By Jonathan Edwards
HAVING thus considered Christ’s 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. — 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 Christ’s purchasing redemption.
I WOULD show what is here intended by Christ’s 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. — 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 man’s 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 body’s 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 Christ’s satisfaction for sin, and also his meriting happiness by his righteousness, were carried on through the whole time of his humiliation. Christ’s 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. Christ’s 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 God’s justice, and also purchased eternal happiness. This satisfaction and purchase of Christ were not only both carried on through the whole time of Christ’s 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 God’s 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.
The obedience and sufferings by which Christ purchased redemption particularly considered.
I NOW proceed to speak more particularly of those things which Christ did, and was the subject of, during the time of his humiliation, whereby this purchase was made. — And the nature of the purchase of Christ, as it has been explained, leads us to consider these things under a two-fold view, viz.
1. With respect to his righteousness, which appeared in them.
2 With respect to the sufferings and humiliation that he was subject to in them in our stead.
§ I. I will consider the things that passed during the time of Christ’s humiliation, with respect to the obedience and righteousness that he exercised in them. And this is subject to a threefold distribution. I shall therefore consider his obedience,
1. With respect to the laws which he obeyed.
2. With respect to the different stages of his life in which he performed it.
3. With respect to the virtues he exercised in his obedience.
I. The first distribution of the acts of Christ’s righteousness is with respect to the laws which Christ obeyed in that righteousness which he performed. But here it must be observed in general, that all the precepts which Christ obeyed may be reduced to one law, and that is that which the apostle calls the law of works, Rom. 3:27. Every command that Christ obeyed may be reduced to that great and everlasting law of God that is contained in the covenant of works, that eternal rule of right which God had established between himself and mankind. Christ came into the world to fulfill and answer the covenant of works, that is, the covenant that is to stand forever as a rule of judgment. And that is the covenant that we had broken, and that was the covenant that must be fulfilled.
This law of works indeed includes all the laws of God which ever have been given to mankind. For it is a general rule of the law of works, and indeed of the law of nature, that God is to be obeyed, and that he must be submitted to in whatever positive precept he is pleased to give us. It is a rule of the law of works, that men should obey their earthly parents. And it is certainly as much a rule of the same law, that we should obey our heavenly Father. And so the law of works requires obedience to all positive commands of God. It required Adam’s obedience to that positive command, not to eat of the forbidden fruit. And it required obedience of the Jews to all the positive commands of their institution When God commanded Jonah to arise and go to Nineveh, the law of works required him to obey. And so it required Christ’s obedience to all the positive commands which God gave him.
But, more particularly, the commands of God which Christ obeyed, were of three kinds. They were either such as he was subject to merely as man, or such as he was subject to as he was a Jew, or such as he was subject to purely as Mediator.
1. He obeyed those commands which he was subject to merely as man. And they were the commands of the moral law, which was the same with that which was given at Mount Sinai, written in two tables of stone, which are obligatory on mankind of all nations and all ages of the world.
2. He obeyed all those laws he was subject to as he was a Jew. Thus he was subject to the ceremonial law, and was conformed to it. He was conformed to it in his being circumcised the eighth day. And he strictly obeyed it in going up to Jerusalem to the temple three times a year. At least after he was come to the age of twelve years, which seems to have been the age when the males began to go up to the temple. And so Christ constantly attended the service of the temple, and of the synagogues.
To this head of his obedience to the law that he was subject to as a Jew, may be reduced his submission to John’s baptism. For it was a special command to the Jews, to go forth to John the Baptist, and be baptized of him. And therefore Christ being a Jew, was subject to this command. And therefore, when he came to be baptized of John, and John objected, that he had more need to come to him to be baptized of him, he gives this reason for it, that it was needful that he should do it, that he might fulfill all righteousness. See Mat. 3:13, 14, 15.
3. Another law that Christ was subject to was the mediatorial law, which contained those commands of God to which he was subject, not merely as man, nor yet as a Jew, but which related purely to his mediatorial office. Such were the commands which the Father gave him, to teach such doctrines, to preach the gospel, to work such miracles, to call such disciples, to appoint such ordinances, and finally to lay down his life. For he did all these things in obedience to commands he had received of the Father, as he often tells us. And these commands he was not subject to merely as man, for they did not belong to other men. Nor yet was he subject to them as a Jew. For they were no part of the Mosaic law; but they were commands that he had received of the Father, that purely respected the work he was to do in the world in his mediatorial office.
And it is to be observed, that Christ’s righteousness, by which he merited heaven for himself, and all who believe in him, consists principally in his obedience to this mediatorial law. For in fulfilling this law consisted his chief work and business in the world. The history of the evangelists is chiefly taken up in giving an account of his obedience to this law. And this part of his obedience was that which was attended with the greatest difficulty of all. And therefore his obedience in it was most meritorious. What Christ had to do in the world by virtue of his being Mediator, was infinitely more difficult than what he had to do merely as a man, or as a Jew. To his obedience to this mediatorial law belongs his going through his last sufferings, beginning with his agony in the garden, and ending with his resurrection.
As the obedience of the first Adam, wherein his righteousness would have consisted, if he had stood, would have mainly consisted, not in his obedience to the moral law, to which he was subject merely as man, but in his obedience to that special law that he was subject to as moral head and surety of mankind, even the command of abstaining from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. So the obedience of the second Adam, wherein his righteousness consists, lies mainly, not in his obedience to the law that he was subject to merely as man, but to that special law which he was subject to in his office as Mediator and surety for man.
