Christ's Suretyship: Part III

Robert Riccaltoun


And now that I have mentioned the fruits and consequences of this his undertaking, it will be necessary to take some view of these, as what will serve exceedingly to give us a right view of the internal frame and constitution of this gracious covenant, of which he is the mediator. And here, in the first place, it is apparent, that upon this undertaking of his, and performance of the condition of life, as it stood under the first covenant, eternal life, and all that belongs unto it, becomes his property; and, whatever Adam by his transgression had forfeited, comes to be his right and due. I know not how to express this better, than in the words of the accurate Dr. Owen. "God made man the lord of all things here below. He was, as it were, the heir of God, as unto the inheritance of this world in present, and, as unto a blessed state in eternal glory: But he lost all right and title hereunto, by sin. He made forfeiture of the whole, by the tenor whereby he held it; and God took the forfeiture: Wherefore, he designs a new heir of all, and vests the whole inheritance of heaven and earth in him, even in his Son. But as all other inheritances do descend with theirs, so did this unto him with its burden. There was a great debt upon it, the debt of sin, which he was to make payment of, before he could rightly enter upon the inheritance."(2)

More particularly, as this undertaking of our blessed Savior was not designed at random, or for the world in general, but in the room and stead of such as he designed to save; that he fulfilled the law, by this means he must needs have wrought out freedom and liberty for them, and accordingly must have them given unto him for his peculiar people. Neither let any be scared at this, as I see some have been, as though immediately upon the surety's performance, those whom he represented, must have a right unto his purchase, since this will not follow any further than this, that it is impossible any of those for whom Christ died, shall ever perish eternally, or miss of life in the event. They are indeed secured in the surety's hand; there the rights are actually lying, and in due time will be effectually forthcoming. But until they come to be actually related to Christ, and a foundation thus laid for communion and fellowship with him, however, what he has done may be designed for them, it cannot be pleaded by them.

As the elect themselves, so all that belongs unto their deliverance, whatever God means to bestow upon them, either in time or eternity, even as far as the fullness of the Godhead, is put into his hands, and made to dwell in him, as the great treasury and store-house, where all is laid up, and that for their use and behoof for whom they were purchased by him; that after this there is nothing wanting to their complete furniture, but to come to him and receive, whatsoever is necessary for removing guilt, whatsoever is necessary to the healing of their natures, and fitting them for communion and fellowship with God, is there to be had; the love, kindness, and favor of God, all the communications he can make of himself, and the gifts which he gives unto his creatures, are there to be enjoyed.

The law thus fulfilled by him, and its demands answered to the least jot and tittle, must, in like manner, be delivered up to him, and left at his disposal, as having now no more to claim at his hand, or any of these whom he represented in order unto a life-giving righteousness; and justice being fully satisfied upon this head, can no longer detain the instrument of its vengeance. And hence, though the elect, before their union with Christ, are indeed children of wrath even as others by nature, yet there is a vast difference between their state and others. For, though indeed they have not in their own persons life, or anything belonging unto it, nor any plea that way, yet they have all secured unto them in the hands of a faithful surety, as has been observed; and the law so bound up, that it shall never be able to bring them actually under eternal condemnation. It is the want of distinguishing between the right in the surety's hand, and actually communicated unto the person, that hath misled the Antinomians, and some others too of better note, into some very unwarrantable notions on the state and condition of a believer, both before and after conversion. What we have here observed, will, I hope, be owned by everybody. But what should have become of an elect person, had he died before actual union with Christ? the supposition being extravagant and impossible, one cannot say, without speaking absurdities and impossibilities, as it is whatsoever one answers, that one for whom Christ died, should be damned, or that one should be saved without an actual interest in Christ.

But besides all this, we find all power in heaven and earth committed unto him; and good reason it should be so, since it is, without all question, owing unto him, that the world was not ruined under sin, that any grain of mercy, of any kind, is bestowed upon the sinner; yea, that they are reprieved one moment from hell. And here it is that the foundation of Christ's kingdom, as mediator between God and man, is laid. And as one will easily see there, how different the grounds are of his sovereignty over the world in general, and these whom he had upon his heart in this his undertaking, so are their state and condition, and the measures of their government very different, as shall be seen in its own place.

One will easily see, if they consider it with any degree of attention, even from this faint draught of this great affair, how justly it was observed, that the covenant of grace was erected primarily and originally with Christ the mediator, as the elect's surety and representative, and in this respect the second Adam; and with them no otherwise than as represented by him or his seed. It is unto him all the promises are originally made, and to them in him; unto him also they are all fulfilled and made good: He has all things actually in his hand, and thus all the promises are yea and amen in him; nor are they any otherwise fulfilled unto any of the elect, than by participation with him. In one word, the covenant lies ready in him, complete and perfect in all points; when he is given, the covenant is also given; when he is received by faith, the covenant is also closed with: Nor is there anything further necessary to give one an interest therein, and all that's contained in it, than an interest in him; nor will anything do it, where this is wanting.

