OF THE SATISFACTION OF CHRIST
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The last thing to be inquired into, upon occasion of the late opposition to the great fundamental truths of the gospel, is the satisfaction of Christ.
And the doctrine hereof is such as, I conceive, needs rather to be explained than vindicated. For it being the center wherein most, if not all, the lines of gospel promises and precepts do meet, and the great medium of all our communion with God in faith and obedience, the great distinction between the religion of Christians and that of all others in the world, it will easily, on a due proposal, be assented unto by all who would he esteemed disciples of Jesus Christ. And whether a parcel of insipid cavils may be thought sufficient to obliterate the revelation of it, men of sober minds will judge and discern.
For the term of satisfaction, we contend not about it. It does, indeed, properly express and connote that great effect of the death of Christ which, in the cause before us, we plead for. But yet, because it belongs rather to the explanation of the truth contended for, than is used expressly in the revelation of it, and because the right understanding of the word itself depends on some notions of law that as yet we need not take into consideration, I shall not, in this entrance of our discourse, insist precisely upon it, but leave it as the natural conclusion of what we shall find expressly declared in the Scripture. Neither do I say this as though I did decline the word, or the right use of it, or what is properly signified by it, but do only cast it into its proper place, answerable unto our method and design in the whole of this brief discourse.
I know some have taken a new way of expressing and declaring the doctrine concerning the mediation of Christ, with the causes and ends of his death, which they think more rational than that usually insisted on: but, as what I have yet heard of or seen in that kind, has been not only unscriptural, but also very irrational, and most remote from that accuracy whereunto they pretend who make use of it; so, if they should publish their conceptions, it is not improbable but that they may meet with a scholastic examination by some hand or other.
Our present work, as has been often declared, is for the establishment of the faith of them who may be attempted, if not brought into danger, to be seducers by the sleights of some who lie in wait to deceive, and the glamours of others who openly drive the same design. What, therefore, the Scripture plainly and clearly reveals in this matter, is the subject of our present inquiry. And either in so doing, as occasion shall be offered, we shall obviate, or, in the close of it remove, those sophisms that the sacred truth now proposed to consideration has been attempted withal.
The sum of what the Scripture reveals about this great truth, commonly called the “satisfaction of Christ,” may be reduced unto these ensuing heads: — First. That Adam, being made upright, sinned against God; and all mankind, all his posterity, in him: — Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Chapter 3:11, “And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” Ecclesiastes 7:29, “Lo, this only have I found, that God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.”
Secondly. That, by this sin of our first parents, all men are brought into an estate of sin and apostasy from God, and of enmity unto him: — Genesis 6:5, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was shaped in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Chapter 8:7, “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Ephesians 4:18, “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart,” Chapter 2:l; Colossians 2:13.
Thirdly. That in this state all men continue in sin against God, nor of themselves can do otherwise: — Romans 3:10-12, “There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
Fourthly. That the justice and holiness of God, as he is the supreme governor and judge of all the world, require that sin be punished: — Exodus 34:7, “That will by no means clear the guilty.” Joshua 24:19, “He is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.” Psalm 5:4-6, “For thou art not a God that has pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing.” Habakkuk 1:13, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look upon iniquity.” Isaiah 33:14, “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” Romans 1:32, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death.” Chapter 3:5, 6, “Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?” 2 Thessalonians 1:6, “It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.” Hebrews 12:29, “For our God is a consuming fire;” from Dent. 4:24.
Fifthly. That God, has also engaged his veracity and faithfulness in the sanction of the law, not to leave sin unpunished: — Genesis 2:17, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Dent. 27:26, “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them.” In this state and condition, mankind, had they been left without divine aid and help, must have perished eternally.
Sixthly. That God out of his infinite goodness, grace, and love to mankind, sent his only Son to save and deliver them out of this condition. — Matthew 1:21, “Thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shalt save his people from their sins.” John 3:16,17, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”
Romans 5:8, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” 1 John 4:9, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” Verse 10, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 Thessalonians 1:10, “Even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
Seventhly. That this love was the same in Father and Son, acted distinctly in the manner that shall be afterward declared; so, vain are the pretenses of men, who, from the love of the Father in this matter, would argue against the love of the Son, or on the contrary.
Eighthly. That the way, in general, whereby the Son of God, being incarnate, was to save lost sinners, was by a substitution of himself, according to the design and appointment of God, in the room of those whom he was to save: — 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” Galatians 3:13, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” Romans 5:7,8, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet per adventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Chapter 8:3, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us” 1 Peter 2:24, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” Chapter 3:18, “For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” All these expressions undeniably evince a substitution of Christ as to suffering in the stead of them whom he was to save; which, in general, is all that we intend by his satisfaction, namely, that he was made “sin for us,” a “curse for us,” “died for us,” that is, in our stead, that we might be saved from the wrath to come. And all these expressions, as to their true, genuine importance, shall be vindicated as occasion shall require.
Ninthly. This way of his saving sinners is, in particular, several ways expressed in the Scriptures.
