by Thomas Goodwin
That in Christ alone there was sufficient ability to take away sin.—The weakness and insufficiency of any creature for this work demonstrated.—That it is for the greater honour of Christ to effect that, which none could do besides him.—The insufficiency of any creature proved by an enumeration of particulars.—That the blood of all sacrifices could not have such an efficacy.—That we were unable to satisfy God by anything which we could suffer, or do.—That all the saints are as unable to help us in this case.—That it is beyond the power of angels themselves.
These observations having been sent before to make way, we come now to the main point at the first propounded, viz., That in Christ, and in him alone, there is an all-sufficiency of abilities to take away sins; and that seeing God stood upon a full and perfect satisfaction, he alone was able to effect it. Which proposition we will branch out into two, and those both of them founded upon the text.
I. That it was not possible for any of the creatures to have made satisfaction, and to have taken sins away.
II. That in Christ's offering up himself as a sacrifice, there was an all-sufficiency to do it.
I. The creatures could not satisfy God, nor take away sin. The handling and proving of this tends so much the more to set forth and advance Christ's all-sufficiency. As therefore, in shewing his fitness, we made it appear that his office was fit for no creature, but only for himself, so now in declaring his abilities for this office, we will shew that none besides him was able to perform it. And for proof of this, we need go no further than the apparent drift and scope of this text, and of this epistle, which as it is to shew the perfection of Christ's oblation once offered, so it was withal to shew the weakness of all other offerings, even of those appointed by God himself under the old law; and to that end, comparing them all along with this sacrifice of his Son. In which comparison you may observe,
1. That a sufficient worth and value was the thing that God stood upon, (as hath been said). So Heb. 9:23: 'It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.' The apostle speaks of the worth and betterness of sacrifices, 'better sacrifices than these.' So he speaks of a sacrifice that should perfect them for whom it was offered: Heb. 10:14, 'For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.' And chap. 7:26, 27, he mentioneth abilities to save, as being required in him who was our high priest: Heb. 7:25–27, 'Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.' Ver. 26, 'For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;' ver. 27, 'Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.'
2. You may observe, all other sacrifices were laid aside as weak, and wanting of this worth and value. So the apostle saith, 'The law made men high priests who had infirmities:' Heb. 7:28, 'For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.' There was an infirmity and a weakness that accompanied all the sacrificers and sacrifices. And for this weakness of theirs, there was a 'disannulling of that commandment,' for the 'weakness and unprofitableness' of it, ver. 18. And Heb. 9:9, he tells us, 'They could not make him perfect who did the service,' and also that all those sacrifices, as they could not make the offerer himself that did the service perfect, much less could they make them perfect for whom they were offered: Heb. 9:9, 'Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience:' Heb. 10:1, 'For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices, which they offered year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect.' All which argues, that God would have such a satisfaction as should make men perfect, that is, should be fully able to satisfy his justice, and their consciences. And therefore also here in the text God is brought in, consulting about, or considering and weighing all other sacrifices; and when he had found them all too light, the text says, he laid them all aside, and pitched upon, and established this of Christ. And therefore you see this proffer of Christ, 'Lo, I come,' comes in after God's refusal of all others as ineffectual; 'then said I, Lo, I come:' Heb. 10:5–7 'Wherefore, when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:' ver. 6, 'In burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure:' ver. 7, 'Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do thy will, O God.' Thus Gal. 3:21, 'If there had been a law that could have given life, righteousness had been by the law.' The apostle speaks as if God would have taken that, or any other course, if it could have been sufficient. And Gal. 2:21, 'Do I frustrate the grace of God?' says he, 'If righteousness be by the law, then Christ died in vain.' What he says of the law may be said of all means else, if any other could be supposed. The same reason that is there given against the law (namely, that the grace in Christ's dying and justifying us, would be frustrated) holdeth as well, to exclude the supposed