by Thomas Goodwin
For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin. Wherefore, when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and burnt-offerings thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: in burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast no pleasure: then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of thy book it is written of me) to do thy will, O God.—HEB. 10:4–7.
THE apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 5 18th, 19th, and 20th verses, does summarily tell us what is the argument (as I may so speak) of that great mystery of the gospel.
The theme it dilates upon is reconciliation; 'To wit,' says he, 'that God was in Christ reconciling the world.'
And therefore the title he gives the doctrine of it is this, 'The ministry of reconciliation.' And so the foot of the angels' song, Luke 2:14, was reconciliation, which consists of two parts, 'peace and good will.'
The full scope of the words you may conceive as cast into this frame; and withal, what is the sum of all I have to deliver to you about it.
1. The world, the whole world of mankind, being created in an estate of amity and friendship with God, as the word καταλλάγητε, reconcile, implies. To make friends again, argues former friendship.
2. And then, this whole lump of men being treacherously fallen off from God into a deep rebellion against him, and become of the devil's seed and faction,—
3. God, who is infinite in love and rich in mercy, bearing everlasting and secret good will to some of these rebels in all ages, hath always maintained certain lieger ambassadors in the world (as ver. 20 implies), to treat with this rebellions rout, and conclude a peace betwixt them and him.
4. And that his agents and dealers for him, whom in his business he hath and doth employ, might be fully enabled to conclude it, he hath furnished them (as all other ambassadors use to be) with a large and gracious commission, the title of which is, the 'ministry of reconciliation,' ver. 18; 'Hath given to us,' &c., which includes in it two things.
First, The delivery of a gracious message, as from himself, intimating and manifesting his royal mind and inclination, how it stands towards them. For when two are at variance, there can never be any hope of peace or agreement, unless the party injured shews an inclineableness at least to listen to it.
Now, the effect of that message in brief is,
First, That whereas they might conceive him most justly to be averse to the very motion of it, that yet he for his part is not only contented and inclined to listen to an agreement, but is, and hath been, ever so fully willing to, and desirous of it, that as he hath been a-reconciling the world; even from everlasting God was reconciling, &c., hath made (as it were) his chief business, that he hath plotted and been desirous to bring about. And though all things else are of him, as ver. 18 tells us, yet this mainly above all the rest, totus in illo, wholly set upon it.
And, secondly, whereas presently it might be thought that he being so just and so jealous a God, sensible of the least injury, so tender of his glory, and jealous of the least wrong to it, as that he would require and propound to have full satisfaction first, as the condition of their agreement; which that they, or any other creature, either were able or willing to perform, was out of all hope.
Therefore, secondly, I say, he bids us declare, for that also men need not trouble themselves, for he himself hath been so jealous in this business, as that he hath took order for it beforehand. He hath been 'in Christ, reconciling the world;' that is, in him and by him (as a mediator and umpire, and surety between him and you), this great matter hath been taken up and accorded. He and Jesus Christ, his only Son, have from all eternity laid their heads together (as we may speak with reverence) to end the quarrel. Christ should undertake to satisfy his Father for all the wrong was done him. 'He was made sin,' that is, a surety and a satisfaction for it, 'who knew no sin,' ver. 21, 'That they,' &c. And God the Father upon it is so fully satisfied, as he is ready not to impute their sins to them, but to impute all Christ's righteousness to them, and to receive them into favour more fully than ever. 'God was in Christ reconciling the world, not imputing their sins,' &c.
The second part of our commission is, that he hath given us full power and authority to deal with men about it, and to transact and perfect this agreement, with charge to tell this message to all and every man in the world. And upon this ground, that reconciliation is to be obtained from God for them, to entreat them to be reconciled. And when men accordingly seek it, as thus revealed to them, though by us, it is as if God had done it, ver. 20, 'As though God,' and, 'I in Christ's stead,' says the apostle.
And this, my brethren, is to preach the gospel unto men; which is the best news that ever ear heard, or tongue was employed to utter; which took up God's thoughts from eternity, and lay hid in his breast, which none but he and his Son knew. Which, if it were but for the antiquity of the story of it, it is worth the relating, it being the greatest plot and state affair that ever was transacted in heaven or earth, or ever will be.
Having by way of preface to the great business of reconciliation, said thus much, I now proceed to the words of my text, 'For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin,' &c.
These words are a record of the greatest and deepest mystery of state, and the secret passages thereof, that ever yet was transacted either in heaven or earth: no less than the consultation and conference, yea, the very words that passed between God the Father and the Son, spoken at the council-table, at which no one was present besides, but the great secretary of state, the blessed Spirit, who revealed this.
And this, when they sat upon the greatest business of state, the treaty of peace between God and men; and this, just at the time when God was despatching his Son to come down into the world, and had prepared him a body ready for him to transact it in.
'Then when he cometh into the world, he saith,' &c. Which speech of his hath yet further reference unto, and quotes a record far more ancient, even the first general council kept in heaven, and the records of it, 'In the volume of thy book,' &c.
The book is, liber decretalium, the book of God's decrees; yea, and a record that was written in the first page of that book. 'In the volume of the book,' indefinitely says the psalmist. But the Holy Ghost, who had read over and written every leaf of it, quoting it here, says, ἐν κεφαλίδι τοῦ βιβλίου, in capite, in the beginning of it, which varies not the sense, but interprets it. And if you hope to find it (as some have gone about to do) in the first words of Genesis—In principio creavit Deus—you are deceived; it is the book of God's decrees; there Christ remembers it written, that he was appointed to do God's will.
More plainly, the words contain much of the first part of the story of the gospel (the 'riches of the glory' of which I have elsewhere discoursed of in general). For as there are three persons, as I have formerly shewed, who have a joint hand in that work of salvation, the subject of the gospel, so the whole story of the gospel hath three parts also, in every of which some one of them bears an especial part.
The first part God the Father had the chiefest hand in, who drew the platform of this great work, contrived it, made the motion first to his Son, as you shall see anon.
The second, God the Son, when he came down and took flesh, and, clothing himself in the habit of a servant, transacted the redemption of the world according to that draft.
As after him, when he was off the stage, came the Spirit, to apply what he had done, and all the benefits of it, whose work makes up the third part.
Now this first part, which is most hidden, being invisibly done in heaven before the world was, the discovery of which gives light to the other two, which, of all stories that ever were recorded, is the ancientest.