1. That he offered himself a sacrifice to God, to make atonement for our sins; and that in his death and sufferings: — Isa 53:10, “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin.” John 1:29, “Behold the lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world.” Ephesians 5:2, “Christ hath loved us, and has given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.” Hebrews 2:17, Was “a merciful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”
Chapter 9:11-14, “But Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls,” etc., “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your consciences from dead works?” 2. That he redeemed us by paying a price, a ransom, for our redemption: — Mark 10:45, “The Son of man came to give his life a ransom for many.” 1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23, “For ye are bought with a price.” 1 Timothy 2:6, “Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” Titus 2:14, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity.” 1 Peter 1:18,19, “For ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” 3. That he bare our sins, or the punishment due unto them: — Isaiah 53:5,6, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Verse 11, “For he shall bear their iniquities.” 1 Peter 2:24, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” 4. That he answered the law and the penalty of it: — Romans 8:3,4, “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.”
Galatians 3:13, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” Chapter 4:4, 5, “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law” 5. That he died for sin, and sinners, to expiate the one, and in the stead of the other: — Romans 4:25, “He was delivered for our offenses.” Chapter 5:10, “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” 1 Corinthians 15:3, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead,” Thessalonians 5:9, 10.
7. The effect hereof was, —
(1.) That the righteousness of God was glorified. Romans 3:25,26, “Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.” (2.) The law fulfilled and satisfied, as in the places before quoted, chap. 8:3, 4; Galatians 3:13, 4:4, 5.
(3.) God reconciled. 2 Corinthians 5:18,19, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” Hebrews 2:17, “he made reconciliation for the sins of the people.” (4.) Atonement was made for sin. Romans 5:11, “By whom we have now received the atonement;” and peace was made with God. Ephesians 2:14,16, “For he is our peace, who has made both one,... that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” (6.) He made an end of sin. Daniel 9:24, “To finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness.” The glory of God in all these things being exalted, himself was well pleased, righteousness and everlasting redemption, or salvation, purchased for sinners. Hebrews 9:14, For in that “the chastisement of our peace was upon him,” and that “by his stripes we are healed,” he being punished that we might go free, himself became a captain of salvation unto all that do obey him.
I have fixed on these particulars, to give every ordinary reader an instance how fully and plainly what he is to believe in this matter is revealed in the Scripture. And should I produce all the testimonies which expressly give witness unto these positions, it is known how great a part of the Bible must be transcribed. And these are the things which are indispensably required of us to believe, that we may be able to direct and regulate our obedience according to the mind and will of God. In the explanation of this doctrine unto farther edification, sundry things are usually insisted on, which necessarily and infallibly ensue upon the propositions of Scripture before laid down, and serve to beget in the minds of believers a due apprehension and right understanding of them; as, —
1. That God in this matter is to be considered as the chief, supreme, absolute rector and governor of all, — as the Lord of the law, and of sinners; but yet so as an offended ruler: not as an offended person, but as an offended ruler, who has right to exact punishment upon transgressions, and whose righteousness of rule requires that he should so do.
2. That because he is righteous and holy, as he is the supreme Judge of all the world, it is necessary that he do right in the punishing of sin; without which the order of the creation cannot be preserved. For sin being the creature’s deduction of itself from the order of its dependence upon, and obediences unto, the Creator and supreme Lord of all, without a reduction of it by punishment, confusion would be brought into the whole creation.
3. That whereas the law, and the sanction of it, is the moral or declarative cause of the punishment of sin, and it directly obliges the sinner himself unto punishment; God, as the supreme ruler, dispenses, not with the act of the law, but the immediate object, and substitutes another sufferer in the room of them who are principally liable unto the sentence of it, and are now to be acquitted or freed; — that so the law may be satisfied, requiring the punishment of sin; justice exalted, whereof the law is an effect; and yet the sinner saved.
4. That the person thus substituted was the Son of God incarnate, who had power so to dispose of himself, with will and readiness for it; and was, upon the account of the dignity of his person, able to answer the penalty which all others had incurred and deserved.
5. That God, upon his voluntary susception of this office, and condescension to this work, did so lay our sins, in and by the sentence of the law, upon him, that he made therein full satisfaction for what ever legally could be charged on them for whom he died or suffered.
These, and the like things, are usually insisted on in the explication or declaration of this head of our confession; and there is not any of them but may be sufficiently confirmed by divine testimonies. It may also be farther evinced, that there is nothing asserted in them, but what is excellently suited unto the common notions which mankind has of God and his righteousness; and that in their practice they answer the light of nature and common reason, exemplified in sundry instances among the nations of the world.
I shall therefore take one argument from some of the testimonies before produced in the confirmation of this sacred truth, and proceed to remove the objections that are commonly bandied against it.