Before I proceed to the next distribution of Christ’s righteousness, I would observe three things concerning Christ’s obedience to these laws.
(1.) He performed that obedience to them which was in every respect perfect. It was universal as to the kinds of laws that he was subject to. He obeyed each of these three laws. And it was universal with respect to every individual precept contained in these laws, and it was perfect as to each command. It was perfect as to positive transgressions avoided. For he never transgressed in one instance. He was guilty of no sin of commission. And it was perfect with respect to the work commanded. He perfected the whole work that each command required, and never was guilty of any sin of omission. And it was perfect with respect to the principle from which he obeyed. His heart was perfect. His principles were wholly right. There was no corruption in his heart. And it was perfect with respect to the ends he acted for. For he never had any by ends, but aimed perfectly at such ends as the law of God required. And it was perfect with respect to the manner of performance. Every circumstance of each act was perfectly conformed to the command. And it was perfect with respect to the degree of the performance. He acted wholly up to the rule. And it was perfect with respect to the constancy of obedience. He did not only perfectly obey sometimes, but constantly without any interruption. And it was perfect with respect to perseverance. He held out in perfect obedience to the very end, through all the changes he passed through, and all the trials that were before him.
The meritoriousness of Christ’s obedience, depends on the perfection of it. If it had failed in any instance of perfection, it could not have been meritorious. For imperfect obedience is not accepted as any obedience at all in the sight of the law of works, which was that law that Christ was subject to. For that is not accepted as an obedience to a law that does not answer that law.
(2.) The next thing I would observe of Christ’s obedience is, that it was performed through the greatest trials and temptations that ever any obedience was. His obedience was attended with the greatest difficulties, and most extreme abasement and sufferings that ever any obedience was, which was another thing that rendered it more meritorious and thank worthy. To obey another when his commands are easy, is not so worthy, as it is to obey when it cannot be done without great difficulty.
(3.) He performed this obedience with infinite respect to God, and the honor of his law. The obedience he performed was with infinitely greater love to God, and regard to his authority, than the angels perform their obedience with. The angels perform their obedience with that love which is perfect, with sinless perfection. But Christ did not do so, but he performed his obedience with much greater love than the angels do theirs, even infinite love. For though the human nature of Christ was not capable of love absolutely infinite, yet Christ’s obedience that was performed in that human nature, is not to be looked upon as merely the obedience of the human nature, but the obedience of his person, as God-man. And there was infinite love of the person of Christ manifest in that obedience. And this, together with the infinite dignity of the person that obeyed, rendered his obedience infinitely meritorious.
II. The second distribution of the acts of Christ’s obedience, is with respect to the different parts of his life, wherein they were performed. And in this respect they may be divided into those which were performed in private life, and those which were performed in his public ministry.
First. Those acts he performed during his private life. He was perfectly obedient in his childhood. He infinitely differed from other children, who as soon as they begin to act, begin to sin and rebel. He was subject to his earthly parents, though he was Lord of all, Luke 2:51. He was found about his Father’s business at twelve years of age in the temple, Luke 2:42. He then began that work that he had to do in fulfillment of the mediatorial law, which the Father had given him. He continued his private life for about thirty years, dwelling at Nazareth in the house of his reputed father Joseph, where he served God in a private capacity, and in following a mechanical trade, the business of a carpenter.
Second. Those acts which he performed during his public ministry, which began when he was about thirty years of age, and continued for the three last years and an half of his life. Most of the history of the evangelists is taken up in giving an account of what passed during these three years and an half. So is all the history of the Evangelist Matthew, excepting the first two chapters. So is the whole of the history of the Evangelist Mark. It begins and ends with it. And so also is all the gospel of John, and all the gospel of Luke, excepting the two first chapters, excepting also what we find in the evangelists concerning the ministry of John the Baptist. Christ’s first appearing in his public is what is often called his coming in Scripture. Thus John speaks of Christ’s coming as what is yet to be, though he had been born long before.
Concerning the public ministry of Christ, I would observe the following things. 1. The forerunner of it. 2. The manner of his first entering upon it. 3. The works in which he was employed during the course of it, and, 4. The manner of his finishing it.
1. The forerunner of Christ’s coming in his public ministry was John the Baptist. He came preaching repentance for the remission of sins, to make way for Christ’s coming, agreeable to the prophecies of him, Isa. 40:3, 4, 5, and Mat. 4:5, 6. It is supposed that John the Baptist began his ministry about three years and an half before Christ, so that John’s ministry and Christ’s put together, made seven years, which was the last of Daniel’s weeks. And this time is intended in Dan. 9:27, “He will confirm the covenant with many for one week.” Christ came in the midst of this week, viz. in the beginning of the last half of it, or the last three years and an half, as Daniel foretold, as in the verse just now quoted, “and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.”
John Baptist’s ministry consisted principally in preaching the law, to awaken men and convince them of sin, to prepare men for the coming of Christ, to comfort them, as the law is to prepare the heart for the entertainment of the gospel.