This is the subject of my discourse, and partly of this text; I shall discover so much of it as the words carry me unto, and divide and open the text in handling of it.
And first, to begin with the business itself, which is the subject of this story, which was the aim and end of all. The 4th verse tells us it was the taking away of sins. This I mention first, because it is the hinge the text and my discourse turns on.
And to accomplish this, what needed so much ado? Nothing had been more easy for God than to take away sins, by taking away the sinners, both at a stroke, and so to cause sin to cease, as Ezekiel speaks, Ezek. 23:48. Nay, was it not a hard thing for him to keep his hands off them? And therefore it is attributed to the greatness of his power, that he is able to contain himself, Num. 14:17. And it had been nothing out of his way to have taken sin and sinners thus away, he is able enough to bear the loss of souls. 'What is it to thee if the nations perish?' Wisd. 12. He weakens not himself, as kings do when they cut off an army of rebels, and so are forced to forgive the most, because their glory consists in the multitude of their subjects. No; he could create enough anew.
But this is not my meaning, but so to take away sins, as the sinner might stand still, to stand and be justified in his sight. There are some, even among sinners, whom he bears a secret good-will to, and hath done from everlasting, of whom he says with himself, as Jer. 8:4, 'Shall they fall, and not arise? shall he turn away, and not return?' Some his mind lingers after, as that place expresseth it. Their sins have separated between him and them, and he would fain separate their sins as far from them, that so he might draw nigh to them and communicate himself. And because sin is a burden they can neither stand under nor throw off themselves—'A wounded spirit who can bear?'—they can never give thanks enough for his benefits received, much less to satisfy for sins, therefore he resolves to have them taken off, ἀφαίρειν, as the word seems to signify, and not to take away sins only; that is but one-half of the project, the 4th verse mentioneth no more, because the 'blood of bulls and goats' could not do so much; yet the will of God mentioned in the 7th verse, had a further aim, not only to take away sins that he might not hate us, but to give us such a righteousness again, for which he might have more cause to love us than ever, and loving, to delight in us. His will meant not peace to us only, or pardon, but 'good-will towards men,' as well as 'peace on earth;' his will is to have us adopted, accepted graciously, as well as pardoned.
Secondly; The text resolves us whence the first motion of this business came, and from whom, who set it first afoot; and it is behoveful for those whom it concerns to know this. He who makes the first motion in a matter of favour expects the most thanks. 'It was thy will, O God:' Christ speaks unto a person distinct from himself. This is not the first time that the name of God and Lord is taken personally, and not essentially, especially when the persons are speaking one to another: Mat. 22:44, 'The Lord said unto my Lord;' neither was this here the Holy Ghost, for the Spirit works from the Son, he sends him, John 15:26. 'And he takes of his,' &c., chap. 16:15; and that it was the Father, it is said, Col. 1:19, 'It pleased the Father by him to reconcile;' and indeed he hath the honour and prerogative to be the only first propounder of all businesses that pass in the great regent-house of heaven: 2 Cor. 5:18, 'All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself:' no graces pass without him, especially this of reconciliation. The Son does nothing without him: John 5:19, 'The Son does nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do;' as the Spirit doth nothing without the Son, John 16:15. As they have all the same common essence, so they all concur in the same works. And look, what order there is in their manner of subsisting, the same is in their order of working. The Father subsists first, and the Son from him, and therefore all things are from him, and particularly the taking away of sin; for he is the first and chief person offended, and therefore reconciliation is made to him in his name for all the rest. 'It pleased the Father to reconcile to himself;' Christ 'goes but about his Father's business,' Luke 2:48, 1 John 2:1, 'We have an advocate with the Father.'
Thirdly; Christ tells us what it was in his Father that set him first a-work. It was his will; 'to do thy will,' which I therefore take notice of. For this act of will expresseth more particularly that act, which in working is most proper and peculiar to the Father, and eminently attributed to him.
I. For as in man three things have a stroke in every business he goes about: will, which is the first mover and spring to all the rest; wisdom, by which he plots and orders all the wheels; and power, by which he turns them, which answers to the manner of the three persons working works ad extra (for of those we speak), in these three. Will is more uusally given to the Father, as Mat. 11:26, Eph. 1:3, 11, compared. The Father it is, that works all according to the counsel of his will. So wisdom is more eminently attributed to the Son, who is the Wisdom of the Father, Prov. 8; power to the Holy Ghost, as Luke 1:35, he is called the power of the Most High.
II. As also, to inquire no further, in many of the strange courses he hath in this business of all else, if he doth not give a reason, then rest in this: it was his will, though he wrought all in it according to the counsel of his own will, Eph. 1:11. Yet 'who has been his counsellor?' Rom. 11:34. And yet because one of the main attributes that shine in the work of redemption is his wisdom, and is therefore called 'the wisdom of the Father,' 1 Cor. 1:24, it is not spoken of him there essentially, but manifestative, therefore God hath revealed many of his reasons, and lets us at least see the conveniencies and harmonies of this plot.
III. It is said to be his will; to distinguish this greatest work of all his works ad extra, to wit, the incarnation of his Son, as wherein the chiefest good did communicate himself to his creatures by the nighest union to the utmost; yet to distinguish it from his works ad extra, and shew that it was not necessary (as Anselm and others have thought), being deceived with this reason, Summum bonum sua communicare oportet. It became him indeed to do so, but it was not necessary; and it became him not as any part of his intrinsecal perfections to communicate himself, for then he had always done it; but as having infinite perfections in him, it became him to perfect others by them. It is a work, you see, of his will, not of his nature. To beget his Son as God was an act of his nature, therefore could not be otherwise; but to prepare a body for him, and that he should be born the Son of man, was an act of his will; 'Lo, when he comes into the world, he says,' &c.; as 'he begets us of his own will,' James 1.
Will you know how much his will was in it, how strongly set? Know, for further explication's sake, that the taking away of sins by the incarnation of Christ was one of his greatest resolutions, and the strongest that ever he took up, not simply a velleity or inclineableness, so as he could be content it were done; but it was that upon which his will was more set than ever upon any thing he was deeply and intimately affected unto; so as his thoughts are said to run most upon it, and to be taken up with it.
