was God’s propriety in, and relation to the persons for whom Christ suffered, specified in these words, my people: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
If it be here asked, upon what account the persons here spoken of were denominated and made God’s people? I answer, that they were so by an eternal covenant and transaction between the Father and the Son; by which the Father, upon certain conditions to be performed by the Son, consigned over some persons to him to be his people. For our better understanding of which we are to observe, that the business of man’s redemption proceeds upon a twofold covenant.
First, An eternal covenant made between the Father and the Son, by which the Father agreed to give both grace and glory to a certain number of sinners, upon condition that Christ would assume their nature, and pay down such a ransom to his justice, as should both satisfy for their sin, and withal merit such a measure of grace as should effectually work in them all things necessary to their salvation. And this covenant may be properly called a covenant of suretiship or redemption. Upon which alone, and not upon any covenant made between God and men in their own persons, is built the infallibility of the future believing, repenting, and finally persevering of such as Christ from all eternity undertook to make his people.
Secondly. The other is a covenant made in time, and actually entered into by God and men, by which God on his part promises to men eternal salvation, upon condition of faith and repentance on theirs. And this is called in scripture the second covenant, 490or the covenant of grace, and stands opposed to that which is there called the first covenant, or the covenant of works.
Now, by that eternal compact or transaction between the Father and the Son, (of which alone we now speak,) was this donation of a certain determinate number of persons made to Christ to be his people, by virtue of which agreement or transaction he was, in the fulness of time, to suffer for them, and to accomplish the whole work of their redemption from first to last. For to affirm that Christ died only to verify a proposition, [that whosoever believed should be saved,] but in the mean time to leave the whole issue of things in reference to persons so loose and undetermined, that it was a question whether ever any one should actually believe, and very possible that none ever might, and consequently that after Christ had suffered, had been stricken, and died for transgression, yet, for any thing that he had done in all this, he might never have had a people; this certainly is a strange and new gospel, and such as the doctrine of our church seems utterly unacquainted with.
Having thus shewn the foundation upon which the persons here spoken of are called by the prophet God’s people; namely, an eternal covenant, in which God the Father and the Son mutually agreed upon the terms of their redemption, we are now to observe, that the same thing that thus denominates and makes them God’s people, makes them under the same relation to belong also to Christ, and that not only upon the account of his nature that he was God, but chiefly of his office, that he was their Mediator, which capacity made him equally concerned 491in that eternal covenant, he accepting and agreeing to those terms that were proposed and offered him by the Father. By his acceptance of which, he be came both a mystical head and a surety to those for whom he so undertook. And this relation of his to them was the cause why he both might be and actually was stricken by God for their transgression, without any violation of the divine justice, notwithstanding the perfect innocence of his person. For to render it just to inflict a punishment upon an innocent person instead of another, either of these two causes are sufficient.
First, An intimate conjunction between those persons; and that either natural, as between father and son, or political, as between king and people, and the like: or,
Secondly, The voluntary consent and will of an innocent person to undergo the punishment due to the nocent; as it is between a man and his surety.
Accordingly, from that covenant, by which the Father made over a certain number of persons to the Son to be his people, there arose this twofold relation of Christ to them.
1. Of a king to his people, or of a mystical head to his members, so that legally and politically they suffered as really in Christ, as the whole body suffers when the head is wounded or struck through with a dart.
2. The other relation is of a surety; so that the satisfaction paid down by Christ to God’s justice for sin, is, in estimation of law, as really accounted to be paid down by the saints, as if they had paid it in their own persons.
And this is a further, and withal a full answer to 492that objection formerly hinted from the innocence of Christ’s person, as if it rendered him uncapable of punishment. For his own free, voluntary consent to be a surety for sinners, and responsible for all that divine justice could charge them with, transferred the guilt and obligation from their persons to his own.
In a word, the compact between Christ and his Father made him a king, a mystical head, and also a surety to some certain persons; and his being so, made them his people, and their being his people did, upon that account, make it both just and equitable for him to suffer, and to be stricken for their transgression, which is the result of the text, and the thing undertook by us to be proved.