A very remarkable outpouring of the Spirit of God attended John’s ministry. And the effect of it was that Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, were awakened, convinced, went out to him, and submitted to his baptism, confessing their sins. John is spoken of as the greatest of all the prophets who came before Christ, Mat. 11:11, “Among those that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist,” i.e. he had the most honorable office. He was as the morning star, which is the harbinger of the approaching day, and forerunner of the rising sun. The other prophets were stars that were to give light in the night. But we have heard how those stars went out on the approach of the gospel day. But now the coming of Christ being very nigh, the morning star comes before him, the brightest of all the stars, as John the Baptist was the greatest of all the prophets.
And when Christ came in his public ministry, the light of that morning star decreased too. As we see, when the sun rises, it diminishes the light of the morning star. So John the Baptist says of himself, John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” And soon after Christ began his public ministry, John the Baptist was put to death. As the morning star is visible a little while after the sun is risen, yet soon goes out.
2. The next thing to be taken notice of is Christ’s entrance on his public ministry, which was by baptism, followed with the temptation in the wilderness. His baptism was as it were his solemn inauguration, by which he entered on his ministry, and was attended with his being anointed with the Holy Ghost, in a solemn and visible manner, the Holy Ghost descending upon him in a visible shape like a dove, attended with a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” Mat. 3:16, 17.
After this he was led by the devil into the wilderness. Satan made a violent onset upon him at his first entrance on his work. And now he had a remarkable trial of his obedience, but he got the victory. He who had such success with the first Adam, had none with the second.
3. I would take notice of the work in which Christ was employed during his ministry. And here are three things chiefly to be taken notice of, viz. his preaching, his working miracles, and his calling and appointing disciples and ministers of his kingdom.
(1.) His preaching the gospel. Great part of the work of his public ministry consisted in this. And much of that obedience by which he purchased salvation for us, was in his speaking those things which the Father commanded him. He more clearly and abundantly revealed the mind and will of God, than ever it had been revealed before. He came from the bosom of the Father, and perfectly knew his mind, and was in the best capacity to reveal it. As the sun, as soon as it is risen, begins to shine. So Christ, as soon as he came into his public ministry, began to enlighten the world with his doctrine. As the law was given at Mount Sinai, so Christ delivered his evangelical doctrine, full of blessings, and not curses, to a multitude on a mountain, as we have an account in Matthew, chap. 5, 6 and 7.
When he preached, he did not teach as the scribes, but he taught as one having authority, so that his hearers were astonished at his doctrine. He did not reveal the mind and will of God in the style which the prophets used to preach, as not speaking their own words, but the words of another, and used to speak in such a style as this, “Thus saith the Lord,” but Christ, in such a style as this, “I say unto you,” thus or thus, “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” He delivered his doctrines, not only as the doctrines of God the Father, but as his own doctrines. He gave forth his commands, not as the prophets were wont to do, as God’s commands, but as his own commands. He spoke in such a style as this, “This is my commandment,” John 15:12. “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you,” John 15:14.
(2.) Another thing that Christ was employed in during the course of his ministry, was working miracles. Concerning which we may observe several things.
Their multitude. Besides particular instances, we often have an account of multitudes coming at once with diseases, and his healing them.
They were works of mercy. In them were displayed not only his infinite power and greatness, but his infinite mercy and goodness. He went about doing good, healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and the proper use of their limbs to the lame and halt, feeding the hungry, cleansing the leprous, and raising the dead.
They were almost all of them such as had been spoken of as the peculiar works of God, in the Old Testament. So with respect to stilling the sea, Psa. 107:29, “He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.” So as to walking on the sea in a storm, Job 9:8, “Which alone treadeth upon the waves of the sea.” So as to casting out devils, Psa. 74:14, “Thou breakest the heads of leviathan in pieces.” So as to feeding a multitude in a wilderness, Deu. 8:16, “Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna.” So as to telling man’s thoughts, Amos 4:13, “Lo, he that declareth unto man what is his thought — the Lord, the God of hosts is his name.” So as to raising the dead, Psa. 68:20, “Unto God the Lord belong the issues from death.” So as to opening the eyes of the blind, Psa. 146:8, “The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind.” So as to healing the sick, Psa. 103:3, “Who healeth all thy diseases.” So as to lifting up those who are bowed together, Psa. 146:8, “The Lord raiseth them that are bowed down.”
They were in general such works as were images of the great work which he came to work on man’s heart, representing that inward, spiritual cleansing, healing, renovation, and resurrection, which all his redeemed are the subjects of.
He wrought them in such a manner as to show, that he did them by his own power, and not by the power of another, as the other prophets did. They were wont to work all their miracles in the name of the Lord, but Christ wrought in his own name. Moses was forbidden to enter into Canaan, because he seemed by his speech to assume the honor of working only one miracle to himself. Nor did Christ work miracles as the apostles did, who wrought them all in the name of Christ, but he wrought them in his own name, and by his own authority and will. Thus, saith he, “I will, be thou clean,” Mat. 8:3. And in the same strain he put the question, “Believe ye that I am able to do this?” Mat. 9:28.
(3.) Another thing that Christ did in the course of his ministry, was to call his disciples. He called many disciples. There were many that he employed as ministers. He sent seventy disciples at one time in this work:
But there were twelve that he set apart as apostles, who were the grand ministers of his kingdom, and as it were the twelve foundations of his church. See Rev. 21:14. These were the main instruments of setting up his kingdom in the world, and therefore shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
4. I would observe how he finished his ministry. — And this was,
(1.) In giving his dying counsels to his disciples, and all that should be his disciples, which we have recorded particularly in John’s gospel (John 14, 15, 16).