And his delights also, the chiefest of them, were in it; which continued it from everlasting. All purposes vanish, if not fed with delight; but this purpose became matter of greatest delight. Gladder (as it were) he was that he should see this effected, than anything else that was in his power to effect. This you may see ground for in Ps. 40:5, which place I quote, because this text is taken out of the next words, to which that 5th verse is a preface. 'Many,' says he in the general, 'are the wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts to us-ward cannot be reckoned:' his mind hath so run to us from everlasting. And then, for instance, he brings in this of giving his Son; 'Sacrifice and burnt-offerings,' &c., as if he should have said, This of all other is the greatest instance of all his works of wonder; this his thoughts were most upon, so many that they cannot be numbered; this is his master-piece, which he brings in instar omnium, instead of all.
And add but unto this Prov. 8:13, where you shall see the curious question in part resolved, what God did before the world was made? how he ran out that eternity, and what his thoughts and delight most ran upon? And you have it resolved by one who knew his mind, was of his counsel, the mighty Counsellor, as being the Wisdom of the Father, as he is there styled, that 'was by him before he made the world,' ver. 22, 23; 'Then was I,' ver. 30 (all the while) 'by him,' who came out of his bosom; he compares himself to a child brought up by his parent: 'I was brought up with him,' lay in his bosom. And what did they together?
First, They delighted one with another, and one in another. The Father, that he was able to beget such a Son, like him, co-eternal with him: 'I was daily his delight; and this was delight enough, though no creature had been made. And observe it, that of all his works ad extra towards his creatures which he was to do, he mentions none but the dispensation towards the sons of men, and his delight therein, next to the delight they had in each other.
Secondly, 'Rejoicing in the habitable parts of the earth, and my delights were with the sons of men,' which do inhabit here below, and fill the earth.
Now, what could it be should afford God thoughts of delight about the sons of men so long aforehand? To look and see them all at one clap turned rebels against him, and view them mustered together in troops against him? This could minister none but sad and disconsolate thoughts; 'It pained him at the heart,' Gen. 6:6. What was it delighted him then? Men delight only in their friends, not enemies. Was it in him, as created first in a state of friendship? Then there were but a couple to delight in. This is in the sons of men all the earth over, 'the inhabitable parts of the earth.' He had some in one age or other in all parts inhabited, who were the desire and delight of his eyes. And besides that fit of friendship which* Adam was not worth the thinking of, it lasted so little a while, and ended in so great a lasting and general breach.
His delights were then in this: that he should win to him, and gain the love of those accursed rebels, in all places habitable, whom he himself loved so dearly; and shew that his love, by an unheard of way (that should amaze angels and men), to take away their sins, and reconcile them to himself by the incarnation and death of his Son, and tie them to him by an everlasting knot, which their sins should not untie again, nor separate from that his love. This took up his delights (in the plural); he delighted to think it again and again. It must needs be a thing he delights in, that he feasts himself with the thoughts of so long beforehand, even double delights, as some paraphrase it; he delighted in them when first made, and that delight lasting not long, he delights in them again.
But what should be the reason that this plot should so much affect and delight him. Had he not the angels, that were constant friends to him, to delight in? One would think he should have prized their friendship more for the faithfulness of it. And if he had needed princes, he could have created new ones, out of these very stones have raised up a new generation and seed of well-willers, as John said of children to Abraham, and have packed us all to hell for rebels. He had prisons enough to have held us, which kings often want in a general rebellion, and have been glorified in our just destruction.
What should be the reason of this strange affection in our God? Why? The Scripture gives it, and our God being even love itself, 1 John 4:16, loving, where he sets his love, with an infinite love, as himself is; which love, of all things else in him, he loves to shew to the utmost; and of all works, works of love have the most delight in them. Therefore, Micah 7:18, mercy is called his 'delight,' his 'darling.' He would gladly shew how well he could love creatures, gladdest of the greatest opportunity to shew it, therefore he resolves upon this course to 'take away sins', to reconcile enemies, whatever it cost; and the more they should cost him, the gladder would he be; the making of a thousand new friends could not have expressed so much love, as the reconciling one enemy. To love and delight in friends, who had never wronged him, was too narrow, shallow, and slight a way; he had heights, depths, and breadths of love, Eph. 3:18, which he would make known, and which nothing but the depth of our misery could have drawn out.
And that this is the reason, see Rom. 5:8, 10, 'God commends his love towards us, that whilst we were yet enemies, he gave' (not any small thing, but) 'his Son for us;' not to be born only, but to die. Our being sinners, and his giving his Son, commends or sets out his love; and that he might commend it, he pitcheth on this course. You see how it was his will; we have done with that. And that this love should be pitched upon men, not angels that fell, it commends his love yet further.
There were but two sorts of sinners. And that the sons of men are the sinners specified as objects of this love, as it is a consideration which doth much commend his love, so it is a fourth thing distinctly to be considered. We must of necessity have spoken of it in the end, 'A body hast thou fitted me.' It is spoken in opposition to the angels, 'He took not on him the nature of angels, Heb. 2:16; his delights were with the sons of men, not the angels that fell. Sure I am, it commends his love to us. There were but these two sorts of sinners, whose sins could be taken away; and of the twain, who could have thought but their graces should have been propounded first, and have passed more easily? They were fairer and better creatures than we; and if he regarded services, one of them was able to do him more than a thousand of us. When he had bought us, he must be at a great deal of more trouble to preserve and tend us, than we were able ever to requite in service and attendance upon him. He must allow us much of our time to sleep and eat, and to be idle, to refresh our bodies; must tend us, as you would tend a child, rock us asleep every night, 'make our beds in our sickness,' Ps. 41:3, and feed us himself in due season. Whereas the angels could stand in his presence day and night, and not be weary.
And besides, the nature of angels had been a fitter match a great deal for his Son; they are spirits, and so in a nearer assimilation to him. Who ever thought he should choose to match so low as with us, take up our dirt? All this makes for us still the more love, for it was the more free. The more unlikely, the more it is commended; the less we could do for him or for ourselves, the more it would appear he did for us. He is honoured more in our dependence than in our service. He hath regard to the lowness of his spouse and handmaid, and lets the mighty go, viz., principalities and powers. He loves still to prefer the younger, and make the elder serve them; Rom. 9. The angels are ministering spirits for their good. Among men he calls out still the poor, the foolish: 'Not many wise, or noble;' and he makes as unlikely a choice amongst his creatures.