If the Lord Christ, according to the will of the Father, and by his own counsel and choice, was substituted, and did substitute himself, as the mediator of the covenant, in the room and in the stead of sinners, that they might be saved, and therein bare their sins, or the punishment due unto their sins, by undergoing the curse and penalty of the law, and therein also, according to the will of God, offered up himself for a propitiatory, expiatory sacrifice, to make atonement for sin, and reconciliation for sinners, that the justice of God being appeased, and the law fulfilled, their might go free, or be delivered from the wrath to come; and if therein, also, he paid a real satisfactory price for their redemption; then he made satisfaction to God for sin: for these are the things that we intend by that expression of satisfaction. But now all these things are openly and filly witnessed unto in the testimonies before produced, as may be observed by suiting some of them unto the several particulars here asserted: — As, 1. What was done in this matter, was from the will, purpose, and love of God the Father, Psalm 40:6-8; Hebrews 10:5-7; Acts 4:28; John 3:16; Romans 8:3.
2. It was also done by his own voluntary consent, Philippians 2:6-8.
6. Herein, also, according to the will of God, he offered up himself a propitiatory and expiatory sacrifice, to make atonement for sin and reconciliation for sinners, Eph 5:6; Romans 5:6; Hebrews 9:11-14; — which he did, that the justice of God being satisfied, and the law fulfilled, sinners might be freed from the wrath to come, Romans 3:25; Thessalonians 1:10.
7. And hereby also he paid a real price of redemption for sin and sinners, Peter 1:18, 19; 1 Corinthians 6:20. These are the things which we are to believe concerning the satisfaction of Christ. And our explication of this doctrine we are ready to defend when called whereunto.
The consideration of the objections which are raised against this great fundamental truth shall close this discourse. And they are of two sorts: — First, In general, to the whole doctrine, as declared, or some of the more signal heads or parts of it. Secondly, Particular instances in this or that supposal, as consequences of the doctrine asserted. And, in general, — First, they say “This is contrary to, and inconsistent with, the love, grace, mercy, and goodness of God, which are so celebrated in the Scripture as the principal properties of his nature and acts of his will wherein he will be glorified; — especially contrary to the freedom of forgiveness, which we are encouraged to expect, and commanded to believe.” And this exception they endeavor to firm by testimonies that the Lord is good and gracious and that he does freely forgive us our sins and trespasses.
Answer: 1. I readily grant that whatever is really contrary to the grace, goodness, and mercy of God, whatever is inconsistent with the free forgiveness of sin, is not to be admitted; for these things are fully revealed in the Scripture, and must have a consistency with whatever else is therein revealed of God or his will.
2. As God is good, and gracious, and merciful, so also he is holy, righteous, true, and faithful. And these things are no less revealed concerning him than the others; and are no less essential properties of his nature than his goodness and grace. And as they are all essentially the same in him, and considered only under a different habitue or respect, as they are exerted by acts of his will; so it belongs to his infinite wisdom, that the effects of them, though divers, and produced by divers ways and means, may no way be contrary one to the other, but that mercy be exercised without the prejudice of justice or holiness, and justice be preserved entire, without any obstruction to the exercise of mercy.
(2.) In the sending his Son in the pursuit and for the accomplishment of the holy purpose of his will and grace. Herein most eminently does the Scripture celebrate the love, goodness, and kindness of God, as that whereby, in infinite and for ever to be adored wisdom and grace, he made way for the forgiveness of our sins. John 3:16, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” Romans 3:25, “Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” Romans 5:8, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Titus 3:4; 1 John 4:9,10. Herein consists that ever to be adored love, goodness, grace, mercy, and condescension of God. Add hereunto, that, in the act of causing our iniquities to meet on Christ, wherein he immediately intended the declaration of his justice, Romans 3:25, — “not sparing him, in delivering him up to death for us all,” Romans 8:32, — there was a blessed harmony in the highest Justice and most excellent grace and mercy. This grace, this goodness, this love of God towards mankind, towards sinners, our adversaries in this matter neither know nor understand; and so, indeed, what lies in them, remove the foundation of the whole gospel, and of all that faith and obedience which God requires at our hands.
4. Forgiveness, or the actual condonation of sinners, the pardon and forgiveness of sins, is free; but yet so as it is everywhere restrained unto a respect unto Christ, unto his death rind blood- shedding. Ephesians 1:7, “We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Chapter 4:32. “God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Romans 3:25,26, “God has set him forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.” It is absolutely free in respect of all immediate transactions between God and sinners.
(1.) Free on the part of God. [1.] In the eternal purpose of it, when he might justly have suffered all men to have perished under the guilt of their sins. [2.] Free in the means that he used to effect it, unto his glory. 1st. In the sending of his Son; and, 2ndly.In laying the punishment of our sin upon him. 3rdly. In his covenant with him, that it should be accepted on our behalf. 4thly. In his tender and proposal of it by the gospel unto sinners, to be received without money or without price. 5thly. In the actual condonation and pardon of them that do believe.
(2.) It is free on the part of the persons that are forgiven; in that, [1.] It is given and granted to them, without any satisfaction made by them for their former transgressions. [2.] Without any merit to purchase or procure it. [3.] Without any penal, satisfactory suffering here, or in a purgatory hereafter. [4.] Without any expectation of future recompense; or that, being pardoned, they should then make or give any satisfaction for what they had done before.
