[FIRST. The nature of the mercy propounded.]
Redemption may be diversely taken, as shall be further showed anon; but forasmuch as the term here is made mention of indefinitely, without nominating of this or that part of redemption particularly, I shall speak to it in the general, with respect at least to the main heads thereof.
To redeem is to fetch back, by sufficient and suitable means, those at present in an enthralled, captivated, or an imprisoned condition; and there are two sorts of this redemption. First, Redemption by purchase. Second, Redemption by power. Redemption by purchase is from the cause of captivities. Redemption by power is from the effects.
First, If we speak of redemption by purchase, then three things present themselves to our consideration—I. The person redeeming. II. The nature of the price paid to redeem withal. III. The thing or state from which this redeemer with this price redeemeth.
[I. The Person redeeming.] The subject of this redemption, or person redeemed, is Israel, of him we have spoken before. For the person redeeming, it is Jesus of Nazareth; Jesus that was born at Bethlehem, at the time, and as the Scriptures relate (Matt 1; Luke 2). Now, with reference to his person, we have two things to inquire after. What this person was. How he addressed himself to this work.
1. What this person was. This Jesus was and is the natural and eternal Son of God Almighty, without beginning or end, from everlasting; the Creator and Upholder of the world (Prov 8; John 1; Heb 1).
2. How he addressed himself to the work of redeeming, take as follows. He became true man: for he was conceived through the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of a maid, and in the fulness of time brought forth of her, true, real, natural man; I say, though not in the worst, yet in the best sense (Luke 2:31-35). Being thus brought forth without spot or blemish, he began to address himself to the work. (1.) By works preparatory, and then, (2.) By the act itself.
(1.) The works preparatory were as follow. He prepares himself a priestly robe, which was his own obediential righteousness; for without these holy garments he might not adventure to come into the presence of God to offer his gift (Rom 5:19; Exo 28:40, 40:13). Before he offered his gift for the people, he was to be himself sanctified to his office: and that—by blood—by prayers and tears (1 Peter 1:19). (a.) By blood; for before Aaron was to offer his sacrifice for the people, he must himself be sprinkled with blood (Exo 29:19-22). And because Jesus could not be sprinkled with the blood of beasts, therefore was he sprinkled with that of his own: not as Aaron was, upon the tip of his ear, and upon the tip of his toe; but from top to toe, from head to foot, his sweat was blood (Luke 22:44). So that from his agony in the garden to the place where he was to lay down the price of our redemption, he went as consecrated in his own blood. (b.) He offered also his sacrifice of strong crying and tears, as his drink-offering to God, as a sacrifice preparatory, not propitiatory, in pursuit of his office; not to purge his person (Heb 5:5-8). This is the person redeeming, and this was his preparation to the work.
(2.) The act itself. Now the redemption is often ascribed particularly to his blood; yet in general, the act of his redeeming of us must either more remotely or more nearly be reckoned from his whole suffering for us in the flesh; which suffering I take to begin at his agony, and was finished when he was raised again from the dead. By his flesh I understand his whole man, as distinguished from his Divine nature; and so that word doth comprehend his soul as well as his body, as by the 53rd of Isaiah appears. His soul after that manner which was proper to it; and his body after that manner which was proper to it.
[II. The nature of the price paid to redeem.] His sufferings began in his soul, some time before his body was touched, by virtue of which was his bloody sweat in his body. The sorrows of his soul began at the apprehension of what was coming from God, for our sakes, upon him; but the bloody sweat of his body was from that union it had with such a soul. His sufferings were from the hand of God, not of man; not by constraint, but of his own will (Lev 1:3; John 10:18); and they differ from ours in these six things. 1. His sufferings were by the rigour of the law; ours according to the tenor of the gospel (Gal 3:13; Heb 12:10). 2. His sufferings were from God's hand immediately; ours by and through a Mediator (Isa 53:6; Heb 9:22). 3. God delighted himself in every stroke he gave him; he doth not willingly grieve nor afflict his people (Isa 53; Psa 103; Lam 3:33). 4. He suffereth as a common or public person; we for our own private offences (1 Cor 15:3; Lam 3:39). 5. He suffered to make amends to justice for the breach of a holy law; we to receive some small correction, and to be taught to amend our lives (Heb 9:26; Rom 10:3,4; Deut 8:5; 2 chron 6:27). 6. He was delivered from the nature of suffering by the merit of his person and sufferings; we from ours by the mercy of God through Christ (Acts 2:24; Eph 4:32, 5:2). Redemption, then, by a price, was this; the blood of Christ, which he willingly suffered to be spilt on the cross, before the face of God.
[III. The state from which this price redeemeth.] The cause of this price was our sins; by which we were justly delivered up to the curse, the devil, death, and hell; and should everlastingly have so continued, but that this price of redemption was for us paid. Hence it is said, Christ died for us. Christ died for our sins. Christ gave himself for our sins. We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins. And that we are bought with this price. Now, in all this Christ respected the holiness of the law, and the worth of our souls; giving full satisfaction to the one, for the love that he bare to the other. And this has redeemed his people from sin and the curse, the cause of our captivity.
Second, But besides this, there is redemption by power, and that respecteth that, or those things, unto which we become not legally indebted by our transgression. There was that unto which we became legally indebted, and that was the justice and holiness of the law (Gen 2:17). Now from this, because God had said it, for his Word made it so, there could be no deliverance, but by a reverend and due respect to its command and demand, and an answer to every whit of what it would require; for not one tittle, not one jot or tittle of the law could fail (Matt 5:18). Jesus Christ, therefore, with respect to the law, that he might redeem us, paid a full and sufficient price of redemption; but as for these things that hold us captive, not for any injury we have done to them, but of power, tyranny, or the like; from them he redeemed us by power (Eph 4). Hence, when he had made satisfaction or amends for us to the law, he is said to 'lead captivity captive, to spoil principalities and powers, and to make a show of them openly' (Col 2). But to take captive, and to spoil, must be understood of what he did, not to the law, but to those others of our enemies from which we were to be redeemed, not by price but by power. And this second part of redemption is to be considered under a twofold head. 1. That these were overcome personally, in and by himself, for us. 2. That they shall be overcome also, in and by his church, through the power of his Spirit.