Besides; he had angels enough ready, 'thousand thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand.' And he would have some men that should see his glory, bless him, and be blessed of him. He loves varieties, to have two witnesses at least. He creates two worlds, heaven and earth; in them two several sorts of reasonable creatures, as inhabitants; upon them he would shew two several ways of salvation, and all to shew his 'manifold wisdom,' Eph. 3:10.
You have now seen the project, taking away of sin; who, and what in him, first moved him to it. The Father, and his will, and that how strongly set to have it done; and the parties about whom is all this ado, the sons of men.
Let us now view the means in the next place, which he pitcheth on to effect this great design, both to take away sins, and to shew withal his love to the utmost; which is set out to us,
1. Negatively, shewing what he laid aside, 'sacrifices and burnt offerings;' with the reason, not possible to effect it; or if they had, he not being pleased with that course, 'Thou wouldest not.'
2. Affirmatively, But 'a body hast thou prepared me;' and this is the second general head in the text.
And as you have seen it was his will, thus strongly pitched upon it as his highest and deepest project, to manifest the dearest affections to him to the utmost, viz., his love, so you shall now see his wisdom soar so high (indeed, infinitely out of our sight, thoughts, and imaginations) to find out a correspondent means, not only to effect it, but in effecting it to shew both love and wisdom, and give full satisfaction to his justice, which was infinitely beyond the reach of any created understanding to have found it. 'He works all things according to the counsel of his will;' his will works by counsel. And look how much stronglier his will is on a thing, the deeper are his counsels about it.
Now to proceed orderly herein; Observe, that to take away sins he takes means into consideration; why else are bulls and goats took into consideration? And that he might have taken sins away without any means, or more ado, I dare not say the contrary, as some do. He means not to use his sole prerogative in it, but to do it fairly; and though by a bare act of his will he might have done it, yet his will working by counsel, he thought it not yet fit to do it. This reason sways with me, that to punish sin being an act of his will, as well as the other works of his ad extra, may therefore be suspended as himself pleaseth. To hate sin is his nature; and that sin deserves death, is also the natural and inseparable property, consequent, and demerit of it. But the expression of this its desert by actual punishment is an act of his will, and so might be suspended; which will, working this and all things else by counsel, thought it not so fit to do so.
Which I demonstrate thus; I will take the ground in the text. Consider the project is to 'take away sins.' Now, if he will take away sins, to shew his love to the utmost, as hath been shewn, then to make way for the manifestation of this, he was first to give a law, which might both discover what was sin, and what a heinous thing it was; and shew by a threatening annexed, that punishment which it naturally did deserve, and what the sinner might expect in justice from him.
This was necessary; for where there is no law, there can be no sin, Rom. 5:13. Sin is not imputed where there is no law; and otherwise, he should have no sinners actually capable of mercy, none to pardon.
Giving this law, he takes upon him to be a judge, and the judge of all the world; for in the very making of the law he declares himself to be so. And so then he is engaged, upon many strong motives, to shew his justice against sin in that punishment he threatened; though still in that he is judge of all the world, and the maker of the law could, if he pleased, forbear to execute those threatenings, seeing a note of irrevocation was not added to them. For he that made the law may repeal that part of it; yet most strong motives there are to execute them.
He speaks of blood here. Heb. 9:22, 23, he says that 'without blood there is no remission.' He will have blood in lieu of satisfaction; and ver. 23 makes a necessity that there should be sacrifices, and better sacrifices than the blood of bulls and goats; necessary not absolutely, but in regard of God's resolution to satisfy justice. And therefore the heathens sacrificed to pacify their angry gods, it being innate in nature that God might be satisfied. The reasons of this, why God required satisfaction, I have shewed elsewhere.
For is he not the judge of all the world? And is it not a righteous thing with God to render vengeance? 2 Thess. 1:5. 'Shall not the judge of all the world do right?' Gen. 18. As she said, If thou do not justice, cease to be a king. And is he not thereby to set a copy to all judges else, being judge of all the world? Primum in quolibet genere est mensura reliquorum. And is not he 'an abomination to him that justifies the unrighteous, and condemns the innocent'? Prov. 17:15. They may not, because they are but his justices. And though he might, being supreme judge, yet if all the world be his circuit, and he means to condemn the angels by that law, and to shew his justice on them, how will he clearly overcome when he judges them? as Rom. 3:4. 'Stop the mouths'? as it is in the 19th verse, if he shews not his justice on those sinners he pardons. And though he may say to them, 'Pay what you owe me,' what is that to you? Yet even the men he pardons, and pardons to that end, to shew his mercy, would esteem sin less, and pardon less, if it were procured and obtained lightly.
'There is mercy with him, to be feared,' not to be condemned, as the psalmist speaks. And are not all his attributes his nature, his justice as well as mercy, his hatred of sin as well as his love of his creatures? And is not that nature of his a pure act, and therefore provokes his will to manifest all these upon all occasions? Doth not justice boil within him against sin, as well as his bowels of mercy yearn towards the sinner? And should sin, which is the greatest inordinancy, not be brought in compass in his government, who doth order all things? Should it be left extravagant and not regarded, and escape as free as holiness? And is not the plot of redemption his master-piece, wherein he means to bring all his attributes upon the stage? And should his justice, and this expressed by a law, keep in and sit down? No; Rom. 3:26, he resolveth to be just, and the justifier of the sinner too; that is, as it is in the foregoing verses, by declaring his righteousness; that is, give an instance of his justice against the sins of those he pardons, though he justifies the sinner. Though private men may put off a wrong, yet public persons, that govern others, are to execute it for example sake.
This being his resolution, observe, secondly, that the way he took was by a mediator, that may take sins off from the sinner, and expose himself, to satisfy his justice; for no way else can be imagined. And so the goats which he mentions did in the type signify so much; Lev. 16, They confessed their sins over them, which signified that God intended a commutation, that he sought out some party who might take the sins upon himself, and undertake to satisfy, be able to do it; and so he might still be just, and also a justifier of us, upon whom he might 'lay the iniquity' he took off from us, Isa. 53:6, and exact the punishment, as Junius reads the next words; that might become a 'surety,' Heb. 7:22; that might be 'made sin,' 2 Cor. 5:21; and 'under the law,' Gal. 4:4, and give and expose himself as a ransom ἀντίλυτρον, a sufficient, adequate satisfaction to that his justice against sin. These, and many the like phrases, the Scripture uses.
