THE TIME OF CHRISTíS HUMILIATION
HAVING shown how the work of redemption was carried on through the first period, from the fall of man to the incarnation of Christ, I come now to the second period, viz. the time of Christís humiliation, or the space from the incarnation of Christ to his resurrection. And this is the most remarkable article of time that ever was or ever will be. Though it was but between thirty and forty years, yet more was done in it than had been done from the beginning of the world to that time. We have observed, that all that had been done from the fall to the incarnation of Christ, was only preparatory for what was done now. And it may also be observed, that all that was done before the beginning of time, in the eternal counsels of God, and that eternal transaction there was between the persons of the Trinity, chiefly respected this period. We therefore now proceed to consider the second proposition, viz.
That during the time of Christís humiliation, from his incarnation to his resurrection, the purchase of redemption was made.
Though there were many things done in the affair of redemption from the fall of man to this time, though millions of sacrifices had been offered up, yet nothing was done to purchase redemption before Christís incarnation. No part of the purchase was made, no part of the price was offered until now. But as soon as Christ was incarnate, then the purchase began immediately without any delay. And the whole time of Christís humiliation, from the morning that Christ began to be incarnate, until the morning that he rose from the dead, was taken up in this purchase. And then the purchase was entirely and completely finished. As nothing was done before Christís incarnation, so nothing was done after his resurrection, to purchase redemption for men. Nor will there ever be anything more done to all eternity. But that very moment that the human nature of Christ ceased to remain under the power of death, the utmost farthing was paid of the price of the salvation of every one of the elect.
But for the more orderly and regular consideration of the great things done by our Redeemer to purchase redemption for us,
1. I would speak of Christís becoming incarnate to qualify himself for this purchase ó and,
2. I would speak of the purchase itself.
PERIOD II, PART I
OF CHRISTíS BECOMING INCARNATE TO QUALIFY HIMSELF FOR THE PURCHASE OF REDEMPTION
FIRST, I would consider Christís coming into the world, or his taking upon him our nature to put himself in a capacity to purchase redemption for us. ó Christ became incarnate, or which is the same thing, became man, to put himself in a capacity for working out our redemption. For though Christ, as God, was infinitely sufficient for the work, yet to his being in an immediate capacity for it, it was needful that he should not only be God, but man. If Christ had remained only in the divine nature, he would not have been in a capacity to have purchased our salvation, not from any imperfection of the divine nature, but by reason of its absolute and infinite perfection. For Christ, merely as God, was not capable either of that obedience or suffering that was needful. The divine nature is not capable of suffering, for it is infinitely above all suffering. Neither is it capable of obedience to that law that was given to man. It is as impossible that one who is only God, should obey the law that was given to man, as it is that he should suffer manís punishment.
And it was necessary not only that Christ should take upon him a created nature, but that he should take upon him our nature. It would not have sufficed for us for Christ to have become an angel, and to have obeyed and suffered in the angelic nature. But it was necessary that he should become a man, and that upon three accounts.
I. It was needful to answer the law, that that nature should obey the law, to which the law was given. Manís law could not be answered, but by being obeyed by man. God insisted upon it, that the law which he had given to man should be honored and submitted to, and fulfilled by the nature of man, otherwise the law could not be answered for men. The words that were spoken, Thou shalt not eat thereof, Thou shalt, or Thou shalt not do thus or thus, were spoken to the race of mankind, to the human nature, and therefore the human nature must fulfill them.
2. It was needful to answer the law that the nature that sinned should die. These words, ďThou shalt surely die,Ē respect the human nature. The same nature to which the command was given, was the nature to which the threatening was directed.
3. God saw meet, that the same world which was the stage of manís fall and ruin, should also be the stage of his redemption. We read often of his coming into the world to save sinners, and of Godís sending him into the world for this purpose. It was needful that he should come into this sinful, miserable, undone world, to restore and save it. In order to manís recovery, it was needful that he should come down to man, to the world that was manís proper habitation, and that he should tabernacle with us, John 1:14, ďThe Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.Ē
Concerning the incarnation of Christ, I would observe these following things.
I. The incarnation itself, in which especially two things are to be considered, viz.
1. His conception, which was in the womb of one of the race of mankind, whereby he became truly the Son of Man, as he was often called. He was one of the posterity of Adam, and a child of Abraham, and a son of David, according to Godís promise. But his conception was not in the way of ordinary generation, but by the power of the Holy Ghost. Christ was formed in the womb of the Virgin, of the substance of her body, by the power of the Spirit of God. So that he was the immediate son of the woman, but not the immediate son of any male whatsoever, and so was the seed of the woman, and the son of a virgin, one that had never known man.