possibility of any other means to make us righteous. For by that reason it appears, that God's aim and end in Christ's dying was to advance the glory of his grace, which consists in having the monarchy and sole prerogative in saving sinners attributed unto it; the height of whose honour and eminency is this, that it alone reigns, and hath nor could have any competitor therein. And therefore if there could be supposed to be any other means, Christ's death would then lose something of its peculiar glory; which if it should, he would account himself to have died in vain; for the glory of his aim had been defaced and frustrated, and his end in his account as good as lost. As it is the excellency of God, that he is God alone, and there is none besides him, so of Christ, that he alone is our saviour, and that there is none besides him. But take this as still spoken in opposition to all creatures only; for otherwise that former supposition, that God could have pardoned us by a mere act of grace without Christ's satisfaction, doth not detract from this glory of Christ's death, which is not to take away from free grace, and to be accounted in comparison of it, the principal and only saviour. Christ is content that the free grace of his Father should share with him in it, and himself to be in this work God's servant. But this competition of Christ is with all other means by creatures; the excluding the possibility of which to perform our redemption, makes Christ sole heir to this kingdom and monarchy of grace, which is destructive of the dominion of sin, and so endears his death to us: 'He hath a priesthood that passeth not away,' Heb. 7:24, as the high priest did by reason of death. But he dies not; and his office is such, as if he should lay it down, there is not any creature in heaven or earth that could take it up. The fullest trial and manifestation of this is made in a case of less difficulty (which evidently reacheth this of satisfaction), in the fifth chapter of the Revelation, where, as a prologue to that ensuing prophecy (which begins chap. 6), there is a solemn proclamation made by a strong angel, who 'spake with a loud voice,' ver. 2 (as that which might come to the hearing of all creatures): and the matter of this proclamation was this challenge, 'Who is worthy to open the book' (namely of the Revelation, which was sealed in the hand of God, that sat upon the throne, ver. 1), 'and to loose the seals thereof? And there was none' (so it is in the original, that is, no reasonable creature; we read 'no man,' but that is too much limited), man or angel, 'in heaven, or in earth, or under the earth, that was able to open the book, or so much as to look thereon.' And John was at this discouraged, and 'wept much,' ver. 4, as thinking, here must be an end of all, and that he should have no further vision. But God did premise this on purpose to shew the difficulty of the work, and to spoil all creatures of the glory of it, and the more to set off and make illustrious the sole power and worth that was in Jesus Christ for this work; even as men in their fictions use to do, when they would greaten some one man, whose story they write. For after this nonplus and dejection, a stander-by comforts him, and bids him 'not weep: for lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath obtained to open the book,' &c. And presently a lamb comes, approacheth the throne, and takes the book out of his right hand, ver. 6, 7. And upon that all the chorus of twenty-four elders and four beasts (who are there the church representative of saints on earth), do fall down before the lamb, and set this crown of glory upon his head alone, with this new song and shout, 'Worthy art thou,' &c., and thou alone; unto which the angels give a respond of praise, ver. 11, 12, and heaven, and earth, and all creatures, echo to it, ver. 13. Now how much more might all this solemnity have been used about satisfaction to be made for sin? To approach the throne, and take the book, and open it, was far less than to have the heart to break through an army, and approach God in his fury and fulness of wrath for sin, and to sustain that wrath, and satisfy it by overcoming it. And this is more than intimated in that very chapter; for (ver. 9) the elders in their song do attribute this power of Christ to open the book, unto the merit of a far greater work done, even this of our redemption, and Christ's satisfaction for sin: 'Thou art worthy,' say they, 'to take the book, because thou wast killed, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.' And how far off then will all creatures be found to be, and how short of worth and power to redeem a sinner by their blood, who were all not worthy so much as to look on that book, much less to open it, not worthy to reveal this redemption, much less to effect it? Than which there cannot be a stronger proof for this my assertion. Thus much in general. Now secondly,
II. To demonstrate this by an induction and an enumeration of all particular means, which may be any way supposed able to help us.