And if you ask, how God declares his justice by this course, seeing the law threateneth the sinner?
I answer, that the law is the effect of God's will, which is guided by counsel, for 'he works all things according to the counsel of his own will;' and therefore he may dispense with the tenor or letter of it. If so be those holy ends which his counsel had in making of it be accomplished and attained, and if the reason of the law and lawgiver be satisfied, then is the law.
Now the ends and grounds of giving God's law were to declare and shew forth his justice and hatred against sin wherever he found it. Now, his justice and hatred of sin is as fully manifested when punishment is executed upon a party undertaking sin, to be made a surety for it, as if the sinner himself were punished; if not more, in that he doth but undertake it for another, and yet is not spared. As God is said to hear our prayers, and fulfil his promise, when he answers to the ground of our prayers, though not in the thing, so are the cries of sin against the sinner for justice answered, and his threatenings fulfilled, when another is punished, because all the ends of the lawgiver are fully accomplished.
It is true, the tenor and letter of the law is dispensed with, but not the debt; that is as fully exacted as ever. It is but a dispensation of the party obliged, not of the obligation itself, or of the debt, nor of the reasons of the debt. It is not wholly secundum legem, οὐδὲ κατὰ νόμον, οὐδὲ κατὰ νόμου, ἄλλα ὑπερ νόμον, καὶ ὑπερ νόμου. It is a saying no less solid than elegant; and therefore the more elegant, because it was anciently used in another case.
And although the law doth not mention or name a surety—indeed the malefactor's single bond is only mentioned, and the threatening directed against him. His name is only in the process, because the law in itself supposeth as yet none else guilty, and can challenge none else; but if some other, who is lord of his own actions, subject himself to the law willingly, which will of his is a law to him, and the lawgiver himself, who is lord of the law, accept this, as seeing the same ends shall be satisfied for which he made the law—in this case, the law takes hold of the surety or undertaker, and he may let the malefactor go free.
And justice will permit this commutation, when all parties are satisfied, and no wrong is done to any. For if the party undertaking be willing, justice may well be satisfied; volenti non fit injuria. And having power, all that thing which he offers to lay down for satisfaction, being lord of it, no other is wronged; neither is the party to be satisfied wronged, if he that undertakes it be of ability fully to satisfy and fulfil what he desires.
And if the lawgiver be willing to assent to this act of his, and to accept it, being lord of his own law, he may dispense with the letter of it, if so be those holy ends which his counsel had in making it be accomplished and attained.
In this case, there is no question of injustice; nay, justice doth rest satisfied as if the sinner had done it. And all these concur in the means which God hath ordained to take away sin, as we shall see anon.
And now, in the third place, the difficulty in finding out a party who should willingly undertake this and be able to perform it, and whom God would venture upon, and fully trust to effect it.
First, the blood of bulls and goats were not able: 'it is not possible;' and indeed, add to them all the creatures that are the appurtenances of man, which man hath to give, as silver, gold, precious stones, &c. Nay, not the whole world of them; for nothing less noble than man can be a sufficient surety for man's life, which sin deprives of. It must be an adequate ransom, ἀντίλυτρον, 1 Tim. 2:6. Redditio æquivalentis pro æquivalente, 'a tooth for a tooth,' a life and blood as noble as ours, or it will not satisfy. Counters will not pay for gold.
Now, all such things are not worth a soul which is to be lost for sin, said he that paid for one; Mat. 16:26, 'Will the Lord be pleased with rivers of oil?' nay, 'with the first-born of thy body, for the sin of thy soul'? There is no proportion. God would never have turned away so fair a chapman, if his justice could afford so cheap a commutation. All the world was made for man to have dominion over, and cannot fill his soul; and all in it a man will give for his life, as Job 1; and therefore, in his own estimation, they are not equivalent to it. A king's ransom is more than another man's, because the person is worthier; so all these is not a worthy price for a man's life, who is lord of all.
But, secondly, you will say, yet the blood of men equal with thyself may. Ans. Ps. 49:7, 'A man cannot redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him,' so precious shall be the redemption of the soul. Shall we say, martyrs, saints, whose deaths yet are 'precious in God's eyes?' But not so precious as to redeem a soul. Shall we say angels? Suppose justice did not require the same nature that sinned should die, it may be doubted their exposing themselves to destruction could not take away sin; not but that their lives are as good as ours, but because sin is so heinous, God's wrath against it so great, as it could never be slacked.
Let us consider a little what sin is.
It is true indeed, that sin hurts not God in regard of the event, Job 35:6, 'If thou sinnest, what dost thou against him?' &c., and therefore say some schoolmen, no restitution need be made per modum justitiæ. It displeaseth God (say they) only, it doth not hurt him. It is only an indignity, not an injury. But yet injuries are to be measured, and called so, by the terminus they tend to, as all motions are; as that is called calefactio that tends to heat. And the action is measured by the will of the party, not by the event and success; and so, he that hates his brother is said to be a murderer, though he kills him not, 1 John 3:15. And God takes the will for the deed.
1. Now sin tends to destroy God's law, though it doth not; for not one iota of it shall pass; yet because it tends to it, as much as in it lies, Ps. 119:126, God accounts of it as destructive to his law.
2. So the manifestation of God's glory, though it shall receive no soil, no more than the sunbeams can do by mists, but it will scatter all; yet sin tends to darken it and obscure it, and to dishonour him, setting up other gods.
3. So God's being it toucheth not, yet it is a 'denial of God,' Titus 1:16, a professing there is none. It makes a man hate God; and as 'he that hates his brother is a murderer,' so he that hates God is (what in him lies) a destroyer of his very being; Peccatum est Deicidium.
Now, though this injury takes not effect, yet the demerit of it seems to be no less; not an indignity, but an injury. It is true also, that it is essentially but privatio boni, and is not privatio Dei, no more than blindness may be called a privation of colour, but of sight to see with, as Vasquez reasons. It is true, as in the eclipse of the sun, though the sun loseth really no light by it, but the earth, yet because it makes the face of the world below as if there were no sun, it is said to be the eclipse of it, and not of the earth; and so it may be said of sin; it is a privation of God, of his glory and law; because, though indeed we are the losers, yet it makes to us as if there were no God, as if he had no being, and so may be said the eclipse of his being. They live 'without God in the world,' Eph. 2:12, and without the law, 1 Tim. 1:9, and are deprived of the glory of God, which is not manifested in them, nor by them, Rom. 3:23.