(2.) In instituting a solemn memorial of his death. This he did in instituting the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, wherein we have a representation of his body broken, and of his blood shed.
(3.) In offering up himself, as God’s high priest, a sacrifice to God, which he did in his last sufferings. This act he did as God’s minister, as God’s anointed priest. And it was the greatest act of his public ministry, the greatest act of his obedience, by which he purchased heaven for believers. The priests of old used to do many other things as God’s ministers. But then were they in the highest execution of their office when they were actually offering sacrifice on the altar. So the greatest thing that Christ did in the execution of his priestly office, and the greatest thing that he ever did, and the greatest thing that ever was done, was the offering up himself a sacrifice to God. Herein he was the anti-type of all that had been done by all the priests, and in all their sacrifices and offerings, from the beginning of the world.
III. The third distribution of the acts by which Christ purchased redemption, regards the virtues that Christ exercised and manifested in them. And here I would observe that Christ, in doing the work that he had to do here in the world for our redemption, exercised every possible virtue and grace. Indeed there are some particular virtues that sinful man may have, that were not in Christ, not from any want or defect of virtue, but because his virtue was perfect and without defect. Such is the virtue of repentance, and brokenness of heart for sin, and mortification, and denying of lust. Those virtues were not in Christ, because he had no sin of his own to repent of, nor any lust to deny. But all virtues which do not presuppose sin, were in him, and that in a higher degree than ever they were in any other man, or any mere creature. Every virtue in him was perfect. Virtue itself was greater in him than in any other. And it was under greater advantages to shine in him than in any other. Strict virtue shines most when most tried. But never any virtue had such trials as Christ’s had.
The virtue that Christ exercised in the work he did, may be divided into three sorts, viz. the virtues which more immediately respect God, those which immediately respect himself, and those which immediately respect men.
1. Those virtues which more immediately respect God, appeared in Christ in the work that he did for our redemption. There appeared in him an holy fear and reverence towards God the Father. Christ had a greater trial of his virtue in this respect than any other had, from the honorableness of his person. This was the temptation of the angels that fell, to cast off their worship of God, and reverence of his majesty, that they were beings of such exalted dignity and worthiness themselves. But Christ was infinitely more worthy and honorable than they. For he was the eternal Son of God, and his person was equal to the person of God the Father. And yet, as he had taken on him the office of Mediator, and the nature of man, he was full of reverence towards God. He had ordered him in the most reverential manner time after time. So he manifested a wonderful love towards God. The angels give great testimonies of their love towards God, in their constancy and agility in doing the will of God. And many saints have given great testimonies of their love, who from love to God, have endured great labors and sufferings. But none ever gave such testimonies of love to God as Christ has given. None ever performed such a labor of love as he, and suffered so much from love to God. So he manifested the most wonderful submission to the will of God. Never was anyone’s submission so tried as his was. So he manifested the most wonderful spirit of obedience that ever was manifested.
2. In this work he most wonderfully manifested those virtues which more immediately respected himself, as particularly humility, patience, and contempt of the world. Christ, though he was the most excellent and honorable of all men, yet was the most humble. Yea, he was the most humble of all creatures. No angel or man ever equaled him in humility, though he was the highest of all creatures in dignity and honorableness. Christ would have been under the greatest temptations to pride, if it had been possible for anything to be a temptation to him. The temptation of the angels that fell was the dignity of their nature, and the honorableness of their circumstances. But Christ was infinitely more honorable than they. The human nature of Christ was so honored as to be in the same person with the eternal Son of God, who was equal with God. And yet that human nature was not at afflicted up with pride. Nor was the man Christ Jesus at all lifted up with pride with all those wonderful works which he wrought, of healing the sick, curing the blind, lame, and maimed, and raising the dead. And though he knew that God had appointed him to be the king over heaven and earth, angels and men, as he says, Mat. 11:27, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father.” Though he knew he was such an infinitely honorable person, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, and though he knew he was the heir of God the Father’s kingdom, yet such was his humility, that he did not disdain to be abased and depressed down into lower and viler circumstances and sufferings than ever any other elect creature was, so that he became least of all, and lowest of all. The proper trial and evidence of humility, is stooping or complying with those acts or circumstances, when called to it, which are very low, and contain great abasement. But none ever stooped so low as Christ, if we consider either the infinite height that he stooped from, or the great depth to which he stooped. Such was his humility, that though he knew his infinite worthiness of honor, and of being honored ten thousand times as much as the highest prince on earth, or angel in heaven. Yet he did not think it too much when called to it, to be bound as a cursed malefactor, and to become the laughingstock and spitting-stock of the vilest of men, and to be crowned with thorns, and to have a mock robe put upon him, and to be crucified like a slave and malefactor, and as one of the meanest and worst of vagabonds and miscreants, and an accursed enemy of God and men, who was not fit to live on the earth. And this not for himself, but for some of the meanest and vilest of creatures, some of those accursed wretches that crucified him. Was not this a wonderful manifestation of humility, when he cheerfully and most freely submitted to this abasement?
And, how did his patience shine forth under all the terrible sufferings which he endured, when he was dumb, and opened not his mouth, but went as a lamb to the slaughter, and was like a patient lamb under all the sufferings he endured from first to last!
And, what contempt of the glory of this world was there, when he rather chose this contempt, and meanness, and suffering, than to wear a temporal crown, and be invested with the external glories of an earthly prince, as the multitude often solicited him!