1. First, Take the blood of bulls and goats, and add to them all the creatures which man is lord of, and which are his to give; yet this whole world of creatures would not be a sufficient sacrifice for sin. In Micah 6:7, there is one comes off with a good round price, 'Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with thousands of rivers of oil? or shall I give my first-born for my transgression?' And nature is apt to be thinking of such sacrifices. But if justice could have afforded it so cheap, God would not have turned away so fair a chapman; yet he there turns him away. One reason for which is there intimated, namely, that sin is the sin of the soul, but all these are but the appurtenances of, or at the highest, but fruits of the body: 'Shall I give the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?' The soul, which is lost and forfeited by sin, is (as Christ says) more worth than a whole world, Mat. 16:26. Yea, the life of the body is more worth in a man's own estimation than all that he possesseth; 'All that a man hath will he give for his life,' Job 2:4; but the 'redemption of the soul is' yet much more 'precious,' as the psalmist speaks, Ps. 49:8. And as a king's ransom is more than another man's, so is the redemption of the soul, which in worth exceeds all creatures, more than of all other creatures besides. And yet further, the sin of the soul cannot be recompensed by the loss and sacrifice of the soul itself; for by sin the glory of God suffers detriment, but by a soul's loss the good of a creature only is damaged. It is a rule current in cases of morality and justice, that the injury of a supreme order is not made good by things of an inferior rank unto it. What recompence will the forfeiture of a murderer's goods give to a man for his life, or for that of his friends? What satisfaction can money give for a dishonour cast upon a man's good name, which Solomon says is 'better than riches'? Prov. 22:1. So what is the fruit of a man's body (as it is in Micah 6:7) to the sin of his soul? Verily there is no proportion. Yea, it falls short in the estimation of a man's own conscience.
Unto this disproportion the apostle adds another, Heb. 9:23, that the blessings to be purchased and obtained by this satisfaction are heavenly; but all such sacrifices as these are but things earthly; and therefore better sacrifices than these are required. All such external sacrifices are but enough (if enough) to sanctify the 'pattern of heavenly things;' that is, the types of the law; and this too, but only as they were 'shadows of things to come.' Wherefore 'it was necessary that the heavenly things themselves' (the substance) 'should be purified with better sacrifices than these.' Now grace is heavenly, and pardon of sin must come from heaven, even out of God's bosom; and will God (think we) exchange heavenly commodities for earthly treasures?
Again, the apostle adds a third disproportion unto these, Heb. 9:14, all such sacrifices cannot reach to the conscience. We have consciences to be purged, and what are such outward things to purge a man's conscience? As plasters outwardly applied cannot reach to benefit the heart or lungs; so neither can these reach the conscience. They might sanctify the outward man (as he there speaks), to purge away a ceremonial outward uncleanness, but not the inward, Jer. 2:22, 'Though thou wash thee with nitre, thy iniquity is open before me,' says the Lord. All these could not satisfy a man's conscience, much less God's justice. Therefore those that were exercised in sacrifices, their consciences were unquiet, as both the Jews' and heathens' were.
2. As for ourselves, there was no hope that ever we should satisfy God by aught that either we can do or suffer.
(1.) Not by suffering anything. And for this, take the highest instance. If there were any hope to satisfy by sufferings, it would be by the sufferings of men in hell, because they are the utmost and the most extreme punishment that are threatened as the reward of sin, and whereby God recovers all that may be had out of the creature. A man would think that after millions of years expired, the torments which men there suffer should satisfy for sin; but they do not. Those eternal flames in which their souls are scorched do nothing purify or diminish the stain of one sin: they may indeed destroy the sinner, but they can never take away the sin; for therefore it is that they shall for ever suffer. He must for ever remain to be punished, because for ever he remains a sinner. And it is also a certain and sure rule, that nulla pœna nocentis est peccati deletiva; no punishment of a person nocent is deletive of sin. The sin can never be taken away or blotted out by it.
(2.) Nor by doing; for,
First; We are not able by all our works to satisfy our own consciences, which stall prick us in the midst of them; much less can we satisfy God, who is greater than our consciences. In Rom. 5:6, the apostle gives us all up for desperate and past recovery; 'When we were without strength,' says he, 'Christ died for us.' We had no strength left us wherewith to do anything; neither could all the strength that the law could put into us, by quickening and exciting our consciences to do good works, anything avail us. So, Rom. 8:3, the apostle tells us, that 'what the law could not do, for that it was weak through the flesh,' that Christ came to do. If anything had been done by us, it must have been by the help of the law in our consciences, directing, inciting, and carrying us on to obedience. But, saith he, our corruption still weakeneth the power of the law, that it cannot do any good upon us, in us, or by us. As when nature is spent, physic is said to do no good through the weakness of the patient, so nor the law through the weakness of the flesh. And therefore it follows, there being no help in ourselves, 'God sent his Son in the similitude of sinful flesh, and condemned sin in the flesh.' Neither,
Secondly; Are we thus weak only, but also ungodly; and so are all our works. There is not only a weakness in all that the flesh can do, but also a wickedness or enmity; so that 'they who are in the flesh can never please God;' as Rom. 8:8. Yea, it is impossible they should, for their works are all defiled; and though they were good, yet,
Thirdly; They could not bring our persons into favour. For sin, breaking the first covenant, by the tenor of which our works did keep our persons in favour; hence we have forfeited all honour to our persons for ever, and so unto all our works also, that look, as traitors when their persons are condemned, all their works are void in law, so are ours. So that if we could suppose ourselves to love God, yet dilectio illa nos quidem faceret dilectores, sed non dilectos; though thereby we might be called lovers of God, yet they could not make us beloved of him again.