And if sin is to be accounted really thus, what satisfaction can any creature make, saint or angel, by suffering? What hath he to be deprived of, that is equivalent to these? For he can be but destroyed.
First, For the law. Is not the least iota of the law worth heaven and earth? Because God's prerogative lies at the stake in it. Is it not the regula, the original of all the grace they have? For all grace is but the copy of the law. Doth it not bind and command all that is in them? What have they worth it to be destroyed?
Secondly, For the manifestation of God's glory, how doth all their excellency infinitely fall short of the least beam of it? Better they were all destroyed, than the least soil should be cast on it. Is it not the end for which they were made, and therefore is better than they are? Do they not owe all they have to the advancing of it? What then can they lose, which can hold proportion with it? Moralists observe, that of all injuries else, wrongs in points of honour, from inferiors to superiors, do most transcend satisfaction. If they take goods away from a superior, the restoring of them satisfies him as much as an inferior; yea, it is less, because to rob a poor man is more than one that is rich; but if in point of honour, how can he do it but by submission? And if he submits to give honour to him, it is no more than he ought to do, as an inferior. How much more doth a wrong to God, in point of honour, exceed? Who are so inferior, as heaven and earth are not worthy to be his throne and footstool. 'My glory I will not give to another.'
Thirdly, We are but shadows of being; he is the substance, whose name is, I AM. Therefore, but the overshadowing of his being, is more than the real destruction of ours.
In the third place, suppose it may be said, that if lives went for ours, they might satisfy as well as we can, seeing they are as good as ours; and therefore if eternal death in us be a satisfaction to God's justice (or else God loseth by sin, then he would not have let it come into the world), then it might be so in them for us, and so we might be freed. These inconveniencies follow.
First, Consider, that they must always be a-satisfying, and it could never be said, 'It is finished;' they must lie by it 'till they pay the utmost farthing,' which they can never do, no more than we ourselves, and so they could not take away sins from us; for we could not have an accquittance till the debt were paid; we could not be justified, till our surety were acquitted. Therefore, says Paul, 'if Christ had not risen, we had been yet in our sins;' and therefore the psalmist saith, 'It ceaseth for ever,' shall never be accomplished, Ps. 49. So precious is the redemption of a soul, that it ceaseth for ever, that is, shall never be accomplished; so the phrase is taken elsewhere. It is so precious, as it requires an eternity to do it in, and so shall always be doing, and never be ended, and so we should never be the better, never come to have our bonds cancelled. And for this reason sacrifices might not be rejected (as in the verse before my text), they were fain to offer every year, Heb. 10:3.
Secondly, Suppose that God, to whom eternity is but an instant, should therefore give us in our bond, when the other had entered into his; because, though it be an eternity of paying, yet to him it is present. Well, yet one just man, or angel, could but satisfy for one of us. Life could but go for life, 'a tooth for a tooth,' as the law requires; and so he should sacrifice as many creatures as good as we, for ever. His obedience, as Adam's righteousness, could not extend to many, for that was a favour, but this a debt; whom also, for his obedience (if he did it for his sake, or else he would not accept it), he could never reward, because they were to suffer eternally.
Thirdly, If we grant all this, yet what creature could have so much love in it towards us, as to sacrifice itself willingly? Which it must fully do, for nolenti fit injuria in this case; so it cannot be satisfaction; Satisfactio est redditio voluntaria, say the schools. Rom. 5:7, 'Peradventure, for a good man some would dare to die.' Mark it, he makes a peradventure of it, and it must be for 'a good man,' that is, one 'profitable to him,' as they expound it, and death is φωβερῶν φωβερότατον, he must be hardy, and dare well, that would do it; but to encounter God's wrath, who dare do it? Jer. 30:21, making there a promise of Christ to be a mediator, one that should be able to draw nigh to them, he gives this reason, 'For who is there that engageth his heart to draw nigh to me?' As if he had said, None else, none else durst have stepped in and encountered me for you. Especially not for enemies both to God and them. They need a mediator to reconcile us and them, as that place, Eph. 1:10, of reconciling all in heaven and earth, 'To gather together in one all things in heaven and earth,' make us as friends to him, so one to another. The holier they were, the less they must needs love us.
Fourthly, If any had so much love, and would be so hardy to venture, as Paul had a wish to be accursed, yet if they were in hell half an hour, they would repent them and wish themselves out again. And so it had been spoiled for being satisfaction; it must throughout be voluntary, as our disobedience was.
Fifthly, Suppose all this, yet this would do no more than barely take away sins; but though no more is mentioned, yet more is meant; to convey righteousness also: 'He must be made sin, that we may be made righteousness,' 2 Cor. 5:21, to bring us into favour, and make us graciously accepted. And so I am sure it was not possible they should; for they have none to spare, none to lend; if they were a grain lighter they would be found too light, and their kingdom would depart from them, and they be stripped of happiness. They need confirmation in their estate themselves; it is well they keep their own standing, that their heels be not tripped up. In Mat. 25:8, 9, when the foolish virgins asked for oil of the wise, they answered, they had little enough for themselves; all they can do in obedience to the law, they owe it. How can one debt be paid with another? They for whom we were to be received to favour were to be much more beloved and in favour with him.
And if it be said we should have had benefit by Adam's righteousness, if he had stood, by the same covenant by which we have sin from him,
I answer, first, only the benefit of confirmation in that estate, not of justification, that should have been our own; both now we are to have.
Secondly, I answer, that to convey righteousness to them who have been sinners is much more, which then we were not; for now it must be done per modum meriti et satisfactionis, then only as a means appointed to convey that which God, out of his goodness, meant to bestow.
But, last of all, suppose all this possible. Yet there is a further reason in the text, Tu noluisti, non approbasti. Now to satisfy for another, especially in corporal punishments, requires the consent of the party to be satisfied, because quando aliud offertur quam est in obligatione, est satisfactio recusabilis, as the satisfaction of another is another thing than the law mentions or ties itself to admit. When Ahab offered Naboth as good a vineyard as his own, yet he might refuse it, as he did; much more God. Yea, the satisfaction of Christ necessarily required God's decree, and consent to it, as I shall shew afterward. As they err who say he could not pardon without satisfaction, so they that say, as papists do, that he could not but pardon, the compact not supposed, and in regard of that decree, it was impossible anything should. And, therefore, says Christ, 'Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass;' had it been possible he had been heard, but it did not pass.