3. Christ, in the work which he wrought out, in a wonderful manner exercised those virtues which more immediately respect other men. And these may be summed up under two heads, viz. meekness, and love.
Christ’s meekness was his humble calmness of spirit under the provocations that he met with. None ever met with so great provocations as he did. The greatness of provocation lies in two things, viz. in the degree of opposition by which the provocation is given. And secondly, in the degree of the unreasonableness of that opposition, or in its being very causeless, and without reason, and the great degree of obligation to the contrary. Now, if we consider both these things, no man ever met with such provocations as Christ did, when he was upon earth. If we consider how much he was hated, what abuses he suffered from the vilest of men, how great his sufferings from men were, and how spiteful and how contemptuous they were, in offering him these abuses. And also consider how causeless and unreasonable these abuses were, how undeserving he was of them, and how much deserving of the contrary, viz. of love, and honor, and good treatment at their hands. I say, if we consider these things, no man ever met with a thousandth part of the provocation that Christ met with from men. And yet how meek was he under all! How composed and quiet his spirit! How far from being in a ruffle and tumult! When he was reviled, he reviled not again. And as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. No appearance was there of a revengeful spirit. On the contrary, what a spirit of forgiveness did he exhibit! So that he fervently and effectually prayed for their forgiveness, when they were in the highest act of provocation that ever they perpetrated, viz. nailing him to the cross, Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
And never did there appear such an instance of love to men. Christ’s love to men that he showed when on earth, and especially in going through his last sufferings, and offering up his life and soul under those sufferings, which was his greatest act of love, was far beyond all parallel. There have been very remarkable manifestations of love in some of the saints, as in the Apostle Paul, the Apostle John, and others. But the love to men that Christ showed when on earth, as much exceeded the love of all other men, as the ocean exceeds a small stream.
And it is to be observed, that all the virtues which appeared in Christ shone brightest in the close of his life, under the trials he met with then. Eminent virtue always shows brightest in the fire. Pure gold shows its purity chiefly in the furnace. It was chiefly under those trials which Christ underwent in the close of his life, that his love to God, his honor of God’s majesty, and his regard to the honor of his law, and his spirit of obedience, and his humility, and contempt of the world, and his patience, and his meekness, and his spirit of forgiveness towards men, appeared. Indeed everything that Christ did to work out redemption for us appears mainly in the close of his life. Here mainly is his satisfaction for sin, and here chiefly is his merit of eternal life for sinners, and here chiefly appears the brightness of his example, which he hath set us to follow.
Thus we have taken a brief view of the things whereby the purchase of redemption was made with respect to his righteousness that appeared in theme. — I proceed now,
IN surveying the history of redemption, from the fall of man to the end of the world, we have now shown how this work was carried on through the two former of the three main periods into which this whole space of time was divided, viz. from the fall to the incarnation or Christ, and from thence to the end of the time of Christ’s humiliation, and have particularly explained how in the first of these periods God prepared the way for Christ’s appearing and purchasing redemption; and how, in the second period, that purchase was made and finished. I would now make some improvement of what has been said on both these subjects considered conjunctly. — And this I would do,
1. In a use of reproof.
2. In a use of encouragement.
Reproof of unbelief, self-righteousness, and careless neglect of salvation.
I BEGIN with a use of reproof, a reproof of three things:
1. Of unbelief.
2. Of self-righteousness.
3. Of a careless neglect of the salvation of Christ.
I. If it be as we have heard, how greatly do these things reprove those who do not believe in, but reject the Lord Jesus Christ! (i.e. all those who do not heartily receive him). Persons may receive him in profession, and carry well outwardly towards him, and may wish that they had some of those benefits that Christ has purchased, and yet their hearts not receive Christ. They may be hearty in nothing that they do towards Christ. They may have no high esteem of Christ, nor any sincere honor or respect to Christ. They may never have opened the door of their heart to Christ, but have kept him shut out all their days, ever since they first heard of Christ, and his salvation has been offered to them. Though their hearts have been opened to others, their doors have been flung wide open to them, and they have had free admittance at all times, and have been embraced and made much of. And the best room in their hearts has been given them. And the throne of their hearts has been allowed them. Yet Christ has always been shut out, and they have been deaf to all his knocks and calls. They never could find an inclination of heart to receive him, nor would they ever trust in him.
Let me now call upon you with whom it is thus, to consider how great your sin, in thus rejecting Jesus Christ, appears to be from those things that have been said. You slight the glorious person, for whose coming God made such great preparation in such a series of wonderful provisions from the beginning of the world, and whom, after all things were made ready, God sent into the world bringing to pass a thing before unknown, viz. the union of the divine nature with the human in one person. You have been guilty of slighting that great Savior, who, after such preparation, actually accomplished the purchase of redemption, and who, after he had spent three or four and thirty years in poverty, labor, and contempt, in purchasing redemption, at last finished the purchase by closing his life under such extreme sufferings as you have heard, and so by his death, and continuing for a time under the power of death, completed the whole. This is the person you reject and despise. You make light of all the glory of his person, and of all the glorious love of God the Father, in sending him into the world, and all his wonderful love appearing in the whole of this affair. That precious stone that God has laid in Zion for a foundation in such a manner, and by such wonderful works as you have heard, is a stone set at naught by you.