2. His birth. ó Though the conception of Christ was supernatural, yet after he was conceived, and so the incarnation of Christ begun, his human nature was gradually perfected in the womb of the virgin, in a way of natural progress, and so his birth was in the way of nature. But his conception being supernatural, by the power of the Holy Ghost, he was both conceived and born without sin.
II. The second thing I would observe concerning the incarnation of Christ, is the fullness of the time in which it was accomplished. It was after things had been preparing for it from the very first fall of mankind, and when all things were ready. It came to pass at a time, which in infinite wisdom was the most fit and proper, Gal. 4:4, ďBut when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.Ē
It was now the most proper time on every account. Any time before the flood would not have been so fit a time. For then the mischief and ruin that the fall brought on mankind, was not so fully seen. The curse did not so fully come on the earth before the flood, as it did afterwards. For though the ground was cursed in a great measure before, yet it pleased God that the curse should once, before the restoration by Christ, be executed in an universal destruction, as it were, of the very form of the earth, that the dire effects of the fall might once in such a way be seen before the recovery by Christ. Though mankind were mortal before the flood, yet their lives were the greater part of a thousand years in length, a kind of immortality in comparison with what the life of man is now. It pleased God, that that curse, ďDust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return,Ē should have its full accomplishment, and be executed in its greatest degree on mankind, before the Redeemer came to purchase never ending life for man.
It would not have been so fit a time for Christ to come, after the flood, before Mosesí time. For until then mankind were not so universally apostatized from the true God. They were not fallen universally into heathenish darkness. And so the need of Christ, the light of the world, was not so evident. And the woeful consequence of the fall with respect to manís mortality, was not so fully manifest until then. For manís life was not so shortened as to be reduced to the present standard until about Mosesí time.
It was most fit that the time of the Messiahís coming should not be until many ages after Mosesí time, until all nations, but the children of Israel, had lain long in heathenish darkness, that the remediableness or their disease might by long experience be seen, and so the absolute necessity of the heavenly physician, before he came.
Another reason why Christ did not come soon after the flood probably was that the earth might be full of people, that Christ might have the more extensive kingdom, and that the effects of his light, and power, and grace, might be glorified, and that his victory over Satan might be attended with the more glory in the multitude of his conquests. It was also needful that the coming of Christ should be many ages after Moses, that the church might be prepared which was formed by Moses for his coming, by the Messiahís being long prefigured, and by his being many ways foretold, and by his being long expected. It was not proper that Christ should come before the Babylonian captivity, because Satanís kingdom was not then come to the height. The heathen world before that consisted of lesser kingdoms. But God saw meet that the Messiah should come in the time of one of the four great monarchies of the world. Nor was it proper that he should come in the time of the Babylonian monarchy. For it was Godís will, that several general monarchies should follow one another, and that the coming of the Messiah should be in the time of the last, which appeared above them all. The Persian monarchy, by overcoming the Babylonian, appeared above it. And so the Grecian, by overcoming the Persian, appeared above that, and for the same reason, the Roman above the Grecian. Now it was the will of God, that his Son should make his appearance in the world in the time of this greatest and strongest monarchy, which was Satanís visible kingdom in the world, that by overcoming this, he might visibly overcome Satanís kingdom in its greatest strength and glory, and so obtain the more complete triumph over Satan himself.
It was not proper that Christ should come before the Babylonian captivity. For, before that we have not histories of the state of the heathen world, to give us an idea of the need of a Savior. And besides, before that, learning did not much flourish, and so there had not been an opportunity to show the insufficiency of human learning and wisdom to reform and save mankind. Again, before that, the Jews were not dispersed over the world, as they were afterwards. And so things were not prepared in this respect for the coming of Christ. The necessity of abolishing the Jewish dispensation was not then so apparent as it was afterwards, by reason of the dispersion of the Jews. Neither was the way prepared for the propagation of the gospel, as it was afterwards, by the same dispersion. Many other things might be mentioned, by which it would appear, that no other time before that very time in which Christ did come, would have been proper for his appearing in the world to purchase the redemption of men.
III. The next thing that I would observe concerning the incarnation of Christ, is the greatness of this event. Christís incarnation was a greater and more wonderful thing than ever had come to pass. And there has been but one that has ever come to pass which was greater, and that was the death of Christ, which was afterwards. But Christís incarnation was a greater thing than had ever come to pass before. The creation of the world was a very great thing, but not so great a thing as the incarnation of Christ. It was a great thing for God to make the creature, but not so great as for God, as for the Creator himself, to become a creature. We have spoken of many great things that were accomplished from one age to another, in the ages between the fall of man and the incarnation of Christ. But Godís becoming man was a greater thing than they all. When Christ was born, the greatest person was born that ever was, or ever will be born.