I cannot help observing here, and tis a delightful thing to observe, the harmony there is in the works and contrivances of infinite wisdom; how well this new erected covenant agrees with that old one; that though it carries in it a conveyance of life quite in another manner unto us, and displays unto us the riches of grace, in the most amiable light, yet is it so carried, that it seems rather a piece of the former, and the compliment and fulfillment of it, than any new institution: And thus naturally, and without any violence done any of the divine institutions, by reversing or repealing; but, on the contrary, exalting and glorifying them, is the dispensation of grace ushered in, and all along advanced and carried on.

I suppose I need not, after what has been said, observe, how justly the Westminster Divines conclude, in their Confession, "That for whomsoever salvation was purchased by Christ, to them also it was actually applied"! If the mediator actually represented a certain number of persons in his undertaking, if he became surety, and actually fulfilled the law in their room and stead, and therein paid that very debt which they owed; if he actually purchased them for his peculiar people, and all that belonged to their salvation; if he had all this not only promised, and actually put into his hand, for their benefit and behoof, and the law, which was their bond and obligation, delivered up to him; let what difficulties will press upon it, and I know there are not a few, tis impossible that the man, that believes this, can ever suffer himself to be persuaded, that any of these can miss of that salvation, which was thus purchased for them. Some have indeed contrived another notion of Christ's undertaking besides this, which looks like a redemption without making any peremptory purchase, and which they extend unto all men, which, when they come to explain, it implies little more than this, that his obedience and sufferings were sufficient to have been a price for, and to have made a purchase of the whole world, had it been so designed, and ordered so; which I believe is what scarce anybody will deny. But, if it is extended further, so as to belong to others than the elect, I believe it will be found encumbered with much greater difficulties. And, as it is none of our business to search into God's secrets, which he has seen fit to conceal from us: and as it is none of these objects our faith is concerned in, whether Christ died for us or not; but whether he and the covenant of grace, with all its blessings, be offered to us in the gospel? I cannot see any fruit one can propose, by running out into uncertainties, when we may so easily satisfy ourselves, that never a soul shall be lost merely for want of a Savior, without meddling with God's secrets, either in one side or other. And we might here proceed to the other view of this covenant, as held forth and offered to sinners in the gospel, and the application of this blessed purchase unto them thereby: Did not some of the faults here charged upon the
Marrow, redounding also upon its defenders, make some of the main occasions of our differences? And which, from what has been said, may, I think, without any great difficulty, be, at least, so far adjusted, as that they need not give anybody uneasiness about them.

To begin with the least first, as it is evident, and I believe perfectly agreed upon among us, that our Lord Jesus Christ in his gracious undertaking, entered upon that same covenant which Adam broke, and which the persons he represented lay bound under, and fulfilled, in their name, every jot and tittle of it; it seems no great matter which is here charged upon the Marrow, that, viz. the author should say, "The covenant of works was made a second time with Christ"; when he who was no ways bound by it, was pleased voluntarily to come under it, and his fulfillment of it, was made the condition, of his people their having life bestowed upon them; and which we find he conceives of thus;(3) as if God should have said concerning the elect, "I know these will break, and never be able to satisfy me; but thou art a mighty and substantial person, therefore I will look for my debt of thee, and what they owe me, I will require at thy hand": And in some such manner as this, I am satisfied everybody must conceive of it, who has any notion at all of his suretyship.

There is something indeed very harsh in these other words, which are, in a manner, a consequence of this, "That our Lord undertook under the same penalty which lay upon man to suffer";(4) especially unto such, as are not accustomed to think of Christ otherwise, than in an exalted state as Lord Redeemer. But if men will consider the thing as it really is, I believe all the horridness that is really in it, will be found owing to the impossibility of that supposition upon which it is spoken, that, viz. the Son of God should miscarry in his work; which, since we know is a case which can never happen; we ought not to trouble ourselves about the consequences of it any further than this, that whatsoever are the unavoidable consequences of the state and condition into which he put himself, ought to be improven, as they are the most illustrious evidences of his love. And as it is certain that our blessed Lord, in that his astonishing condescension cannot only hypothetically, or upon any particular supposition, under that penalty, which lay upon man, to have undergone, but really and actually, so as that the law, or covenant, said the very same things to him as
sponsor, which it should have said to the principal (though it neither does, nor can speak against him otherwise than as sponsor), I think the reverend Principal will not find it so very easy, to show clearly what there is in that expression so "horrid and injurious to the honor of the Son of God";(5) without charging his undertaking and suretyship itself with the same. On the contrary, as his humiliation and debasement, is the true ground of his mediatorial glory, the lower that is, the greater is his real honor; and this I am satisfied will be found a better rule of judging in this case, than humorous men's nice ears and sickly taste.

(2) Owen,
Christologia, p. 273.
Marrow of Modern Divinity, pp. 27-28.
Marrow of Modern Divinity, p. 27.
(5) Doctrine and Practice of the Church of Scotland anent the Sacrament of Baptism vindicated, p. 118.