1. For the first, these were overcome personally, in and by himself for us; to wit, at his resurrection from the dead. For as by his death he made amends for our breach of the law, so by his resurrection he spoiled those other enemies, to wit, death, the devil, and the grave, &c., unto which we were subjected, not for any offence we had committed against them, but for our sin against the law; and men when they have answered to the justice of the law, are by law and power delivered from the prison. Christ therefore, by power, by his glorious power, did overcome the devil, hell, sin, and death, then when he arose and revived from his grave, and so got the victory over them, in and by himself, for us. For he engaging as a common or public person for us, did on our behalf what he did, both in his death and resurrection. So then, as he died for us, he rose for us; and as by his death he redeemed us from some, so by his resurrection from other, of our enemies. Only it must be considered, that this redemption, as to the fulness of it as yet, resides in his own person only, and is set out to his church as she has need thereof, and that orderly too. First, that part thereof which respecteth our redemption from the law; and then that part of it which respecteth our redemption from those other things. And although we are made partakers of redemption from the curse of the law in this life, so far forth as to be justified therefrom; and also as to the receiving of an earnest while here, of being wholly possessed of the glory of the next world hereafter; yet we neither are, nor shall be redeemed from all those things, which yet our head has, as head, got a complete and eternal victory over, until just before he shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father, that God may be all in all; for 'the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death' (1 Cor 15:26). Death, as it has hold upon us, for death as it had hold on our head, was destroyed, when he rose from the dead, but death, as we are subject to it, shall not be destroyed until we all and every one of us shall attain to the resurrection from the dead; a pledge of which we have by our spiritual resurrection, from a state of nature to a state of grace (Col 3:1-4). A promise of which we have in the word of the truth of the gospel; and an assurance of it we have by the resurrection of Christ from the dead (Eph 4:30; Luke 20:35; Acts 17:30,31). Wherefore let us hope!
Now, as to redemption from the law, and from those other things from which we are, and are to be redeemed with power; do but consider the different language which the Holy Ghost useth, with reference to our redemption from each.
When it speaketh of our redemption from the just curse of the law, which we have sufficiently deserved, it is said to be done, not by destroying, but by fulfilling the law. 'Think not,' says Christ, 'that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled' (Matt 5:17,18). For it became him, as our Redeemer, to fulfil all, and all manner of righteousness, by doing and suffering what justly should have been done or borne of us (Rom 8:3-5; Gal 3:13,14).
But now when our redemption from those other things is made mention of, the dialect is changed; for then we read, to the end we might be delivered from them, Christ was to destroy and abolish them (2 Tim 1:10); 'that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil,' and so deliver (Heb 2:14). And again, 'O death, I will be thy plagues! O grace, I will be thy destruction!' (Hosea 13:14). And again, 'that the body of sin might be destroyed' (Rom 6:6); and I have the keys of hell and of death (Rev 1:18). Having thereby sufficiently declared that the power of it is destroyed as to Israel, who are the people concerned in this redemption.
2. They shall be overcome by his church through the power of his Spirit. Now, as was hinted before, the redemption is already obtained, and that completely, by the person of Christ for us (Heb 9:24), as it is written, 'Having obtained eternal redemption for us'; yet these enemies, sin, death, the devil, hell, and the grave, are not so under the feet of his [saints] as he will put them, and as they shall be in conclusion under the feet of Christ (Heb 2:8,9). I say they are not; wherefore, as the text also concludeth, this redemption is with the Lord, and under our feet they shall be by the power of God towards us (2 Cor 13:4). And for this let Israel hope. The sum then is, God's people have with the Lord redemption, and redemption in reversion; redemption, and redemption to come; all which is in the hand of the Lord for us, and of all we shall be possessed in his time. This is that called plenteous redemption. 'For with him is plenteous redemption.' A little therefore to touch upon the redemption that we have in reversion, or of the redemption yet to come.
(1.) There is yet much sin and many imperfections that cleave to our persons and to our performances, from which, though we be not yet in the most full sense delivered, yet this redemption is with our Lord, and we shall have it in his time; and in the meantime it is said, It shall not have dominion over us. 'Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace' (Rom 6:14). We are, by what Christ has done, taken from under the law, the curse; and must, by what Christ will do, be delivered from the very being of sin. 'He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity'; that he might present us to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that we should be without blemish (Titus 2:13,14; Eph 5:25,27). That we are already without the being of sin, none but fools and madmen will assert; and that we shall never be delivered from it, none but such men will affirm neither. It remains then, that there is a redemption for Israel in reversion, and that from the being of sin. And of this it is that the text also discourseth, and for which let the godly hope.
(2.) We are not yet quite free from Satan's assaulting of us, though our Head by himself, and that for us, has got a complete conquest over him; but the time is coming, and himself knows that it is but a little while to it, in which he shall forever be bruised under our feet. Be wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil, and the God of peace shall bruise, tread down Satan under your feet shortly (Rom 16:20). Some may think that this text will have a fulfilling in the ruin and downfall of Antichrist; and so it may; but yet it will never be wholly fulfilled, as long as Satan shall have any thing to do with one of the children of God. There is therefore a redemption in reversion for the children of God from Satan, which they are to hope for, because this redemption is with the Lord their Head, and that to manage and bring about for them. For he shall bruise him under their feet in his time.
(3.) There is yet belonging to the church of God a redemption from what remains of Antichrist, although as yet he is stronger than we, which I also call a redemption in reversion, for that it is yet to come, nor shall it be accomplished till the time appointed. In this redemption, not only saints, but truths will have a share; yea, and many also of the men that belong not to the kingdom of Christ and of God. This redemption God's people are also to hope for, for it is with their Lord, and he has promised it to them, as the Scripture doth plentifully declare.
(4.) There is yet a redemption to come, which is called the redemption of our body (Rom 8:23). Of this redemption we have both the earnest and the seal, to wit, the Spirit of God (Eph 1:14, 4:30). And because the time to it is long, therefore we are to wait for it; and because it will be that upon which all our blessedness will be let out to us, and we also let in to it, therefore we should be comforted at all the signs of the near approach thereof; 'then,' saith Christ, 'look up and lift up your heads' (Luke 21:28). The bodies of saints are called the purchased possession; possession, because the whole of all that shall be saved shall be for a temple or house for God to dwell in, in the heavens. A purchased possession, because the body, as well as the soul, is bought with the price of blood (1 Cor 6:14-20). But what then doth he mean by the redemption of this purchased possession? I answer, he meaneth the raising it up from the dead; 'I will ransom them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from death' (Hosea 13:14). And then shall be brought to pass that saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory'; that saying, that is this, and that in Isaiah, for they speak both the selfsame thing (1 Cor 15; Isa 25:8).
And this was signified by Moses, where he speaks of the year of jubilee, and of the redemption of the house that was sold in Israel, how of that year it should return to the owner (Lev 25). Our bodies of right are God's, but sin still dwells in them; we have also sold and forfeited them to death and the grave, and so they will abide; but at the judgment day, that blessed jubilee, God will take our body, which originally is his, and will deliver it from the bondage of corruption, unto which, by our souls, through sin, it has been subjected; he will take it, I say, because it is his, both by creation and redemption, and will bring it to that perfect freedom that is only to be found in immortality and eternal life. And for this should Israel hope! From what hath been said to this first thing, it appears that the mercy that is with God for his people, as it is in general what has been described before, so it is redeeming mercy, or mercy that has with it the virtue of redemption; of the advantageousness of this mercy, we will further discourse by and by, but now we will look into the second thing, that from this amplification of the reason was propounded to be spoken to, to wit,
[SECOND. The sufficiency of this redemption.]