IV. What I would next observe concerning the incarnation of Christ, are the remarkable circumstances of it, such as his being born of a poor virgin, that was a pious holy person, but poor, as appeared by her offering at her purification, Luke 2:24, ďAnd to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons.Ē Which refers to Lev. 5:7, ďAnd if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtle doves, or two young pigeons.Ē And this poor virgin was espoused to an husband who was a poor man. Though they were both of the royal family of David, the most honorable family, and Joseph was the rightful heir to the crown. Yet the family was reduced to a very low state, which is represented by the tabernacle of Davidís being fallen or broken down, Amos 9:11, ďIn that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old.Ē
He was born in the town of Bethlehem, as was foretold. And there was a very remarkable providence of God to bring about the fulfillment of this prophecy, the taxing of all the world by Augustus Caesar, as in Luke 2. He was born in a very low condition, even in a stable, and laid in a manger.
V. I would observe the concomitants of this great event, or the remarkable events with which it was attended. ó And,
I. The first thing I would take notice of that attended the incarnation of Christ, was the return of the Spirit, which indeed began a little before the incarnation of Christ; but yet was given on occasion of that, as it was to reveal either his birth, or the birth of his forerunner, John the Baptist. I have before observed how the spirit of prophecy ceased not long after the book of Malachi was written. From about the same time visions and immediate revelations ceased also. But now, on this occasion, they are granted anew, and the Spirit in these operations returns again. The first instance of its restoration that we have any account of is in the vision of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, which we read of in Luke 1. The next is in the vision which the Virgin Mary had, of which we read also in the same chapter. The third is in the vision which Joseph had, of which we read in Mat. 1:20-24. In the next place, the Spirit was given to Elizabeth, Luke 1:41. Next, it was given to Mary, as appears by her song, Luke 1:46, etc. Then to Zacharias again, Luke 1:64. Then it was sent to the shepherds, of which we have an account in Luke 2:9. Then it was given to Simeon, Luke 2:25. Then to Anna, verse 36. Then to the wise men in the east. Then to Joseph again, directing him to flee into Egypt, and after that directing his return.
2. The next concomitant of Christís incarnation that I would observe is, the great notice that was taken of it in heaven, and on earth. How it was noticed by the glorious inhabitants of the heavenly world, appears by their joyful songs on this occasion, heard by the shepherds in the night. This was the greatest event of Providence that ever the angels had beheld. We read of their singing praises when they saw the formation of this lower world, Job 38:7, ďWhen the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.Ē And as they sang praises then, so they do now, on this much greater occasion, of the birth of the Son of God, who is the Creator of the world.
The glorious angels had all along expected this event. They had taken great notice of the prophecies and promises of these things all along. For we are told, that the angels desire to look into the affairs of redemption, 1 Pet. 1:12. They had all along been the ministers of Christ in this affair of redemption, in all the several steps of it down from the very fall of man. So we read, that they were employed in Godís dealings with Abraham, and in his dealings with Jacob, and in his dealings with the Israelites from time to time. And doubtless they had long joyfully expected the coming of Christ. But now they see it accomplished, and therefore greatly rejoice, and sing praises on this occasion.
Notice was taken of it by some among the Jews, as particularly by Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary before the birth of Christ, not to say by John the Baptist before he was born, when he leaped in his motherís womb as it were for joy, at the voice of the salutation of Mary. But Elizabeth and Mary do most joyfully praise God together, when they meet with Christ and his forerunner in their wombs, and the Holy Spirit in their souls. And afterwards what joyful notice is taken of this event by the shepherds, and by those holy persons Zacharias, and Simeon, and Anna! How do they praise God on this occasion! Thus the church of God in heaven, and the church on earth, do as it were unite in their joy and praise on this occasion.
Notice was taken of it by the Gentiles, which appears in the wise men of the east. Great part of the universe does as it were take a joyful notice of the incarnation of Christ. Heaven takes notice of it, and the inhabitants sing for joy. This lower world, the world of mankind, does also take notice of it in both parts of it, Jews and Gentiles. It pleased God to put honor on his Son, by wonderfully stirring up some of the wisest of the Gentiles to come a long journey to see and worship the Son of God at his birth, being led by a miraculous star, signifying the birth of that glorious person, who is the bright and morning star, going before, and leading them to the very place where the young child was. Some think they were instructed by the prophecy of Balaam, who dwelt in the eastern parts, and foretold Christís coming as a star that should rise out of Jacob. Or they might be instructed by that general expectation there was of the Messiahís coming about that time, before spoken of, from the notice they had of it by the prophecies the Jews had of him in their dispersions in all parts of the world at that time.