Sinners sometimes are ready to wonder why the sin of unbelief should be looked upon as such a great sin. But if you consider what you have heard, how can you wonder? If it be so, that this Savior is so great a Savior, and this work so great a work, and such great things have been done in order to it, truly there is no cause of wonder that the sin of unbelief, or the rejection of this Savior, is spoken of in Scripture as such a dreadful sin, so provoking to God, and what brings greater guilt than the sins of the worst of the heathen, who never heard of those things, nor have had this Savior offered to them.
II. What has been said, affords matter of reproof to those who, instead of believing in Christ, trust in themselves for salvation. It is a common thing with men to take it upon themselves to purchase salvation for themselves, and so to do that great work which Christ came into the world to do. Are there none such here who trust in their prayers, and their good conversations, and the pains they take in religion, and the reformation of their lives, and in their self-denial, to recommend them to God, to make some atonement for their past sins, and to draw the heart of God to them?
Consider three things:
1. How great a thing that is which you take upon you. You take upon you to do the work of the great Savior of the world. You trust in your own doings to appease God for your sins, and to incline the heart of God to you. Though you are poor, worthless, vile, polluted worms of the dust, yet so arrogant are you, that you take upon you that very work, that the only begotten Son of God did when upon earth, and that he became man to capacitate himself for, and in order to which God spent four thousand years in all the great dispensations of his providence in the government of the world, aiming chiefly at this, to make way for Christ’s coming to do this work. This is the work that you take upon yourself, and foolishly think yourself sufficient for it, as though your prayers, and other performances were excellent enough for this purpose. Consider how vain is the thought which you entertain of yourself. How must such arrogance appear in the sight of Christ, whom it cost so much to make a purchase of salvation, when it was not to be obtained even by him, so great and glorious a person, at a cheaper rate than his wading through a sea of blood, and passing through the midst of the furnace of God’s wrath! And how vain must your arrogance appear in the sight of God, when he sees you imagining yourself sufficient, and your worthless, polluted performances excellent enough for the accomplishing of that work of his own Son, to prepare the way for which he was employed in ordering all the great affairs of the world for so many ages!
2. If there be ground for you to trust, as you do, in your own righteousness, then all that Christ did to purchase salvation when on earth, and all that God did from the first fall of man to that time to prepare the way for it, is in vain. Your self-righteousness charges God with the greatest folly, as though he has done all things in vain, even so much in vain, that he has done all this to bring about an accomplishment of that which you alone, a little worm, with your poor polluted prayers, and the little pains you take in religion, mingled with all that hypocrisy and filthiness, are sufficient to accomplish for yourself without Christ’s help. For if you can appease God’s anger, and can commend yourself to God by these means, then you have no need of Christ, but he is dead in vain, Gal. 2:21, “If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
If you can do this by your prayers and good works, Christ might have spared his pains. He might have spared his blood. He might have kept within the bosom of his Father, without coming down into this evil world to be despised, reproached, and persecuted to death. And God needed not have busied himself, as he did for four thousand years together, causing so many changes in the state of the world all that while, in order to the bringing about that which you, little as you are, can accomplish in a few days, only with the trouble of a few sighs, and groans, and prayers, and some other religious performances. Consider with yourself what greater folly could you have devised to charge upon God than this, to do all those things before and after Christ came into the world so needlessly, when, instead of all this, he might have called you forth, and committed the business to you, which you think you can do so easily.
Alas! How blind are natural men! How weak are the thoughts they have of things! And especially how vain are the thoughts which they have of themselves! How ignorant of their own littleness and pollution! How do they exalt themselves up to heaven! What great things do they assume to themselves!
3. You that trust to your own righteousness, arrogate to yourselves the honor of the greatest thing that ever God himself did, not only as if you were sufficient to perform divine works, and to accomplish some of the great works of God. But such is your pride and vanity, that you are not content without taking upon you to do the very greatest work that ever God himself wrought, even the work of redemption. You see by what has been said, how God has subordinated all his other works to this work of redemption. You see how God’s works of providence are greater than his works of creation, and that all God’s works of providence, from the beginning of the generations of men, were in order to this, to make way for the purchasing of redemption. But this is what you take upon yourself. To take on yourself to work out redemption, is a greater thing than if you had taken it upon you to create a world. Consider with yourself what a figure you a poor worm would make, if you should seriously go about to create such a world as God did, should swell in your own conceit of yourself, should deck yourself with majesty, pretend to speak the word of power, and call a universe out of nothing, intending to go on in order, and say, “Let there be light. Let there be a firmament,” etc. But then consider, that in attempting to work out redemption yourself, you attempt a greater thing than this, and are serious in it, and will not be beat off from it, but strive in it, and are full of the thought of yourself that you are sufficient for it, and always big with hopes of accomplishing it.
You take upon you to do the very greatest and most difficult part of this work, viz. to purchase redemption. Christ can accomplish other parts of this work without cost, without any trouble and difficulty. But this part cost him his life, as well as innumerable pains and labors, with very great ignominy and contempt besides. Yet this is that part which self-righteous persons go about to accomplish for themselves. If all the angels in heaven had been sufficient for this work, would God have set himself to effect such things as he did in order to it, before he sent his Son into the world? And, would he ever have sent his own Son, the great Creator and God of the angels, into the world, to have done and suffered such things?