An account of the sufficiency of this redemption. 'Let Israel hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.' The sufficiency or plenteousness of it may be spoken to, as it respecteth the many difficulties and dangers that by sin we have brought ourselves into; or as it respecteth the superabundant worth that is found therein, let the dangers attending us be what they will, though we should not be acquainted with the half or the hundredth part thereof.
To speak to it as it respecteth those particular difficulties and dangers that by sin we have brought ourselves unto; and that, First. By showing the suitableness of it. Second. By showing the sufficiency of the suitableness thereof.
First. The suitableness of it lieth in the fit application thereof to all the parts of thraldom and bondage. Have we sinned? Christ had our sins laid upon his back; yea, of God was made, that is, reputed, sin for us (Isa 53; 2 Cor 5:21). Were we under the curse of the law by reason of sin? Christ was made under the law, and bare the curse thereof to redeem (Gal 4:4, 3:13; Rom 3:24). Had sin set us at an indefinite distance from God? Christ has become, by the price of his redeeming blood, a reconciler of man to God again (Col 1:20). Were we by sin subject to death? Christ died the death to set us free therefrom (Rom 6:23). Had our sins betrayed us into and under Satan's slavery? Christ has spoiled and destroyed this work, and made us free citizens of heaven (Acts 26:18; 2 Tim 2:26; Heb 2:14; Eph 2:19). Thus was our Redeemer made, as to those things, a suitable recoverer, taking all and missing nothing that stood in the way of our happiness; according to that a little below the text, 'And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities,' that is, from them, together with their evil fruits.
Second. Now as to the sufficiency that was in this suitableness, that is declared by his resurrection, by his ascension, by his exaltation to the right hand of God; that is also declared by God's putting all things under his feet, and by giving of him to be head over all things for his redeemed's sake. It is also further declared in that God now threateneth none but those that refuse to take Jesus for their Saviour, and for that he is resolved to make his foes his footstool. What are more natural consequences flowing from anything, than that by these things is the sufficiency of the suitableness of redemption by Christ proved? For all these things followed Christ, for, or because he humbled himself to the death of the cross, that he might become a Redeemer; therefore God raised him up, took him to his throne, and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God by him (Phil 2).
But alas! what need we stand to prove the sun is light, the fire hot, the water wet? What was done by him was done by God, for he was true God; and what comparison can there be betwixt God and the creature, betwixt the worth of God's acts, and the merit of the sin of poor man! And can death, or sin, or the grave hold us, when God saith, 'Give up?' Yea, where is that, or he, that shall call into question the superabounding sufficiency that is in the merit of Christ, when God continueth to discharge, day by day, yea, hourly, and every moment, sinners from their sin, and death, and hell, for the sake of the redemption that is obtained for us by Christ?
God be thanked here is plenty; but no want of anything! Enough and to spare! It will be with the merit of Christ, even at the end of the world, as it was with the five loaves and two fishes, after the five thousand men, besides women and children, had sufficiently eaten thereof. There was, to the view of all at last, more than showed itself at fist. At first there was but five loaves and two fishes, which a lad carried. At last there were twelve baskets full, the weight of which, I suppose, not the strongest man could bear away. Nay, I am persuaded, that at the end of the world, when the damned shall see what a sufficiency there is left of merit in Christ, besides what was bestowed upon them that were saved by him, they will run mad for anguish of heart to think what fools they were not to come to him, and trust in him that they might be saved, as their fellow-sinners did. But this is revealed that Israel, that the godly may hope and expect. Let Israel therefore hope in the Lord, for with him is plenteous redemption.
[Amplifying reasons as a conclusion of the whole.]
Now as this last clause, as I termed it, is the amplification of the reason going before; so itself yieldeth amplifying reasons as a conclusion of the whole. For,
First. Add redemption unto mercy, and then things still are heightened and made greater. And it must, because the text adds it, and because both the nature of God, the holiness of his law, and the present state of the sinner that is to be saved, requireth that it should be so. God is justice as well as mercy; the law is holy and just; that man that is to be saved is not only a sinner, but polluted. Now, then, that mercy and justice may meet and kiss in the salvation of the sinner, there must be a redemption; that the sinner may be saved, and the law retain its sanction and authority, there must be a redemption; that the sinner may be purged as well as pardoned, there must be a redemption. And, I say, as there must, so there is: 'For with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.' Mercy is the original, the cause, and the manager of our redemption. Redemption is the manifestation, and the completing of that mercy. If there had been no mercy, there had been no redemption. Mercy had been defective as to us, or must have offered violence to the law and justice of God, and have saved us contrary to that word, 'In the day thou eatest thou shalt die,' and 'Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.' But now, redemption coming in by mercy, the sin is done away, and the sinner saved, in a way of righteousness.
Second. By law as well as grace; that is, in a way of justice as well as in a way of mercy. Hence it saith we are 'justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus' (Rom 3:24). Through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, and so to show the world the equity of his proceeding with sinners in the saving of their souls. As if God should say to all those who stumble at the salvation of sinners by grace, Behold, I act according to law and justice. For of grace I save them through a redemption, and therefore am faithful and just to my law, as well as free and liberal of my mercy. Wherefore thus I declare I am righteous, faithful, and just in passing over or remitting of sin. Nay, the matter so standeth now betwixt me and the sinful world, that I could not be just if I did not justify him that hath faith in the blood of Jesus, since by that blood my justice is appeased for all that this or that sinner has done against my law!
This is a way that God, nor any child of his, need be ashamed of before any that shall call in question the legality and justice of this procedure. For why may not God be merciful, and why may not God be just? And since he can be both merciful and just in the salvation of sinners, why may he not also save them from death and hell? Christ is God's salvation, and to show that he is not ashamed of him, he hath presented him, and the way of redemption by him, before the face of all people (Luke 2:30-32). Nor is the Son, who is become, with respect to the act of redemption, the author of eternal salvation, ashamed of this his doings. 'I gave my back to the smiters,' saith he, 'and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and smiting' (Isa 50:6). This he speaks to show what were some of his sufferings when he engaged in the work of our redemption, and how heartily he did bear and go through them. 'For,' says he, 'the Lord God will help me,' that is, justify me in it, 'therefore shall I not be confounded, therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed' (v 7). And if God, and his Son Jesus Christ, are neither of them ashamed to own this way of salvation, why should the sinners concerned thereabout be afraid thereupon to venture their soul? I know, saith he, 'I shall not be ashamed'; I shall not, that is, when all things come to light, and everything shall appear above board; when the heart and soul of this undertaking of mine shall be proclaimed upon the house-tops, I know I shall not be ashamed.