And as any of these things would, so nothing else can, impeach the freedom of pardon and forgiveness. Whether, then, we respect the pardoner or the pardoned, pardon is every way free, — namely, on the part of God who forgives, and on the part of sinners that are forgiven. If God now has, besides all this, provided himself a lamb for a sacrifice; if he has, in infinite wisdom and grace, found out a way thus freely to forgive us our sins, to the praise and glory of his own holiness, righteousness, and severity against sin, as well as unto the unspeakable advancement of that grace, goodness, and bounty which he immediately exercises in the pardon of sin; are these men’s eyes evil, because he is good? Will they not be contented to be pardoned, unless they may have it at the rate of despoiling God of his holiness, truth, righteousness, and faithfulness? And as this is certainly done by that way of pardon which these men propose, no reserve in the least being made for the glory of God in those holy properties of his nature which are immediately injured and opposed by sin; so that pardon itself, which they pretend so to magnify, having nothing to influence it but a mere arbitrary act of God’s will, is utterly debased from its own proper worth and excellency. And I shall willingly undertake to manifest that they derogate no less from grace and mercy in pardon, than they do from the righteousness and holiness of God, by the forgiveness which they have feigned; and that in it both of them are perverted and despoiled of all their glory.
But they yet say, “If God can freely pardon sin, why does he not do it without satisfaction? If he cannot, he is weaker and more imperfect than man, who can do so.”
Answer: 1. God cannot do many things that men can do, — not that he is more imperfect than they, but he cannot do them on the account of his perfection. He cannot lie, he cannot deny himself, he cannot change; which men can do, and do every day.
2. To pardon sin without satisfaction, in him who is absolutely holy, righteous, true, and faithful, — the absolute, necessary, supreme Governor of all sinners, — the author of the law, and sanction of it, wherein punishment is threatened and declared, — is to deny himself, and to do what one infinitely perfect cannot do.
3. I ask of these men, why God does not pardon sins freely, without requiring faiths repentance, and obedience in them that are pardoned; yea, as the conditions on which they may be pardoned? For, seeing he is so infinitely good and gracious, cannot he pardon men without prescribing such terms and conditions unto them as he knows that men, and that incomparably the greatest number of them, will never come up unto, and so must of necessity perish for ever? Yea, but they say, “This cannot be: neither does this impeach the freedom of pardon; for it is certain that God does prescribe these things, and yet he pardons freely; and it would altogether unbecome the holy God to pardon sinners that continue so to live and die in their sins” But do not these men see that they have hereby given away their cause which they contend for? For, if a prescription of sundry things to the sinner himself, without which he shall not be pardoned, do not at all impeach, as they say, the freedom of pardon, but God may be said freely to pardon sin notwithstanding it; how shall the receiving of satisfaction by another, nothing at all being required of the sinner, have the least appearance of any such thing? If the freedom of forgiveness consists in such a boundless notion as these men imagine, it is certain that the prescribing of faith and repentance in and unto sinners, antecedently to their participation of it, is much more evidently contrary unto it, than the receiving of satisfaction from another who is not to be pardoned can to any appear to be. Secondly, if it be contrary to the holiness of God to pardon any without requiring faith, repentance, and obedience in them (as it is indeed), let not these persons be offended if we believe him when he so frequently declares it, that it was so to remit sin, without the fulfilling of his law and satisfaction of his justice.
Secondly, they say, “There is no such thing as justice in God requiring the punishment of sin; but that that which in him requires and calls for the punishment of sin is his anger and wrath; which expressions denote free acts of his will, and not any essential properties of his nature.” So that God may punish sin or not punish it, at his pleasure; therefore there is no reason that he should require any satisfaction for sin, seeing he may pass it by absolutely as he pleases.
Answer: 1. Is it not strange, that the great Governor, the Judge of all the world, which, on the supposition of the creation of it, God is naturally and necessarily, should not also naturally be so righteous as to do right, in rendering unto every one according to his works? 2. The sanction and penalty of the law, which is the rule of punishment, was, I suppose, an effect of justice, — of God’s natural and essential justice, and not of his anger or wrath. Certainly, never did any man make a law for the government of a people in anger. Draco’s laws were not made in wrath, but according to the best apprehension of right and justice that he had, though said to be written in blood; and shall we think otherwise of the law of God? 3. Anger and wrath in God express the effects of justice, and so are not merely free acts of his will. This, therefore, is a tottering cause, that is built on the denial of God’s essential righteousness. But it was proved before, and it is so elsewhere.
Thirdly, they say, “That the sacrifice of Christ was only metaphorically so,” — that he was a metaphorical priest, not one properly so called; and, therefore, that his sacrifice did not consist in his death and blood-shedding, but in his appearing in heaven upon his ascension, presenting himself unto God in the most holy place not made with hands as the mediator of the new covenant.