What self-righteous persons take to themselves, is the same work that Christ was engaged in when he was in his agony and bloody sweat, and when he died on the cross, which was the greatest thing that ever the eyes of angels beheld. This, great as it is, they imagine they can do the same that Christ accomplished by it. Their self-righteousness does in effect charge Christ’s offering up himself in these sufferings, as the greatest instance of folly that ever men or angels saw, instead of being the most glorious display of the divine wisdom and grace that ever was seen. Yea, self-righteousness makes all that Christ did through the whole course of his life, and all that he said and suffered through that whole time, and his incarnation itself, and not only so, but all that God had been doing in the great dispensations of his providence from the beginning of the world to that time, as all nothing, but a scene of the most wild, and extreme, and transcendent folly.
Is it any wonder, then, that a self righteous spirit is so represented in Scripture, and spoken of, as that which is most fatal to the souls of men? And, is it any wonder, that Christ is represented in Scripture as being so provoked with the Pharisees and others, who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and were proud of their goodness, and thought that their own performances were a valuable price of God’s favor and love?
Let persons hence be warned against a self-righteous spirit. You that are seeking your salvation, and taking pains in religion, take heed to yourselves that you do not trust in what you do, that you do not harbor any such thoughts, that God now, seeing how much you are reformed, how you take pains in religion, and how you are sometimes affected, will be pacified towards you with respect to your sins, and on account of it will not be so angry for your former sins; and that you shall gain on him by such things, and draw his heart to show you mercy. Or at least that God ought to accept of what you do, so as to be inclined by it in some measure to forgive you, and have mercy on you. If you entertain this thought, that God is obliged to do it, and does not act justly if he refuse to regard your prayers and pains, and so quarrel with God, and complain of him for not doing, this shows what your opinion is of your own righteousness, viz. that it is a valuable price of salvation, and ought to be accepted of God as such. Such complaining of God, and quarreling with him, for not taking more notice of your righteousness, plainly shows that you are guilty of all that arrogance that has been spoken of, thinking yourself sufficient to offer the price of your own salvation.
III. What has been said on this subject, affords matter of reproof to those who carelessly neglect the salvation of Christ, such as live a senseless kind of life, neglecting the business of religion and their own souls for the present, not taking any course to get an interest in Christ, or what he has done and suffered, or any part in that glorious salvation he has purchased by that price, but rather have their minds taken up about the gains of the world, or about the vanities and pleasures of youth, and so make light of what they hear from time to time of Christ’s salvation, that they do not at present so much as seek after it. Let me here apply myself to you in some expostulatory interrogations.
1. Shall so many prophets, and kings, and righteous men, have their minds so much taken up with the prospect, that the purchase of salvation was to be wrought out in ages long after their death. And will you neglect it when actually accomplished? You have heard what great account the church in all ages made of the future redemption of Christ. How joyfully they expected it. How they spoke of it. How they studied and searched into these things. How they sung joyful songs, and had their hearts greatly engaged about it, and yet never expected to see it done, and did not expect that it would be accomplished until many ages after their death, 1 Pet. 1:10, 11, 12. How much did Isaiah and Daniel, and other prophets, speak concerning this redemption! And how much were their hearts engaged, and their attention and study fixed upon it! How was David’s mind taken up in this subject! He declared that it was all his salvation, and all his desire, 2 Sam. 23:5. How did he employ his voice and harp in celebrating it, and the glorious display of divine grace therein exhibited! And all this although they beheld it not as yet accomplished, but saw that it was to be brought to pass so long a time after their day. — And before this, how did Abraham and the other patriarchs rejoice in the prospect of Christ’s day, and the redemption which he was to purchase! And even the saints before the flood were affected and elated in the expectation of this glorious event, though it was then so long future, and it was so very faintly and obscurely revealed to them.
Now these things are declared to you as actually fulfilled. The church now has seen accomplished all those great things which they so joyfully prophesied of, and you are abundantly shown, how those things were accomplished, Mat. 13:17, “Verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen, and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” And yet, when these things are thus abundantly set before you as already accomplished, how do you slight them! How light do you make of them! How little are they taken notice of by you! How unconcerned are you about them, following other things, and not so much as feeling any interest in them! Indeed your sin is extremely aggravated in the sight of God. God has put you under great advantages for your eternal salvation, far greater than those saints of old enjoyed. He has put you under a more glorious dispensation, has given you a more clear revelation of Christ and his salvation. And yet you neglect all these advantages, and go on in a careless course of life, as though nothing had been done, no such proposals and offers had been made you.
2. Have the angels been so engaged about this salvation which is by Christ, ever since the fall of man, though they are not immediately concerned in it, and will you who need it, and have it offered to you, be so careless about it! You have heard how the angels at first were subjected to Christ as mediator, and how they have all along been ministering spirits to him in this affair. In all the great dispensations which you have heard of from the beginning of the world, they have been active and as a flame of fire in this affair, being most diligently employed as ministering spirits to minister to Christ in this great affair of man’s redemption. And when Christ came, how engaged were their minds! They came to Zacharias, to inform him of the coming of Christ’s forerunner. They came to the Virgin Mary, to inform her of the approaching birth of Christ. They came to Joseph, to warn him of the danger which threatened the newborn Savior, and to point out to him the means of safety. And how were their minds engaged at the time of the birth of Christ! The whole multitude of the heavenly host sang praises upon the occasion, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will towards men.” And afterwards, from time to time, they ministered to Christ when on earth. They did so at the time of his temptation, at the time of his agony in the garden, at his resurrection, and at his ascension. All these things show, that they were greatly engaged in this affair. And the Scripture informs us, that they pry into these things, 1 Pet. 1:12, “Which things the angels desire to look into.” And how are they represented in the Revelation as being employed in heaven in singing praises to him that sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! Now, shall these take so much notice of this redemption, and of the purchaser, who need it not for themselves, and have no immediate concern or interest in it, or offer of it. And will you, to whom it is offered, and who are in such extreme necessity of it, neglect and take no notice of it?