It was also upon this account that Paul said he was not ashamed of the gospel (Rom 1). For he knew that it was a declaration of the highest act of wisdom that ever God did spread before the face of the sons of men. And of what wisdom is the gospel a declaration but of that of forgiveness of sins by grace, through the redemption that is by the blood of Jesus Christ? 'In whom we have redemption through his blood,' even 'the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace, wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence' (Eph 1:7,8).
And as Paul speaketh here as a minister, so he speaketh after the same manner also as he is a believer, saying, 'I am not ashamed' of this gospel, 'for I know whom I have believed,' or trusted with my soul, 'and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day' (2 Tim 1:11,12). Wherefore seeing that mercy is not presented to us alone, or singly, but as accompanying and concurring with redemption; it is manifest enough that mercy standeth not above, and consequently that it saveth none but in, by, and through a Redeemer. He that believeth not in Christ shall be damned. But what needs that, if mercy could save the soul without the redemption that is by him? If any say, Christ is the mercy of God to us. True, if you count him a Redeemer, a worker out of a redemption for us by his death and blood upon the cross. But otherwise he is none; I mean, if you make him a lawgiver, and a Saviour, only as he has set an example to us to get to heaven by doing commandments, or by treading in his steps. Yea, though you say his commandment is that we believe in him: for, take the work of redemption by his blood from the curse, out of his hand, and then what concerning him is left from me to believe, but, as was said before, that he is a lawgiver, and as such, at best, but a pattern to us to get to heaven, as here? And whoso counteth him as such, is so far off from counting of Christ the mercy of God to us, that they make him a contradictor of mercy, both in the fountain and all the streams of it. For to propound life eternal to us, through the observation of laws, is to set before us that which contradicteth grace and mercy, let the work be what it will; nor will it help at all to say, that they that do the law of Christ, or that take him for their law and example, shall be sure of mercy to pass by their shortness of attaining to the perfection of what is set before them. For all this might have been done, and not one drop of blood spilt for the redemption of man. Besides, this makes Christ's death, as a Redeemer, as an act unadvisedly undertaken; for what need he have died, if his doctrine and example had been sufficient, through that which they call mercy, to have brought the soul to glory? 'If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain' (Gal 2:21). I will add, put man's righteousness, God's mercy, and Christ's redemption, all together, and they will not save a man; though the last two alone will sufficiently do it: but this third is a piece when put to that, does, instead of mending, make the rent worse. Besides, since man's righteousness cannot be joined in justification with God's mercy and Christ's redemption, but through a disbelief of the sufficiency of them, should it be admitted as a cause, though but the least cause thereof, what would follow, but to make that cursed sin of unbelief a good inventor, and a necessary worker in the manner of the justification of a sinner? For, I say, unbelief is the cause of this hodge-podge in any; and the effects of it are showed in the 9th chapter of the epistle of Paul to the Romans, at the latter end thereof (vv 31-35).
And there are three things that follow upon that opinion that denieth the absolute necessity of the shedding of the blood of Christ for the redemption of man, that mercy might be let out to him.
1. It followeth from thence, that there is no such attribute as absolute justice in God; justice to stand to his word, and to vindicate every tittle of his law. For let but this be granted, and the death of Christ must be brought in, or by justice the floodgate of mercy still be shut against sinful man; or that God must have mercy upon man, with the breach of his Word.
2. It also followeth from the premises, that Christ's death was of pleasure only, and not of necessity also; contrary to the Scripture, that makes his death the effect of both; of pleasure, to show how willing God the Father was that Christ should die for man: of necessity, to show that man could not be saved without it; of pleasure, to show how justice did deal with him for our sin; of necessity, to show that mercy could not be communicated to us without it (Isa 53:10; Matt 26:39; Acts 17:3).
3. There also followeth therefrom, that by the blood of Christ we have not redemption from law, and justice, as to the condemning part of both, but that rather this title is given to it for honour and glory, to dignify it; as the name of God is also given to him: for they that affirm the one, are bold to affirm the other. For as by them is concluded, that there is no necessity why the blood of Christ should be counted the absolutely necessary price of our redemption from the curse of the law and severity of justice; so by them it is concluded, that it is not necessary to hold that Christ the Redeemer is naturally and co-eternally God, as the Father. But 'let Israel hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.'
Third. Must there be redemption by blood added to mercy, if the soul be saved? This shows us what an horrible thing the sin of man is. Sin, as to the nature of it, is little known in the world. O! it sticks so fast to us, as not to be severed from us by all the mercy of God: do but exclude redemption by the blood of Christ. I will say it over again. All the mercy of God cannot save a sinner, without respect to redemption from the curse of the law, by the death and blood of Christ. 'Without shedding of blood is no remission' (Heb 9:22). No remission, no pardon, or passing by of the least transgression, without it. Tears! Christ's tears will not do it. Prayers! Christ's prayers will not do it. An holy life! the holy life that Christ lived, will not do it, as severed from his death and blood. The word redemption, therefore, must be well understood, and close stuck to, and must not be allowed, as properly spoken, when we talk of deliverance from sin, the law, and God's curse, unless it be applied particularly to the death and blood of Christ (Eph 1:7). We have redemption through his blood (Rev 1:5). 'Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree' (Gal 3:13). He has redeemed us to God by his blood. 'For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood' (Rev 5:9). This is the redemption that is joined with mercy, yea, that is the fruit thereof; and it is that without which sin cannot be removed out of the sight of God. Moses, that was a better preacher of the law, and the sufficiency of the righteousness thereof, than any now can pretend to be, yet he full well declared by all his bloody sacrifices, that the blood and death of Jesus Christ is of absolute necessity for the redemption of the soul. Besides, he tells us that the man that should flee to the city of refuge, from the avenger of blood, should not be at liberty from the law, unless he kept himself close in that city until the death of the high-priest. Mark the words, 'Ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the' high 'priest' (Num 35:32). Wherefore, Christian man, know thou thy sin in the nature of it and persuade thyself, that the removing of it from before the face of God is by no less means than the death and blood of Christ. But it is a poor shift that the enemies of the truth are put to, when, to defend their errors, they are forced to diminish sin, and to enlarge the borders of their fig-leaf garments, and to deny or cast away, as much as in them lies, one of the attributes, the justice of God. Indeed they will say they abhor to do thus, and all erroneous persons will put the best face they can upon their bad matters; but the natural consequences of things amount to it; nor can they, when men stick close to their sides, avoid the charge.