I have now finished the several things proposed from the text; in which having set before you how much Christ has suffered, and all for our sakes, I hope it will kindle the workings of a pious ingenuity in every one of our breasts. For I am sure if Christ’s suffering for us were the doctrine, gratitude should make our readiness to suffer for him the application. Christianity, I shew, was a suffering religion; and there are two sorts of suffering to which it will certainly expose every genuine professor of it.
1. The first is from himself.
2. The second from the world.
1. And first, it will engage him in a suffering from himself; even that grand suffering of self-denial and mortification, the sharpest and most indispensable of all others, in which every Christian is not only to be the sufferer, but himself also the executioner. He who is Christ’s, says the apostle, has crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts. 493A severe discipline certainly, in which a man is to act his fiercest anger upon his dearest friends. For could nature ever yet suggest to any one the hatred of his own flesh, the crucifixion of his desires, and the stabbing of his most beloved affections? Nature indeed cannot, will not prompt it; but Christianity, which rises many strains above nature, both must and will. The best sacrifice to a crucified Saviour is a crucified lust, a bleeding heart, and a dying corruption. We cannot bring, nor indeed does Christ expect, a recompence for what he has suffered for us; yet that which he will accept, as if it were a recompence, is for us to deal cruelly with that body of sin which has caused the acting of all those cruelties upon him. Let the ambitious man lay his pride in the dust, the covetous man deposit his treasures in the banks of charity and liberality, and let the voluptuous epicure renounce his cups and his whores, and this will be a present to Heaven better than an whole hecatomb: nor could the fruit of his body fall so grateful a sacrifice upon God’s altars as the sin of his soul. But it is like, the jolly world about us will but scoff at the paradox of such practices, and explode them as madness and melancholy: yet let those sons of pleasure know, that such as scorn to be thus melancholy in this world, will have but little cause to be merry in the next.
2. The other kind of suffering in which Christianity will engage a man, is from the world. Such is the genius and nature of the Christian religion, that it must unavoidably bring him, who owns it, in the power of it, under temporal troubles and afflictions. In the world, says Christ, ye shall have tribulation. And he spoke it not so much by a spirit 494of prophecy as philosophy, and by an actual sight of it in its pregnant causes. For the contrariety of the principles and maxims of Christianity to those of the world, cannot but engage men in such practices as shall also thwart the customs and modes which govern the actions of the world. But where there is contrariety, there will be fighting; and where there is fighting, the weaker, I am sure, must suffer; and generally the Christian is so in all worldly encounters, whose chief defensatives lie not in that armour that is sword-proof or bullet-proof, and who wears no breastplate upon, but within his breast, that is, his innocence, his conscience, and his confidence in a reconciled God. Suffering is a thing which all men abhor, and that because they are ashamed of it; and their being so is grounded upon this opinion, that to suffer, in the very nature of it, seems to impeach the suffering person, either in the reputation of his power or of his innocence; that is, he suffers either because he is weak, and cannot hinder it, or because he is faulty, and so deserves it. But with every Christian, Christ is an abundant answer to both these objections. For when we see omnipotence hanging upon the cross, and God himself scourged and spit upon; and when we see him, who could have commanded fire from heaven, and legions of angels to his rescue, yet surrendering himself quietly to the will of his murderers, surely no mortal man, who is but dirt and worms-meat at the best, can pretend himself too great and too high to suffer. And again, when we behold virtue, innocence, and purity, more than angelical, crucified between thieves and male factors, shall any man, whose birth and actions revile and speak him a sinner to his face, think himself too 495good to come under the cross, and to take his share in the common lot of Christianity? It is not the suffering itself, but the cause of it, that is dishonourable. And even in the worst and most shameful of sufferings, though the hangman does the execution, yet it is the crime alone which does the disgrace.
Christ commands us nothing, but he enforces it with arguments from his person as well as from his word; and it is well if we can make a due use of them. For God knows how soon he may call us from our easy speculations and theories of suffering to the practical experience of it; how soon he may draw us forth for persecution and the fiery trial. Only this we may be sure of, that if these things be brought upon us for his honour, it will be for ours too to endure them. And be our distresses never so great, our calamities never so strange and unusual, yet we have both our Saviour’s example to direct, and his promise to support us, who has left it upon record in his everlasting gospel, that if we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him.
To whom, therefore, be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.496
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