Answer: 1. When once these men come to this evasion, they think themselves safe, and that they may go whither they will without control. For they say it is true, Christ was a priest; but only he was a metaphorical one. He offered sacrifice; but it was a metaphorical one. He redeemed us; but with a metaphorical redemption. And so we are justified thereon; but with a metaphorical justification. And so, for aught I know, they are like to be saved with a metaphorical salvation. This is the substance of their plea in this matter: — Christ was not really a priest; but did somewhat like a priest. He offered not sacrifice really; but did somewhat that was like a sacrifice. He redeemed us not really; but did somewhat that looked like redemption. And what these things are, wherein their analogy consists, what proportion the things that Christ has done bear to the things that are really so, from whence they receive their denomination, it is meet it should be wholly in the power of these persons to declare. But, —
2. What should hinder the death of Christ to be a sacrifice, a proper sacrifice, and, according to the nature, end, and use of sacrifices, to have made atonement and satisfaction for sin? (1.) It is expressly called so in the Scripture; wherein he is said to “offer himself, to make his soul an offering, to offer himself a sacrifice,” Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 1:3, 9:14, 25, 26, 7:27. And he is himself directly said to be a “priest,” or a sacrificer, Hebrews 2:17. And it is nowhere intimated, much less expressed, that these things are not spoken properly, but metaphorically only.
(2.) The legal sacrifices of the old law were instituted on purpose to represent and prepare the way for the bringing in of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, so to take away the sin of the world; and is it not strange, that true and real sacrifices should be types and representations of that which was not so? On this supposition, all those sacrifices are but so many seductions from the right understanding of things between God and sinners.
(3.) Nothing is wanting to render it a proper propitiatory sacrifice.
For, — [1.] There was the person offering, and that was Christ himself, Hebrews 9 14, “He offered himself unto God.” “He,” that is, the sacrificer, denotes the person of Christ, God and man; and “himself,” as the sacrifice, denotes his human nature whence God is said to “purchase his church with his own blood,” Acts 20:28; for he offered himself through the eternal Spirit: so that, — [2.] There was the matter of the sacrifice, which was the human nature of Christ, soul and body. “His soul was made an offering for sin,” Isaiah 53:10; and his body, “The offering of the body of Jesus Christ,” Hebrews 10:10, — his blood especially, which is often synecdochically mentioned for the whole. (4.)His death had the nature of a sacrifice: for, — [1.] Therein were the sins of men laid upon him, and not in his entrance into heaven; for “he bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” 1 Peter 2:24. God made our sins then “to meet upon him,” Isaiah 53:6; which gives the formality unto any sacrifices. “Quad in ejus caput sit,” is the formal reason of all propitiatory sacrifices, and ever was so, as is expressly declared, Leviticus 16:21,22; and the phrase of “bearing sin,” of “bearing iniquity,” is constantly used for the undergoing of the punishment due to sin. [2.] It had the end of a proper sacrifice; it made expiation of sin, propitiation and atonement for sin, with reconciliation with God; and so took away that enmity that was between God and sinners, Hebrews 1:3; Romans 3:25,26; Hebrews 2:17,18, 5:10; Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:18,19. And although God himself designed, appointed, and contrived, in wisdom, this way of reconciliation, as he did the means for the atoning of his own anger towards the friends of Job, commanding them to go unto him, and with him offer sacrifices for themselves, which he would accept, chap. 42:7, 8; yet, as he was the supreme Governor, the Lord of all, attended with infinite justice and holiness, atonement was made with him, and satisfaction to him thereby.
What has been spoken may suffice to discover the emptiness and weakness of those exceptions which in general these men make against the truth before laid down from the Scripture. A brief examination of some particular instances, wherein they seek not so much to oppose as to reproach the revelation of this mystery of the gospel, shall put a close to this discourse. It is said, then, — First, “That if this be so, then it will follow that God is gracious to forgive, and yet it is impossible for him, unless the debt be fully satisfied.”
Answer: 1. I suppose the confused and abrupt expression of things here, in words scarcely affording a tolerable sense, is rather from weakness than captiousness; and so I shall let the manner of the proposal pass.
2. What if this should follow, that God is gracious to forgive sinners, and yet will not, cannot, on the account of his own holiness and righteousness, actually forgive any, without satisfaction and atonement made for sin? The worst that can be hence concluded is, that the Scripture is true, which affirms both these in many places.
3. This sets out the exceeding greatness of the grace of God in forgiveness, that when sin could not be forgiven without satisfaction, and the sinner himself could no way make any such satisfaction, he provided himself a sacrifice of atonement, that the sinner might be discharged and pardoned.
4. Sin is not properly a debt, for then it might be paid in kind, by sin itself; but is called so only because it binds over the sinner to punishment, which is the satisfaction to be made for that which is properly a transgression, and improperly only a debt. It is added, — Secondly, “Hence it follows, that the unite and impotent creature more capable of extending mercy and forgiveness than the infinite and omnipotent Creator.”
Answer: 1. God being essentially holy and righteous, having engaged his faithfulness in the sanction of the law, and being naturally and necessarily the governor and ruler of the world, the forgiving of sin without satisfaction would be no perfection in him, but an effect of impotency and imperfection, — a thing which God cannot do, as he cannot lie, nor deny himself.