3. The next concomitant of the birth of Christ was his circumcision. But this may more properly be spoken of under another head, and so I will not insist upon it now.
4. The next concomitant was his first coming into the second temple, which was his being brought thither when an infant, on occasion of the purification of the blessed virgin. We read, Hag. 2:7, ďThe desire of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house (or temple) with glory.Ē And in Mal. 3:1, ďThe Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant.Ē And now was the first instance of the fulfillment of these prophecies.
5. The last concomitant I shall mention is the scepterís departing from Judah in the death of Herod the Great. The scepter had never totally departed from Judah until now. Judahís scepter was greatly diminished in the revolt of the ten tribes in Jeroboamís time, and the scepter departed from Israel or Ephraim at the time of the captivity of the ten tribes by Shalmaneser. But yet the scepter remained in the tribe of Judah under the kings of the house of David. And when the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were carried captive by Nebuchadnezzar, the scepter of Judah ceased for a little while, until the return from the captivity under Cyrus. And then, though they were not an independent government, as they had been before, but owed fealty to the kings of Persia. Yet their governor was of themselves, who had the power of life and death, and they were governed by their own laws, and so Judah had a lawgiver from between his feet during the Persian and Grecian monarchies. Towards the latter part of the Grecian monarchy, the people were governed by kings of their own, of the race of the Maccabees, for the greater part of an hundred years, and after that they were subdued by the Romans. But yet the Romans suffered them to be governed by their own laws, and to have a king of their own, Herod the Great, who reigned about forty years, and governed with proper kingly authority ,only paying homage to the Romans. But presently after Christ was born he died, as we have an account, Mat. 2:19, and Archelaus succeeded him, but was soon put down by the Roman Emperor, and then the scepter departed from Judah. There were no more temporal kings of Judah after that, neither had that people their governors from the midst of themselves after that, but were ruled by a Roman governor sent among them. And they ceased anymore to have the power of life and death among themselves. Hence the Jews say to Pilate, ďIt is not lawful for us to put any man to death,Ē John 18:31. Thus the scepter departed from Judah when Shiloh came.
PERIOD II, PART II
OF THE PURCHASE ITSELF
HAVING thus considered Christís coming into the world, and his taking on him our nature, to put himself in a capacity for the purchase of redemption, I come now, secondly, to speak of the purchase itself. ó And in speaking of this, I would,
1. Show what is intended by the purchase of redemption.
2 Observe some things in general concerning those things by which this purchase was made.
3. I would orderly consider those things which Christ did and suffered, by which that purchase was made.
What is intended by Christís purchasing redemption.
I WOULD show what is here intended by Christís purchasing redemption. And there are two things that are intended by it, viz. his satisfaction, and his merit. All is done by the price that Christ lays down. But the price that Christ laid down does two things. It pays our debt, and so it satisfies. By its intrinsic value, and by the agreement between the Father and the Son, it procures a title for us to happiness, and so it merits. The satisfaction of Christ is to free us from misery, and the merit of Christ is to purchase happiness for us.
The word purchase, as it is used with respect to the purchase of Christ, is taken either more strictly or more largely. It is oftentimes used more strictly, to signify only the merit of Christ. And sometimes more largely, to signify both his satisfaction and merit. Indeed most of the words which are used in this affair have various significations. Thus sometimes divines use merit in this affair for the whole price that Christ offered, both satisfactory, and also positively meritorious. And so the word satisfaction is sometimes used, not only for his propitiation, but also for his meritorious obedience. For in some sense, not only suffering the penalty, but positively obeying, is needful to satisfy the law. The reason of this various use of these terms seems to be, that satisfaction and merit do not differ so much really as relatively. They both consist in paying a valuable price, a price of infinite value. But only that price, as it respects a debt to be paid, is called satisfaction. And as it respects a positive good to be obtained, is called merit. The difference between paying a debt, and making a positive purchase is more relative than it is essential. He who lays down a price to pay a debt, does in some sense make a purchase. He purchases liberty from the obligation. And he who lays down a price to purchase a good, does as it were make satisfaction. He satisfies the conditional demands of him to whom he pays it. This may suffice concerning what is meant by the purchase of Christ.
General Observations concerning those things by which this purchase was made.