Fourth. Then here you see the reason of that free course that mercy hath among the sons of men, and why it doth, as has been showed before what it doth. Why justice is content. Blood hath answered the demand of justice. The law hath nothing to object against his salvation that believeth in Jesus Christ. Blood has set the door open for us with boldness to go to God for mercy, and for God to come with his abundant grace to us. We have 'boldness, brethren, to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say, his flesh' (Heb 10:19,20). This is the way that Moses desired to find, when God so largely spake to him of his mercy. 'Thou hast said,' says Moses to God, 'I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight. Now, therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way that I may know thee,' &c. (Exo 33:12,13). What if it should be applied thus? thou now talkest of mercy, but in thy words to us from the Mount, thou spakest fire and justice; and since thou hast delivered us to holy a law, and are resolved that the least tittle thereof shall by no means fall to the ground; by what means is it that mercy should come unto us? Well, saith God, I will show thee my way, I will put thee in a clift of the rock, which was a figure of Christ, for Christ says, 'I am the way' (Exo 34; John 14:6). This done, he proclaimed his name, and showed him how he could be gracious, and gave him the sign of his being merciful, a promise that his presence should go with him. The breaking then of the body of Jesus was, the renting of the vail, that out of which came blood, that the way to God might be living; and not death, or sword, or flame, to the poor children of men. Out hence therefore bubbleth continually the tender mercy, the great mercy, the rich mercy, the abundant mercy, the multiplying mercy, and every other mercy of God to us for our present and everlasting good.
Not that God was sparing of his mercy, and would not part with it unless paid for it; for this way of redemption by blood was his contrivance, the fruit of his wisdom (Eph 1:8). So then, God was big with mercy for a sinful world; but to be continually extending of mercy, since sin and justice, because of the sanction of the law, lay in the way as a turning flaming sword, there did lie the work (Gen 3:24); so it was concluded, that mercy might, in a way of justice, be let out to sinners; Christ, the Son of God, should die for the sin of man. By which means the outcries of the law and justice against us for our sins did cease, and mercy flowed from heaven like the waters of Noah, until it became a sea (Micah 7:18,19).
By redemption by blood, therefore, is this great mystery—That a just God can save that man that has broken that law, that God has said he will inflict the penalty for the breach thereof upon, and do his justice no wrong—expounded; not by a relaxation of the punishment, as the doltish wisdom of this world imagines; but by an inflicting of the exactest justice upon that nature that has offended. If the question be asked, How a just God can save that man from death, that by sin has put himself under the sentence of it? any fool can answer, 'By a pardon.' And if it be asked, But what will become of the threatening wherewith he threatened the offender? He that knows no mysteries can say, Why, man must repent of his sin, and God of his threatening. But if it be asked, How God can execute his threatening to the utmost, and yet deliver the sinner by his mercy from it; the sinner that has deserved it, and yet be just to his law, faithful to his law, and one that will stand by every tittle of his law? this, to expound, is to high for a fool; therefore these men are for despising of mysteries, and for counting of mysteries in the gospel, follies.
But this key of heaven is no where but in the Word of the Spirit; it is not seen in the law, nor in the reason or righteousness of the world. To punish 'the just for the unjust,' and to make him 'to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,' seems unreasonable; so cross to the wisdom of man are the wards of this lock (1 Peter 3:18; 2 Cor 5:21). Wherefore usually, when they come at this doctrine, they belch out their frumps, their taunts, their scoffs, and their scorns against it; and in opposition thereto, comment, exalt, cry up, and set on high, Socinianism, Mahometanism, man's ragged righteousness, or anything. But we will pass these things.
Fifth. The knowledge of redemption, and the faith of redemption, is the only means of settling, composing, and upholding the soul of the thoroughly awakened, in the hope of enjoying a portion in mercy for ever. What senseless, secure, besotted, and deluded men, conclude of themselves, and of the means of future happiness, is one thing; and what the thoroughly awakened soul concludes upon, is another. And I say, one thoroughly awakened about the nature of God, the nature of sin, and the worth of the soul, will find but little ease of mind, notwithstanding notions of mercy, until he comes and sees that he must be saved by mercy and justice both; and that to be sure he shall never do, until he is taught that by the blood of Christ the law is, as to the curse that is in it against the sinner, taken out of the way (Col 2).
These things, sin and justice, are too great to be played with by him that shall see them in the light of the law, and that shall feel them in their terror upon a trembling conscience. But when the soul shall see that a propitiation is made to justice by blood, then, and not till then, it sees sin taken away: and when it sees, by this means, sin taken away, then it can behold to hope in the mercy of God. Yea, and it will be as hard to wring off him that is settled here, from this belief to another, as it would be to persuade him that stands upon sound ground to venture his life upon a shaking bottomless quag. O! It is a pleasant thing for the wounded conscience to taste the sweetness of redeeming blood! (John 6:51-56). This is like the best wine that goes down sweetly; this carries with the last of it the very tang of eternal life! (Heb 9:14). And know that dead works, or works of death, will abide in the conscience, notwithstanding all talk and notions of mercy, until that be purged with blood applied thereto, by the Spirit and faith. This is one of the three that abide to witness on earth, that 'God hath given us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son'; because he died for us, and rose again (1 John 5:8-11).
This, therefore, is that that will establish a man with that peace that shall not be shaken, because by this such an one seeth the justice of God is quieted. For peace is made by the blood of the cross; peace with God for sinners (Col 1:20). Yea, God himself, by the blood of the cross, has made it, that by him, Christ, he might reconcile to himself all things, whether they be things on earth, or things in heaven. Nor will a man that is truly spiritually wise, rest till he comes where God towards man doth rest; but that can be only there, where such means are offered for the taking away of sin, that are of a sweet-smelling savour to God. Now this is the offering that Christ offered, to wit, himself; for Christ loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet-smelling savour (Eph 5:2). Therefore it is by it, the body of his flesh, through death, that we are presented holy, unblameable, and unreproveable in his sight (Col 1:21). Wherefore it must be true which was said before, to wit, That the knowledge of redemption, and the faith of redemption, is the only means of settling, composing, and upholding of the soul of the thoroughly awakened, in the hope of enjoying a portion in mercy for ever. He that hath the Son of God, hath the Father, hath life; because with him is the means of peace with the Father, and so of eternal life (1 John 2:23). But then, to have the Son, is to believe on him, and on the Father through him (1 John 5:10-12). On him, that he is the Saviour by his blood; and on the Father through him, as believing that he, for his Son's sufferings, is pacified with us, and of his grace hath forgiven us, through him, all trespasses (2 John 9; Eph 4:32).