3. Was it worth the while for Christ to labor so hard, and do and suffer so much to procure this salvation, and was it not worth the while for you to be at some labor in seeking it? Was it a thing of so great importance, that salvation should be procured for sinners, as that it was worthy to lie with such weight on the mind of Christ, as to induce him to become man, and to suffer such contempt and labor, and even death itself, in order to procure it, though he stood in need of nothing, though he was like to gain no addition to his eternal happiness, though he could get nothing by those that he saved, though he did not need them? Was it of such importance that sinners should be saved, that he might properly be induced to submit to such humiliation and suffering? And yet is it not worth the while for you, who are one of those miserable sinners that need this salvation, and must perish eternally without it, to take earnest pains to obtain an interest in it after it is procured, and all things are ready?
4. Shall the great God be so concerned about this salvation, as so often to overturn the world to make way for it? And when all is done, is it not worth your seeking after? How has the Lord of heaven and earth been as it were engaged about this affair! What great, what wonderful things has he done from one age to another, removing kings, and setting up kings, raising up a great number of prophets, separating a distinct nation from the rest of the world, overturning one nation and kingdom, and another, and often overturning the state of the world, and so has continued bringing about one change and revolution after another for forty centuries in succession, to make way for the procuring of this salvation! And when he has done all, and when, at the close of these ages, the great Savior comes, and, becoming incarnate, and passing through a long series of reproach and suffering, and then suffering all the waves and billows of God’s wrath for men’s sins, in so much that they overwhelmed his soul, after all these things done to procure salvation for sinners, is it not worthy of your taking so much notice of, or being so much concerned about, though you are those persons who need this salvation, but that it should be thrown by, and made nothing of, in comparison of worldly gain, or gay clothing, or youthful diversions, or other such trifling things?
O! That you who live negligent of this salvation, would consider what you do! What you have heard from this subject, may show you what reason there is in that exclamation of the apostle, Heb. 2:3, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? “and in that, Acts 13:41, “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work which you shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.” God looks on such as you as great enemies of the cross of Christ, and adversaries and despisers of all the glory of this great work. And if God has made such account of the glory of salvation as to destroy many nations, and so often overturn all nations, to prepare the way for the glory of his Son in this affair, how little account will he make of the lives and souls of ten thousand such opposers and despisers as you that continue impenitent, in comparison of that glory, when he shall hereafter come and find that your welfare stands in the way of that glory? Why surely you shall be dashed to pieces as a potter’s vessel, and trodden down as the mire of the streets. God may, through wonderful patience, hear with hardened careless sinners for a while, but he will not long hear with such despisers of his dear Son, and his great salvation, the glory of which he has had so much at heart, but will utterly consume them without remedy or mercy.
Encouragement to burdened souls to trust in Christ for salvation.
I WILL conclude with a second use, of encouragement to burdened souls to put their trust in Christ for salvation. To all such as are not careless and negligent, but do make seeking an interest in Christ their main business, being sensible in some measure of their necessity of an interest in Christ, being afraid of the wrath to come, to such what has been said on this subject holds forth great matter of encouragement, to come and venture their souls on the Lord Jesus Christ. And as motives proper to excite you so to do, let me lead you to consider two things in particular.
1. The completeness of the purchase which has been made. As you have heard, this work of purchasing salvation was wholly finished during the time of Christ’s humiliation. When Christ rose from the dead, and was exalted from that abasement to which he submitted for our salvation, the purchase of eternal life was completely made, so that there was no need of anything more to be done in order to it. But now the servants were sent forth with the message which we have account of in Mat. 22:4, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.” Therefore all things being ready, are your sins many and great? Here is enough done by Christ to procure their pardon. There is no need of any righteousness of yours to obtain your pardon and justification. No, you may come freely, without money and without price. Since therefore there is such a free and gracious invitation given you. Come. Come naked as you are. Come as a poor condemned criminal. Come and cast yourself down at Christ’s feet, as one justly condemned, and utterly helpless in yourself. Here is a complete salvation wrought out by Christ, and through him offered to you. Come, therefore, accept of it, and be saved.
2. For Christ to reject one that thus comes to him, would be to frustrate all those great things which you have heard that God brought to pass from the fall of man to the incarnation of Christ. It would also frustrate all that Christ did and suffered while on earth. Yea, it would frustrate the incarnation of Christ itself, and all the great things done in preparation for his incarnation. For all these things were for that end, that those might be saved who should come to Christ. Therefore you may be sure Christ will not be backward in saving those who come to him, and trust in him. For he has no desire to frustrate himself in his own work. It cost him too dear for that. Neither will God the Father refuse you. For he has no desire to frustrate himself in all that he did for so many hundreds and thousands of years, to prepare the way for the salvation of sinners by Christ. Come, therefore, hearken to the sweet and earnest calls of Christ to your soul. Do as he invites, and as he commands you, Mat. 11:28, 29, 30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”