Fourthly; As we have forfeited all favour to our persons for ever, so we have forfeited too the having any graces, or gifts of grace, whereby we might be supposed to come into favour. For sin hath put in a bar against us, this being the eternal demerit of it, that the former grace be never more bestowed upon any of that former interest; for it is wholly made void unto all ends and purposes. And therefore, ere ever new grace be bestowed, the guilt, and forfeiture, and desert of sin must be forgiven; and how can we ever come to obtain that for ourselves?
Fifthly; If that demerit be cut off by free pardon, and grace be anew bestowed, then that grace becomes a new favour, for which alone we can never be thankful enough by the power of all the grace we receive. We run into a new debt, which we can never requite or satisfy for, much less by that can we pay our former debts. Therefore,
Lastly; Grace received anew, though in and through Christ, it may indeed come to please God, as a token of our thankfulness (and so it doth), yet can it never so much as justify us. The graces of godly men made perfect in heaven shall (it may be) be as much and more than that of the angels. Now then, suppose it such in this life, yet all that grace would not justify us, because we once forfeited all of it, and the receiving of it now were a new mercy. The grace of them who are in heaven may indeed please God, but it cannot justify them, and therefore much less could it ever come to satisfy God for sin. And besides, debitum peccati est infinitum, the debt and guilt of sin is infinite, because against an infinite God. Graces would be but finite, because in us, and because ours, who are finite creatures, as our graces also are. So then, you see, ourselves could not make God any satisfaction.
3. If you go to all the saints, they are unable to help you; Mat. 25:1, 2, 8, 9, 'Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom:' ver. 2, 'And five of them were wise, and five were foolish:' ver. 8, 'And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out:' ver. 9, 'But the wise answered, saying, Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you; but go you rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.' The foolish virgins go to the wise, and say, 'Give us some of your oil,' that is, of your grace. They would have had some of the others' graces to help them, but the wise virgins answered, 'No, lest there be not enough for us and you; but go you rather and buy of them that sell.' The saints then (you see) have grace little enough for themselves; all the grace they in heaven have is little enough to save them, and all the grace they have is borrowed, and cannot justify themselves, much less therefore can it satisfy for another. The papists, who so much extol works, though they say, indeed, that good works do merit for the saints themselves, yet not that they can satisfy for another.
4. Go from them to the angels. If they were a grain lighter, they would be found too light, and their kingdom would depart from them, and themselves would be stripped of all their happiness. They need confirmation in their estates themselves; it is well that they keep their own standing, and their heels from being tripped up. All they can do in obedience to the law, they owe it; and how can one debt be paid with another? God says of them, Job 4:18, 'that he finds folly in them.' If God's curious eye inquire and search into them, they will be found defective of that holiness which he desires, though they be the works of his hands, and though they have such a holiness as is the perfection of their natures; and (so far as such creatures can be), they be perfectly righteous. But yet if they be compared to that holiness wherewith God is delighted, and that which the curious eye of his purity would require, he finds a folly in them. And therefore they need not only a mediation of union to confirm them in grace, but further, for this end, that God may be pleased with them and their works; he being so curious, that but for a mediator (whose holiness wholly satisfies his exact eye), he would be pleased with no works of his own hands whatever, but would rend, and tear, and throw all away, as not yet worthy enough of him, even as curious artists do their best draughts, as not satisfied with them. Yea, if the angels were but one grain wanting, scruple not to say, they would be cast down, yea, fall down, and become devils. And therefore how can all that they can do be able to help you, seeing they have little enough for themselves?
So you see, upon a survey of all particulars, that no creature could make satisfaction to God for sin.
Excerpt Of Christ the Mediator by Thomas Goodwin