Sixth. The knowledge and faith of this redemption fortifieth the Christian against temptations. We that do believe, know what it is to be assaulted by the devil, and to have knotty objections cast into our minds by him. We also know what advantage the vile sin of unbelief will get upon us, if our knowledge and faith in this redemption be in the least, below the common faith of saints, defective. If we talk of mercy, he can talk of justice; if we talk of grace, he can talk of the law. And all his words, when God will suffer it, we shall find as sharp, and subject to stick in our minds, as bearded arrows are to stick in flesh. Besides, he can and doth, and that often, work in our fancies and imaginations such apprehensions of God, that he shall seem to be to us one that cannot abide us, one that hates us, and that lieth in wait to destroy us. And now, if any body speaks to us of mercy, we think we might hope in that, had we nothing to trouble us but the guilt of actual sins. But we see our nature as full of the filth of sin, as the egg is of meat, or the toad of poison: which filth vilely recoileth against the commandments, flieth in the face of God, and continueth all his judgments. This is felt, this is seen by the sinner, who cannot help it; nor can he be brought to that consideration as to say, 'It is no more I' (Rom 7). Now, what shall this man do? Shall he look to the commandment? There is death? Shall he look to God? There is justice! Shall he look to himself? There is sin out of measure! Let him look, then, to one as dying, to the 'lamb as it had been slain,' and there let him see himself by this Lamb, as cursed, and a dying of a cursed death for this sin that doth so fright and so distress the soul (Rev 5:6). Then let him turn again, and behold this Lamb alive and well, and highly exalted by this God, that but just before laid the curse of the law upon him; but let him be sure to reckon that he has died for his sins by the person of Christ, and it will follow that this man is now acquitted, because Christ is still alive. Say I these things as a man? Saith not the gospel the very same? 1. As to Christ's dying for us; as also that we are dead to the law by the body of Christ (Rom 6:6; 7). 2. And that we should so reckon as to this matter, because that God has transferred our sin from us to him.
1. Did not Christ die for us; and dying for us, are we not become dead to the law by the death of his body? or will the law slay both him and us, and that for the same transgression? (Rom 7:1,2). If this be concluded in the affirmative, what follows but that Christ, though he undertook, came short in doing for us? But he was raised up from the dead, and believing marrieth us to him as risen, and that stops the mouth of all. I am crucified with Christ, our old man was crucified with him, and we are become dead to the law by the body of Christ (Rom 5:3,4). What then?
2. Why, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ. Ay, but says the soul, 'How can I reckon thus, when sin is yet strong in me?' Answ. Read the words again, He saith not, Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, in yourselves; but dead unto it through Jesus Christ. Not alive unto God in yourselves, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ. For Christ in his death and resurrection representeth me. As I died by him, I arose again by him, and live through the faith of the gospel in the presence of God by him. This must in the first place be allowed and believed, or no true peace can come near the soul, nor the soul be prepared to assoil the assaults of the adversary. Let therefore thy faith, if thou wouldst be a warrior, O thou faint-hearted Christian, be well instructed in this! Then will thy faith do thee a twofold kindness. 1. It will conform thee to the death and resurrection of Christ. And, 2. It will give thee advantage, when thou seest sin strong in thyself, yet to conclude that by Christ thou art dead thereto, and by him alive therefrom. Nor can there but two objections be made against this. The first is to question whether any are said to die and rise, by the death and resurrection of Christ? or if it so may be said; yet whether thou art one of them? To the first the scripture is full. To the second, thy faith must be strong: for let go faith here, and all falls flat to the ground, I mean as to comfort and consolation. Christ died for us, or in our stead; therefore, by the Word of God, I am allowed so to reckon. Christ rose and revived, though he died for me; therefore I rose and revived by Christ: unless any does hold, that though he died in a common, yet he arose as considered but in a single capacity. Now, then, if Satan comes and tells me of my sins, I answer, 'Christ has taken them upon himself.' If he comes and tells me of the death that is due to me for sin, by the curse of the holy law, I answer, I have already undergone that by Christ. If he asks me, How I know that the law will not lay hold of me also? I answer, Because Christ is risen from the dead. If he asks me, By what authority I take upon me thus to reason? I tell him, By the authority and allowance of the holy and most blessed gospel, which saith, He 'was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification' (Rom 4). And to encourage thee thus to believe, and thus to hold, when thou art in an hour of temptation, this is the way to see mercy stand and smile upon thee; for mercy will smile upon him that shall thus believe (2 Cor 3:16-18). This is the way to put faith and hope both to work against the devil; and to do this is very pleasing to God. This the way to make that hell-bound retreat and leave off to assault (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9). And this is the way to find an answer to many scriptures, with which else thou wilt not know what to do, as with many of the types and shadows; yea, and with the moral law itself.
Besides, thus believing setteth thy soul against the fear of death, and judgment to come; for if Christ be raised from the dead who died for our sins; and if Christ who died for our sins is entered into glory: I say again, if Christ who died for our sins has purchased us to himself, and is purposed that the fruit of this his purchase shall be, that we may behold his face in glory; then, cast off slavish fear of death and judgment: for Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him!
Seventh. The knowledge and faith of this redemption prepareth man to a holy life. By a holy life, I mean a life according to the moral law, flowing from a spirit of thankfulness to God for giving of his Son to be my Redeemer. This I call a holy life, because it is according to the rule of holiness, the law, and this I call a holy life, because it floweth from such a principle as giveth to God the heart, and life, for the gift bestowed on us. What pretences soever there are to holiness, if it floweth not from thankfulness for mercy received, it floweth from a wrong principle, and so cannot be good. Hence, men were required of old, to serve the Lord with joyfulness, 'for the abundance of all things'; and threatened, if they did not, that 'they should serve their enemies in hunger and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in the want of all things' (Deut 28:47,48). But then, though there are many mercies that lay an obligation upon men to be holy, yet he that shall want the obligation that is begotten by the faith of redeeming mercy, wanteth the main principle of true holiness: nor will any other be found sufficiently to sanctify the heart to the causing of it to produce such a life; nor can such holiness be accepted, because it comes not forth in the name of Christ. That that obliged David was forgiving and redeeming mercy; and that that obliged Paul was the love that Christ showed to him, in dying for his sins, and in rising from the dead (Psa 103:1-5; 2 Cor 5:14,15). Paul also beseecheth the Romans, by the redeeming, justifying, preserving, and electing mercy of God, that they present their body 'a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God; which is,' saith he, 'your reasonable service' (Rom 12:1). For we must be holy and without blame before him in love (Eph 4:1).