And therefore he would not trust their help in so weighty a business, wherein his will was so engaged; Job 4:18, 'Behold he puts no trust in his servants;' though in ordinary works of obedience he might, yet he will never rely on them for so great a matter. He finds folly in the angels, they are mutable; he trusted one man for all only in matter of obedience to his law, which was easy and sweet to him; and see how he failed and lost all upon no great or strange temptation. He will never hazard a second Adam to be a mere creature, in a matter of punishment, which, to be willing ever to undergo, must be fed with some delight or hope of ease; he will make sure work now.
Therefore, what if, as in making his promises, as it is said, Heb. 6:17, 'God being willing more abundantly to shew to the heirs of salvation, confirmed it by an oath;' which puts an end to all controversies, ver. 16, 'And because he can swear by no greater he will swear by himself;' say I in this, what if God, ex abundanti (upon supposition that other means could have done it), yet out of abundance of love to us, whom he thinks he can never love enough, nor to shew his love do too much for; what if he means to give his Son because he cannot give a greater? And indeed it is he; 'In the volume of thy book it is written of me.'
And so in giving his* he attains to give the greatest instance of his love and justice. Love, in that not only he is content to commute the punishment, but lay it on his Son. Justice, that he will not only punish sin in us, but even in him, 'spared not his own Son,' Rom. 8:31, and so make sure work indeed, put an end to all suppositions, fears, yea possibility of miscarriage.
A way to accommodate all so fully, as all conveniences requisite to this work should concur, yea, abound, exceed, in his alone mediation.
Only for the present you may see all the former cases and difficulties that were put in the mediation of the creatures now vanish and dissolve.
For he is able fully to make amends for sin, and the injury thereof, aggravate it to the highest. Consider who it is; it is his Son. Is sin the breach of the holy law of God? He is more, 'the essential Word of his Father,' John 1:1. The other but the word of his will; he made the law and gave it, Gal. 3:19. And if he will vouchsafe to be made under it, as Gal. 4:4, this makes amends for all.
Is sin a defacer of the manifestation of God's glory, and goes about to rob him of it? He is more; not the reflection of his glory only, but 'the brightness of his glory,' Heb. 1:3. If, therefore, he will be content to lay down this glory, and come in the form of a servant, and make himself of no reputation, as Phil. 2:7, as he did; John 17:5, 'Glorify me now with the glory I had with thee, before the world was;' it was eclipsed, shut up in a dark lantern, as it were; will not this make amends?
Doth sin seek God's life? If he now, that hath a life equal unto God's, as John 5:26 it is said, he hath the same life with his Father, and thinks it no robbery to be equal with him; Phil. 2:6, if he will become 'obedient to death,' as it is ver. 8; doth not this make amends? Neither shall he lay down what is another's as the creature's. 'I have power to lay down my life,' John 10:18.
Is it God's wrath and the pangs of death are to be encountered with? He dares do it; Jer. 30:21, 'He shall draw near to me when none else can.'
And will he be overcome with it, and so always a-satisfying? No; the pangs of death cannot hold him: Acts 2:24, 'Wherewith it was impossible he should be held;' he will be able to say in the end, 'It is finished.'
Or will his satisfaction serve but for one? Yes, for worlds; Rom 5:17–19, he is able to bring in such abundance of righteousness as shall abound to many.
And for bringing us into favour, and adopting us sons, and conveying righteousness, who better than he who is the natural Son of God, the beloved Son of God, in whom all the beams of that love which are dispersed to all creatures are concentred, as the beams of the sun in a burning-glass.
Two things yet remain, which must necessarily concur to this business to make it satisfaction. That both God the Father and Christ be willing, and fully willing, that thus it should be accomplished. Necessary it was that God the Father should be willing, and call him to it; for he was the person unto whom the satisfaction was to be made in the name of the rest, as I said before. It being by commutation, which in such a case depends as much upon the will, acceptation, and consent of the party wronged to make it satisfaction, as on the worth of the thing restored, be it never so full and equivalent to the wrong, yet it is not satisfaction, unless he be willing to accept it for another, because it satisfies not him. Quando aliud offertur, quam est in obligatione, est satisfactio recusabilis. Should Christ do all this never so fully and freely, unless the Father's will and call concur to it, he might refuse it, condemn it notwithstanding, and say, 'Who required this at your hands?' And therefore, Heb. 10, the verse following my text, he ascribes as much to the will of God accepting it, as to the merit of Christ's death, to make all effectual to sanctify us. 'Through the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Christ.'
Yea, he must be more than willing; he must call his Son to it, and be the first mover of it to him to undertake it; for besides that ye heard before that the Father is the first mover in all, so in this; it is an office of priesthood, Heb. 5:4, 5, and even Christ himself must be called to it, as well as Aaron, says the text there.
And if so, then here comes in the greatest difficulty of all the rest. A difficulty it was to find out a way; when that was done, a greater to find out a person so fully fitted as might do it; and such difficulty, as if it had been referred to men or angels, all their wisdom could not have found it out unto eternity. Adam knew none, for he stood by trembling, thought God would have flown at him. The devil knew none, thought all sure, and therefore tempted man. The good angels learned it of the church, Eph. 3:10. God, you see, set his depths of wisdom a-work to find out one in whom all might be accommodated. But the finding out of the person hath brought out a greater with it; for if none but he who was his Son could do it, and he, though a Son, yet if he become a surety, justice would not have spared, Rom. 8:30, bated nothing, without blood no remission; and not the best blood of his body would serve, but of his soul too; he must 'bear our sorrows,' Isa. 53:4. Pay God in the same coin we should, and therefore must 'make his soul an offering,' ver. 10. If he be made sin, he must be made a curse; and which is more than all this, God himself must be the executioner, and his own Son the whipping stock. No creature could strike a stroke hard enough to make it satisfaction. Many a tender mother hath not the heart to see her child whipped, much less to whip it herself, though for its own profit and good when it is in fault. But God must put his Son to grief, Isa. 53.