2. The direct contrary of what is insinuated is asserted by this doctrine; for, on the supposition of the satisfaction and atonement insisted on, not only does God freely forgive, but that in such a way of righteousness and goodness, as no creature is able to conceive or express the glory and excellency of it. And to speak of the poor having pardons of private men, upon particular offenses against themselves, who are commanded so to do, and have no right nor authority to require or exact punishment, nor is any due upon the mere account of their own concernment, in comparison with the forgiveness of God, arises out of a deep ignorance of the whole matter under consideration.
Thirdly. It is added by them, that hence it follows, “That God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son to save it; and yet that God stood off in high displeasure, and Christ gave himself as a complete satisfaction to offended justice.”
Answer: Something these men would say, if they knew what or how; for, —
1. That God so loved the world as to give his only Son to save it, is the expression of the Scripture, and the foundation of the doctrine whose truth we contend for.
3. That God stood off in high displeasure, is an expression which neither the Scripture uses, nor those who declare this doctrine from thence, nor is suited unto divine perfections, or the manner of divine operations. That intended seems to be, that the righteousness and law of God required the punishment due to sin to be undergone, and thereby satisfaction to be made unto God; which is no consequent of the doctrine, but the doctrine itself.
2. This dilemma is proposed, as that which proceeds on a supposition of our own principles, that Christ is God and man in one person: which, indeed, makes the pretended difficulty to be vain, and a mere effect of ignorance; for all the mediatory acts of Christ being the acts of his person, must of necessity be the acts of him as God and man.
3. There is yet another mistake in this inquiry; for satisfaction is in it looked on as a real act or operation of one or the other nature in Christ, when it is the apotelesma or effect of the actings, the doing and suffering of Christ — the dignity of what he did in reference unto the end for which he did it. For the two natures are so united in Christ as not to have a third compound principle of physical acts and operations thence arising; but each nature acts distinctly according to its own being and properties, yet so as what is the immediate act of either nature is the act of him who is one in both; from whence it has its dignity.
4. The sum is, that in all the mediatory actions of Christ we are to consider, — (1.)The agent; and that is the person of Christ. (2.)The immediate principle by which and from which the agent works; and that is the natures in the person. (3.)The actions; which are the effectual operations of either nature. (4.)The effect or work with respect to God and us; and this relates unto the person of the agent, the Lord Christ, God and man. A blending of the natures into one common principle of operation, as the compounding of mediums unto one end, is ridiculously supposed in this matter.
But yet, again; it is pretended that sundry consequences, irreligious and irrational, do ensue upon a supposition of the satisfaction pleaded for.
What, then, are they?
First. “That it is unlawful and impossible for God Almighty to be gracious and merciful, or to pardon transgressors.”
Answer: The miserable, confused misapprehension of things which the proposal of this and the like consequences does evidence, manifests sufficiently how unfit the makers of them are to manage controversies of this nature. For, —
2. Lawful or unlawful, are terms that can with no tolerable sense be used concerning any properties of God, all which are natural and necessary unto his being; as goodness, grace, and mercy, in particular, are.
3. That it is impossible for God to pardon transgressors, according to this doctrine, is a fond imagination; for it is only a declaration of the manner how he does it.
4. As God is gracious and merciful, so also he is holy, and righteous, and true; and it became him, or was every way meet for him, in his way of exercising grace and mercy towards sinners, to order all things so, as that it might be done without the impeachment of his holiness, righteousness, and truth. It is said, again, — Secondly, “That God was inevitably compelled to this way of saving men; — the highest affront to his noncontrollable nature.”
Answer: 1. Were the authors of these exceptions put to declare what they mean by God’s “uncontrollable nature,” they would hardly disentangle themselves with common sense; such masters of reason are they, indeed, whatever they would fain pretend to be. Controllable or uncontrollable, respects acting and operations, not beings or natures.
3. The meaning of this objection (if it has either sense or meaning in it) is, that God, freely purposing to save lost sinners, did it in a way becoming his holy nature and righteous law. What other course Infinite Wisdom could have taken for the satisfaction of his justice we know not; — that justice was to be satisfied, and that this way it is done we know and believe.
Thirdly. They say it hence follows, “That it is unworthy of God to pardon, but not to inflict punishment on the innocent, or require a satisfaction where there was nothing due.”
Answer: 1. What is worthy or unworthy of God, himself alone knows, and of men not any, but according to what he is pleased to declare and reveal; but, certainly, it is unworthy any person, pretending to the least interest in ingenuity or use of reason, to use such frivolous instances in any case of importance, which have not the least pretense of argument in them, but what arises from a gross misapprehension or misrepresentation of a doctrine designed to opposition.
3. The Lord Christ was personally innocent; but “he who knew no sin was made sin for us,” 2 Corinthians 5:21. And as the mediator and surety of the covenant, he was to answer for the sins of them whom he undertook to save from the wrath to come, by giving himself a ransom for them, and making his soul an offering for their sin.