Hence, all along, they that are exhorted to holiness in the New Testament, are exhorted to it upon the supposition of the benefit of redemption which they have received by Jesus Christ. 'Walk in love as Christ also hath loved us' (Eph 5:2). 'If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like minded, having the same love,' &c. (Phil 2:1,2). 'If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth,' &c. (Col 3:1-5). 'Wherefore laying aside all malice and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil-speakings, as new-born babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby, if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious' (1 Peter 2:1-3). I will conclude this with that of Peter, to those to whom he wrote concerning this very thing. Be 'obedient children,' saith he, 'not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance; but as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation: because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy, And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear. Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot' (1 Peter 1:14-19).
From all which it appears, that mercy by Christ, or from the benefit of redemption by the precious blood of Christ, I say, from the faith of that, flows that which is holiness indeed. And I believe that those very men that are pleased to taunt at this kind of inference, would condemn a man was he laid under these obligations concerning things of this life, and yet did carry it as one not touched thereby. We will make an instance: Suppose a Socinian should, through his contracting a great debt, be forced to rot in prison, unless redeemed by silver and gold: and suppose a man, unto whom this Socinian was an enemy, should lay down the whole debt to the creditor, that this Socinian might be at liberty, might trade, and live comfortably in this world; and if, after this, this Socinian should taunt at them that should tell him he is engaged to this redeemer, ought to love and respect this redeemer; what would they say but that this Socinian that was a debtor is an inconsiderate and stupefied rascal? Why, this is the case; Paul was a debtor to the law and justice of God; Jesus Christ his Son, that Paul might not perish for ever, paid for him a price of redemption, to wit, his most precious blood. But what! Shall Paul now, though redeemed from perpetual imprisonment in hell, be as one that never was beholden to Jesus Christ; or if others say he was, taunt at them for their so saying? No, he scorns it. Though the love of Christ, in dying to pay a price of redemption, will not engage a Socinian, yet it will engage a true Christian to think and believe that he ought to live to Jesus, that died for him and rose again.
I know it will be objected that the Satisfactionists, as the quaking Penn is pleased to call them, show but little of this to the world; for their pride, covetousness, false dealing, and the like, since they profess as I have said, shows them as little concerned to the full as to the Socinian under consideration. I answer, it must be that the name of Christ should be scandalized through some that profess him; and they must answer it at the tribunal of the great Judge; yet what I have said stands fast as a rock that cannot be moved.
Eighth. The knowledge and faith of redemption is a very great encouragement to prayer. It is great encouragement for the poor to go even to a prince for what he wanteth, when he considereth that what he goeth to him for is the price of redemption. All things that we want, we must ask the Father for, in the name of Christ: we must ask it of him for the sake of his redeeming blood, for the sake of the merit of his passion (John 15:16). Thus David means, when he says, 'For thy name's sake' do it (Psa 25:11); and Daniel when he saith here, 'For the Lord's sake' (9:17). For Jesus Christ is God's great name; and to do for his sake is to do for what worthiness is in him.
Unworthiness! The consideration of unworthiness is a great stumbling-block to the tempted when he goes to seek the Lord. But now, remembering the worthiness of Christ, and that he is now on the right hand of God, on purpose to plead that on the behalf of the petitioner, this is great encouragement. The Jews, by God's ordinance, when they went morning and evening by their priest to speak with God, were to offer a lamb for a burnt-offering, and it must be thus continually (Exo 29:38-46). Now this lamb was a figure of the sacrificing of the body of Christ which was to be offered for them in time to come; and, in that it was to be continually, morning and evening, so repeated, what doth it signify, but that we should remember to go, when we went to God, in the name and faith of the merits of Jesus Christ for what we stood in need of? This will support, and this will encourage, for now we see that the thing desired—it being according to his will—is obtained for us by the sacrificing of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all.
When Israel begged of Samuel that he would not cease to cry to the Lord their God for them, it is said he took a sucking lamb and offered it for a burnt-offering wholly unto the Lord; and Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel, and the Lord heard him (1 Sam 7:8,9). But why did he take a sucking lamb, and why did he offer it, and that wholly unto the Lord, as he cried, but to show to Israel that he was not heard for his own, or for his righteousness sake, but for the sake of Christ, whose merits were prefigured by Samuel's burning of the lamb?
Also when David spake for himself to Saul, he put himself upon this, 'If,' saith he, 'the Lord hath stirred thee up against me, let him accept an offering, a smell, a sweet-smelling sacrifice; a figure of the satisfactoriness of the sufferings of Jesus Christ' (1 Sam 26:19). What is the meaning of all these passages, if not to show that when we go to pray to God, we should turn away our face from every thing of ours, and look to God, only by the price of redemption paid for us by Jesus Christ, and plead that alone with him as the great prevailing argument, and that by and for the sake of which he giveth pardon and grace to help in time of need? Wherefore, wouldst thou be a praying man, a man that would pray and prevail? why, pray to God in the faith of the merits of Christ, AND SPEED.
Ninth. For this is the very cause why this is added in the text, to wit, the plenteousness of redemption, it is, I say, that men should hope to partake by it, of the goodness and mercy of God. 'Let Israel hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.' Mercy and redemption, mercy through a Redeemer, therefore 'let Israel hope'! It must also be noted, that this word redemption is, as it were, the explicatory part of the text, for the helping of Israel to hope. As who should say, as there is with God mercy, so there is with him a way to his mercy, and that way is redemption, or a price paid for your sins; and that you should not be discouraged through the greatness of your sins, I tell you there is with God plenty of this redemption, or a price paid to the full; to an over and above. It also is as if he had said, Forget not this, for this is the key of all the rest, and the great support to the saints in prayer, or while they wait upon God in any of his appointments to encourage them to hope.
Tenth. And lastly, This also should teach the saints, when they sin or praise the Lord, they should not sing of mercy only, but of mercy and judgment too; 'I will sing of mercy and judgment; unto thee, O Lord, will I sing' (Psa 101:1). Of mercy and judgment, or justice in the manifestation of it, as smiling upon our forgiveness. When Hannah sang of, and rejoiced in God's salvation, she sang aloud of holiness, saying, 'There is none holy as the Lord' (1 Sam 2:1,2). Holy in keeping his word, though it cost the blood of his Son. This also is that that is called a helping of his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy, and the performing of the mercy promised; even the oath that he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies—by a Redeemer—might serve him without fear, &c. (Luke 1:49,54). When you praise, therefore, remember Christ and his blood, and how justice and judgment took hold on him, that they might not take hold on thee; yea, how they by taking hold on him, left a way to thee to escape. Isaac should have been sacrificed, had not the Lord provided a ram; and thou thyself shouldest have been damned, had not the Lord provided a lamb (Gen 22; Rev 5). Hence Christ is called the 'Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,' that taketh them away by the sacrifice of himself. Sing therefore in your praises unto God, and to the Lamb!