You heard at first, God's will was strongly set upon this resolution of taking sins away; and so it might be, and more strongly than ever on any thing else; but yet not upon such terms as these; he might be glad to see it done, but not to cost too dear. The business is at a stand here, and like to be clean dashed. We that are poor, shallow-headed, strait-hearted creatures, might well think so.
To find out the person and way to accomplish it drew but out the depths of his wisdom; but now, if it go forward, it will draw out the depths of his love. It cost him but his thoughts before, now it must cost him his Son, the Son of his love; and if it were to sacrifice worlds for us he could easily create millions, and destroy them again. But what? To sacrifice his Son? What? To be the first propounder and contriver of so harsh a motion, as it may seem to be unto him? this is more.
The text (to go no further) rids us of this also, and plainly tells us he did all this: 'In thy book it is written of me,' says Christ, 'that I should do thy will.' He is not willing only, but the first decreer of it: 'It is written of me.'
Written, where? If you will have what I think, we find the very words recorded, Heb. 5:6, which place shews how God the Father called him to it, and how he that said unto him, 'Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee,' says in another place, 'Thou art a priest after the order of Melchisedec.' The Holy Ghost brings in both these and joins them both together, as concurring in this call, and brings in the first as the argument and motive God used to him when he moved him: 'He that says, Thou art my Son, says also, Thou art a priest.' He was his Father, and so had power to appoint his Son his calling (as other parents have); he appoints him to be a priest; and therefore he tells him that he is his Son, and he begat him. He woos him, as he was his Son, to take it upon him. He calls him indeed, and speaks as if he meant not to be denied. In the highest language of a father he useth his interest with him, mentioneth the deepest obligation, and he notes out the time, it was his birthday. 'This day have I begotten thee.' As parents often dedicate their children when first born to such or such a calling, as Hannah did Samuel to the priesthood, so doth God his Son. Yea, he lays his command on him, John 10:18, though the other mentions the most commanding argument and relation of all other. All obedience and authority is held forth in such a speech. Yea, and yet to shew more vehemency and earnestness he adds an oath to it. He swore he should be a priest, Heb. 7:21, and when he has done, records it: 'It is written of me,' and that ἐν κεφαλίδι τοῦ Βιβλίου, in the first page of the book of his decrees; yea, and puts his seal to it: 'Him hath God the Father sealed,' John 6:27. God the Father, you see, is willing, and fully willing, hath done all that lies in him, and yet no more than was necessarily required to this work; as was in part before, and may be further observed, out of Heb. 10:10, wherein he says, 'We are sanctified through this will, through the offering of the body of Christ,' having reference to this will of calling him here in the text, without which Christ's offering had not been satisfactory, nor of force to sanctify.
Now then, the second thing remains, how the motion takes with Christ, which his Father makes to him, which was as necessary as the former. For besides that, it could not have been forced on him; for, John 5:26, the Father had given him life in himself, and so to have power over his life: John 10:18, 'I have power over my life, and none can take it from me.' I say besides, that if it come not off freely, it had not been satisfactory; satisfactio est redditio voluntaria. Our disobedience was free, so must his satisfaction be, 'a free will offering of himself.' God stands more upon the will than the deed; as a kindness is spoiled in the doing if it be unwillingly done, so would his satisfaction be. This therefore is another difficulty, and but that his Father struck in so, likely to have been greater than the former. Though he had at last yielded, yet if he sticks at it we are undone; if he makes but one objection, we perish. And is it not infinite love that he should not, being the party to undergo so much debasement? How did the eldest son's stomach rise when but the fatted calf was killed for the prodigal? But he, the eldest, only begotten Son, must sacrifice himself (worlds would not serve, whereof he could have created enough) for enemies. But not a thought arose contrary to his Father's will. So his own words in the text shew, 'Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.' The psalm, out of which the words are borrowed, Ps. 40:8, hath it, 'I delight to do thy will;' as the sun rejoiceth to run his race, so the Sun of righteousness, for he was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, Ps. 45:7. As glad as ever he was to eat his meat: John 4:34, 'With desire have I desired it,' yea, and longed as much pain* as ever woman with child longed to be delivered, Luke 12:50.
It was well for us that his Father struck in thus strongly in the business itself. You know how unwelcome it must needs be to him: 'Father, if it it be possible.' But yet, because it was his will, he submits, 'Not my will, but thine be done.' As it was his Father's will, he had no reluctancy. Neither would simply all our cries or mediations have ever moved him, no more than straws could have moved a mountain. But that it was his Father's will, it was enough. For besides that, John 10:30, 'I and my Father are one,' and so have one will, and agree in one; but especially seeing he entreats him, the Father resolves to hear him in all things; and should not his Father? especially when the request is made upon his birthday,—'This day have I begotten thee,'—when all requests used to be granted, as Herod, to the half of my kingdom. What? And as he was his Father, and he his Son, this overcame him, John 10:17, 18. Though he had life in his own hand, yet, says he, I laid it down because the Father loves me; surely if he be so earnest, he could not deny him, especially when he added a command to it. This is the reason he likewise gives: John 10:18, 19, 'I have power to lay down my life; and this command have I received of my Father.' His Father had power (as other fathers have) to dispose of the calling of his Son. And though he was so great a Son, equal to so great a Father, yet being a Son, he is not exempted from obedience, Phil. 2:8, Heb. 5:8. And when his Father shall add an oath also, that is an end of all controversies between man and man, much more between father and son, Heb. 6:18. And last of all, he set his seal to it. It must stand good, for his seal to it shews there is no breaking it, 2 Tim. 2:29.
All these made him fully willing, which is therefore to be in a special manner taken notice, that we may consider for whose sake principally Christ did die and undertake it, and see to whom we are so much beholden, though he did it out of love to us, yet chiefly for his Father's entreaty and command, and out of love to him. So Christ says, John 14:31, 'That the world may know that I love the Father, and that as he gave me commandment, so do I.' He speaks this then when he was to go to suffer: 'Arise, let us go hence.' And now he is engaged, there is no fear of miscarriage or unfaithfulness. He being God, our salvation, we see, is in sure hands, though it were yet to perform. The first part of the story and text is done.
Goodwin, T. (1863). The Works of Thomas Goodwin (Vol. 5, pp. 481–498). Edinburgh: James Nichol.