4. That nothing is due to the justice of God for sin, — that is, that sin does not in the justice of God deserve punishment, — is a good, comfortable doctrine for men that are resolved to continue in their sins whilst they live in this world. The Scripture tells us that Christ paid what he took not; that all our iniquities were caused to meet upon him; that he bare them in his own body on the tree; that his soul was made an offering for sin, and thereby made reconciliation or atonement for the sins of the people. If these persons be otherwise minded, we cannot help it.
Fourthly. It is added, that “This doctrine does not only disadvantage the tribe virtue and real intent of Christ’s life and death, but entirely deprives God of that praise which is owing to his greatest love and goodness.”
Answer: 1. I suppose that this is the first time that this doctrine fell under this imputation; nor could it possibly be liable unto this charge from any who did either understand it or the grounds on which it is commonly opposed.
For there is no end of the life or death of Christ which the Socinians themselves admit of, but it is also allowed and asserted in the doctrine now called in question. Do they say, that he taught the truth, or revealed the whole mind and will of God concerning his worship and our obedience?
We say the same. Do they say, that by his death he bare testimony unto and confirmed the truth which he had taught? It is also owned by us. Do they say, that in what he did and suffered he set us an example that we should labor after conformity unto? It is what we acknowledge and teach: only, we say that all these things belong principally to his prophetical office. But we, moreover, affirm and believe, that as a priest, or in the discharge of his sacerdotal office, he did, in his death and sufferings, offer himself a sacrifice to God, to make atonement for our sins, — which they deny; and that he died for us, or in our stead, that we might go free: without the faith and acknowledgment whereof no part of the gospel can be rightly understood. All the ends, then, which they themselves assign of the life and death of Christ are by us granted; and the principal one, which gives life and efficacy to the rest, is by them denied. Neither, —
2. Does it fall under any possible imagination, that the praise due unto God should be eclipsed hereby. The love and kindness of God towards us is in the Scripture fixed principally and fundamentally on his “sending of his only begotten Son to die for us.” And, certainly, the greater the work was that he had to do, the greater ought our acknowledgment of his love and kindness to be. But it is said, — Fifthly, “That it represents the Son as more kind and compassionate than the Father; whereas if both be the same God, then either the Father is as loving as the Son, or the Son as angry as the Father.”
Answer: 1. The Scripture refers the love of the Father unto two heads: —
(2.) In choosing sinners unto a participation of the fruits of his love, Ephesians 1:3-6. The love of the Son is fixed signally on his actual giving himself to die for us, Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:25; Revelation 1:5. What balances these persons have got to weigh these loves in, and to conclude which is the greatest or most weighty, I know not.
2. Although only the actual discharge of his office be directly assigned to the love of Christ, yet his condescension in taking our nature upon him, — expressed by his mind, Philippians 2:5-8, and the readiness of his will, Psalm 40:8, — does eminently comprise love in it so.
3. The love of the Father in sending of the Son was an act of his will; which being a natural and essential property of God, it was so far the act of the Son also, as he is partaker of the same nature, though eminently, and in respect of order, it was peculiarly the act of the Father.
4. The anger of God against sin is an effect of his essential righteousness and holiness, which belong to him as God; which yet hinders not but that both Father, and Son, and Spirit, acted love towards sinners. They say again, — Sixthly, “It robs God of the gift of his Son for our redemption, which the Scriptures attribute to the unmerited love he had for the world, in affirming the Son purchased that redemption from the Father, by the gift of himself to God as our complete satisfaction.”
Answer: 1. It were endless to consider the improper and absurd expressions which are made use of in these exceptions, as here; the last words have no tolerable sense in them, according to any principles whatever.
2. If the Son’s purchasing redemption for us, procuring, obtaining it, do rob God of the gift of his Son for our redemption, the Holy Ghost must answer for it; for, having “obtained” for us, or procured, or purchased, “eternal redemption,” is the word used by himself, Hebrews 9:12; and to deny that he has laid down his life a “ransom” for us, and has “bought us with a price,” is openly to deny the gospel.
4. Herein he “offered himself unto God,” and “gave himself for us;” and if these persons are offended herewithal, what are we, that we should withstand God? They say, — Seventhly, “Since Christ could not pay what was not his own, it follows, that in the payment of his own the case still remains equally grievous; since the debt is not hereby absolved or forgiven, but transferred only; and, by consequence, we are no better provided for salvation than before, owing that now to the Son which was once owing to the Father.”
Answer: The looseness and dubiousness of the expressions here used makes an appearance that there is something in them, when indeed there is not. There is an allusion in them to a debt and a payment, which is the most improper expression that is used in this matter; and the interpretation thereof is to be regulated by other proper expressions of the same thing. But to keep to the allusion: —
1. Christ paid his own, but not for himself, Daniel 9:26.
2. Paying it for us, the debt is discharged; and our actual discharge is to be given out according to the ways and means, and upon the conditions, appointed and constituted by the Father and Son.
3. When a debt is so transferred as that one is accepted in the room and obliged to payment in the stead of another, and that payment is made and accepted accordingly, all law and reason require that the original debtor be discharged.