I NOW proceed to some general observations concerning those things by which this purchase was made. ó And here,
I. I would observe, that whatever in Christ had the nature of satisfaction it was by virtue of the suffering or humiliation that was in it. But whatever had the nature of merit, it was by virtue of the obedience or righteousness there was in it. The satisfaction of Christ consists in his answering the demands of the law on man, which were consequent on the breach of the law. These were answered by suffering the penalty of the law. The merit of Christ consists in what he did to answer the demands of the law, which were prior to manís breach of the law, or to fulfill what the law demanded before man sinned, which was obedience.
The satisfaction or propitiation of Christ consists either in his suffering evil, or his being subject to abasement. For Christ did not only make satisfaction by proper suffering, but by whatever had the nature of humiliation, and abasement of circumstances. Thus Christ made satisfaction for sin, by continuing under the power of death, while he lay buried in the grave, though neither his body nor soul properly endured any suffering after he was dead. Whatever Christ was subject to that was the judicial fruit of sin, had the nature of satisfaction for sin. But not only proper suffering, but all abasement and depression of the state and circumstances of mankind below its primitive honor and dignity, such as his bodyís remaining under death, and body and soul remaining separate, and other things that might be mentioned, are the judicial fruits of sin. And all that Christ did in his state of humiliation, that had the nature of obedience or moral virtue or goodness in it, in one respect or another had the nature of merit in it, and was part of the price with which he purchased happiness for the elect.
2. I would observe, that both Christís satisfaction for sin, and also his meriting happiness by his righteousness, were carried on through the whole time of his humiliation. Christís satisfaction for sin was not only by his last sufferings, though it was principally by them. But all his sufferings, and all the humiliation that he was subject to from the first moment of his incarnation to his resurrection, were propitiatory or satisfactory. Christís satisfaction was chiefly by his death, because his sufferings and humiliation in that were greatest. But all his other sufferings, and all his other humiliation, all along had the nature of satisfaction. So had the mean circumstances in which he was born. His being born in such a low condition, was to make satisfaction for sin. His being born of a poor virgin, in a stable, and his being laid in a manger, his taking the human nature upon him in its low state, and under those infirmities brought upon it by the fall, his being born in the form of sinful flesh, had the nature of satisfaction. And so all his sufferings in his infancy and childhood, and all that labor, and contempt, and reproach, and temptation, and difficulty of any kind, or that he suffered through the whole course of his life, was of a propitiatory and satisfactory nature.
And so his purchase of happiness by his righteousness was also carried on through the whole time of his humiliation until his resurrection, not only in that obedience he performed through the course of his life, but also in the obedience he performed in laying down his life.
3. It was by the same things that Christ both satisfied Godís justice, and also purchased eternal happiness. This satisfaction and purchase of Christ were not only both carried on through the whole time of Christís humiliation, but they were both carried on by the same things. He did not make satisfaction by some things that he did, and then work out a righteousness by other different things. But in the same acts by which he wrought out righteousness, he also made satisfaction, but only taken in a different relation. One and the same act of Christ, considered with respect to the obedience there was in it, was part of his righteousness, and purchased heaven, but considered with respect to the self-denial, and difficulty, and humiliation, with which he performed it, had the nature of satisfaction for sin, and procured our pardon. Thus his going about doing good, preaching the gospel, and teaching his disciples, was a part of his righteousness, and purchase of heaven, as it was done in obedience to the Father. And the same was a part of his satisfaction, as he did it with great labor, trouble, and weariness, and under great temptations, exposing himself hereby to reproach and contempt. So his laying down his life had the nature of satisfaction to Godís offended justice, considered as his bearing our punishment in our stead: but considered as an act of obedience to God, who had given him this command, that he should lay down his life for sinners, it was a part of his righteousness, and purchase of heaven, and as much the principal part of his righteousness as it was the principal part of his satisfaction. And so to instance in his circumcision, what he suffered in that, had the nature of satisfaction. The blood that was shed in his circumcision was propitiatory blood. But as it was a conformity to the law of Moses, it was part of his meritorious righteousness. Though it was not properly the act of his human nature, he being an infant. Yet it being what the human nature was the subject of, and being the act of that person, it was accepted as an act of his obedience, as our Mediator.
And so even his being born in such a low condition, had the nature of satisfaction, by reason of the humiliation that was in it, and also of righteousness, as it was the act of his person in obedience to the Father, and what the human nature was the subject of, and what the will of the human nature did acquiesce in, though there was no act of the will of the human nature prior to it.
These things may suffice to have observed in the general concerning the purchase Christ made of redemption.