4. What on this account we owe to the Son, is praise, thankfulness, and obedience, and not the debt which he took upon himself and discharged for us, when we were nonsolvent, by his love. So that this matter is plain enough, and not to be involved by such cloudy expressions and incoherent discourse, following the metaphor of a debt. For if God be considered as the creditor, we all as debtors, and being insolvent, Christ undertook, out of his love, to pay the debt for us, and did so accordingly, which was accepted with God; it follows that we are to be discharged upon God’s terms, and under a new obligation unto his love who has made this satisfaction for us: which we shall eternally acknowledge. It is said, — Eighthly, “It no way renders men beholden or in the least obliged to God, since by their doctrine he would not have abated us, nor did he Christ, the least farthing; so that the acknowledgments are peculiarly the Son’s: which destroys the whole current of Scripture testimony for his goodwill towards men. O the infamous portraiture this doctrine draws of the infinite goodness! Is this your retribution, O injurious satisfactionists?”
Answer: This is but a bold repetition of what, in other words, was mentioned before over and over. Wherein the love of God in this matter consisted, and what is the obligation on us unto thankfulness and obedience, has been before also declared; and we are not to be moved in fundamental truths by vain exclamations of weak and unstable men. It is said, — Ninthly, “That God’s justice is satisfied for sins past, present, and to come, whereby God and Christ have lost both their power of enjoining godliness and prerogative of punishing disobedience; for what is once paid, is not revocable, and if punishment should arrest any for their debts, it argues a breach on God or Christ’s part, or else that it has not been sufficiently solved, and the penalty complete sustained by another.”
Answer: The intention of this pretended consequence of our doctrine is that, upon a supposition of satisfaction made by Christ, there is no solid foundation remaining for the prescription of faith, repentance, and obedience, on the one hand; or of punishing them who refuse so to obey, believe, or repent, on the other. The reason of this inference insinuated seems to be this, — that sin being satisfied for, cannot be called again to an account. For the former part of the pretended consequence, — namely, that on this supposition there is no foundation left for the prescription of godliness, — I cannot discern any thing in the least looking towards the confirmation of it in the words of the objection laid down. But these things are quite otherwise; as is manifest unto them that read and obey the gospel. For, —
1. Christ’s satisfaction for sins acquits not the creature of that dependence on God, and duty which he owes to God, which (notwithstanding that) God may justly, and does prescribe unto him, suitable to his own nature, holiness, and will. The whole of our regard unto God does not lie in an acquitment from sin. It is, moreover, required of us, as a necessary and indispensable consequence of the relation wherein we stand unto him, that we live to him and obey him, whether sin be satisfied for or no. The manner and measure hereof are to be regulated by his prescriptions, which are suited to his own wisdom and our condition; and they are now referred to the heads mentioned, of faith, repentance, and new obedience.
2. The satisfaction made for sin being not made by the sinner himself, there must of necessity be a rule, order, and law-constitution, how the sinner may come to be interested in it, and made partaker of it. For the consequent of the freedom of one by the suffering of another is not natural or necessary, but must proceed and arise from a law-constitution, compact, and agreement. Now, the way constituted and appointed is that of faith, or believing, as explained in the Scripture. If men believe not, they are no less liable to the punishment due to their sins than if no satisfaction at all were made for sinners. And whereas it is added, “Forgetting that every one en must appear before the judgement-seat of Christ, to receive according to the things done in the body, yea, and every one must give an account of himself to God;” Closing all with this, “But many more are the gross absurdities and blasphemies that are the genuine fruits of this so confidently-believed doctrine of satisfaction:” I say it is, —
3. Certain that we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, to receive according to the things done in the body; and therefore, woe will be unto them at the great day who are not able to plead the atonement made for their sins by the blood of Christ, and an evidence of their interest therein by their faith and obedience, or the things done and wrought in them and by them whilst they were in the body here in this world. And this it would better become these persons to retake themselves unto the consideration of, than to exercise themselves unto an unparalleled confidence in reproaching those with absurdities and blasphemies who believe the Deity and satisfaction of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who died for us; which is the ground and bottom of all our expectation of a blessed life and immortality to come.
The removal of these objections against the truth, scattered of late up and down in the hands of all sorts of men, may suffice for our present purpose. If any amongst these men judge that they have an ability to manage the opposition against the truth as declared by us, with such pleas, arguments, and exceptions, as may pretend an interest in appearing reason, they shall, God assisting, be attended unto. With men given up to a spirit of railing or reviling, — though it be no small honor to be reproached by them who reject with scorn the eternal Deity of the Son of God, and the satisfactory atonement that he made for the sins of men, — no person of sobriety will contend. And I shall farther only desire the reader to take notice, that though these few sheets were written in a few hours, upon the desire and for the satisfaction of some private friends, and therefore contain merely an expression of present thoughts, without the least design or diversion of mind towards accuracy or ornament; yet the author is so far confident that the truth, and nothing else, is proposed and confirmed in them, that he fears not but that an opposition to what is here declared will be removed, and the truth reinforced in such a way and manner as may not be to its disadvantage.