[THE APPLICATION OR USE OF THE WHOLE.]
I would come now to speak one short word of use to the whole. And,
First. This still shows more and more, what a sad state God's people have brought themselves into by sin. I told you before that the revelation of so much mercy as is presented unto us by the first part of the text, sufficiently declared our state to be miserable by sin. But what shall we say, when there must be added to that the heart blood of the Son of God, and all to make our salvation complete? For albeit mercy is essential to our salvation, and that without which there can be no salvation; yet it is the blood that maketh the atonement for the soul, THAT propitiates, and so makes capable of enjoying of it. It was mercy and love, as I said afore, that sent one to shed his blood for us; and it is the blood of him that was sent, that puts us into the enjoyment of mercy. O! I have thought sometimes, what bloody creatures hath sin made us! The beasts of the field must be slain by thousands before Christ came, to signify to us we should have a Saviour; and after that, he must come himself, and die a worse death than died those beasts, before the work of saving could be finished. O redemption, redemption by blood, is the heart-endearing consideration! This is that which will make the water stand in our eyes, that will break a heart of flint, and that will make one do as they do, that are 'in bitterness for their first-born' (Zech 12:10).
Sinner, wouldst thou have mercy? wouldst thou be saved? Go thou then to the blood of the cross, as set forth in the word of the truth of the gospel, and there thou shalt find that mercy that thou hast need of first; for there is a mercy that may be called a FIRST mercy, and that is the mercy that gives admittance into, and an interest in all the rest. Now the mercy that doth this, is that which reconcileth us to God; but that other things cannot do, if we stand off from the blood of the cross. Wherefore we are said to be reconciled to God, by the death of his Son. 'For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life' (Rom 5:10). According to that other saying, 'He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?' (8:32). In both these places the Son of God, and our Redeemer, is set forth to us in the first place, as the only one that reconcileth to God the sinner by the blood of his cross; wherefore to this Christ, as crucified, the sinner must come first; because nothing else can reconcile to God; and if thou be not reconciled to God, what art thou but an enemy to him, partake of what mercy thou canst? (Col 1:20). Go to him, did I say? receive him into the arms of thy faith; hold him fast, for he is a Saviour; yea, carry him as set forth by the gospel, dying for thee, and pray God for his sake to bestow upon thee all those mercies that will compass thee about as with a shield, and follow thee all thy days, till thou enterest in at the doors of eternity; and this is the way to speed! For he that hath the Son hath life, in the beginning of it; and he that holds fast the Son, shall have life in the consummation of it. I do the oftener touch upon this matter, because this Christ is the door, in at which whosoever entereth shall be saved; but he that climbs up any other way, shall be judged as a thief and a robber (John 10:1). But,
Second. Is Christ, as crucified, the way and door to all spiritual and eternal mercy? And doth God come to the sinner, and the sinner again go to God in a saving way by him, and by him only? And is there no other way to the Father but by his blood, and through the veil, that is to say, his flesh? (Heb 10:19,20). Then this shows the danger, upon what pretence soever, of casting off the daily sacrifice, and setting up in its place the abomination that maketh desolate. I mean, of casting away a crucified Christ, and the setting up the vanity of moral obedience as the more substantial and most acceptable thing with God. I call not a crucified Christ the daily sacrifice, as if I thought he often suffered for sin, since the foundation of the world; but because the virtue of that one offering is that, and only that, by the which we daily draw nigh unto God; and because the virtuousness of that one sacrifice will for ever abide beneficial to them that come to God, to the world's end by him.
But I say, into what a miserable plight have such people put themselves, that have cast off coming to God by Christ, as he is the propitiation for their sins, and that seek to come another way? Such are lapsed again to Gentilism, to Paganism, to Heathenism; nor will it help at all to say they rely on the mercy and goodness of God, for there is no such thing as spiritual and eternal mercy can come from God to him, that comes not to him by Christ. The Turks, if I be not mistaken, have this for the beginning of every chapter of their Alcoran, 'The Lord, God, gracious and merciful,' yet are counted unbelievers, and are verily so, for they have not received the faith of Christ. The Lord God, gracious and merciful, will not save them, no not by grace and mercy, unless repenting of their presuming upon mercy, without a bloody sacrifice, they come to him by his Son (Acts 4:12). Men therefore that have laid aside the necessity of reconciliation to God by the precious blood of Christ, are in a damned state; nor will it help at all to say they do indeed believe in him. I am not so void of reason as to think that they that have cast away Christ, as he is a propitiatory sacrifice with God for sin, should also cast away his name out of their mouth; no, his name is too honorable, and the profession of it too glorious for them to do such a thing. But retaining his name, and the notion of him as a Saviour, they yet cast him off, and that in those very things wherein the essential part of his sacrifice, the merit of it, and his everlasting priesthood, consists; and in this lies the mystery of their iniquity.
They will have him to be a Saviour, but it must not be by fulfilling of the law for us; but it must not be by the putting of his glorious righteousness, that which he performed by subjecting himself to the law, on our behalf, upon us; but it must not be by washing of us from our sins in his own blood; but it must be by his kingly and prophetical offices. When, as for his kingly and prophetical offices, he puts those people under the government of them that he has afore made to stand justified before God, from the curse of the law by his priesthood. Nor dare they altogether deny that Christ doth save his people as a priest, but then their art is to confound these offices, by pleading that they are in effect but one and the self-same thing; and then with a noise of morality and government, they jostle the merit of his blood, and the perfection of his justifying righteousness, out of doors; and so retaining the name of Christ in their mouths, they cast those things of Christ, that they like not, under feet; which things, they who have not the faith of, must not, cannot see the kingdom of God.
The term of mercy is but a general sound, and is as an arrow shot at rovers, unless the blood and death of the Son of God be set before us, as the mark or mean by which our spirits are to be directed to it. What profit shall a man have, and what shelter or succour shall he find, in hearing of the most exact relation of the strength of the most impregnable castle in the world, unless he knows the door, and entereth in by that, into that place of strength, in the time when the enemy shall pursue him? Why, this is the case: We hear a noise of mercy, and of being at peace with God; what a good God, God is, and what a blessed thing it is to be a child of God; how many privileges the children of God have, and what will be their exaltation and glory in the next world! And all the while they that tell us these things conceal from us the way thereto, which is Christ, not in the naming of him, but in the right administration of his gospel to us.
Christ, and faith in him as a Saviour, not in the name only, but in the true sense thereof, is the mark, as I have said, from which if any swerve, they err from the saving way, and so come nothing near that mercy that can save them. Hence Christ is called a standard, an ensign (Isa 5:26). 'And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek, and his rest shall be glorious' (Isa 11:10). And again, 'Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles; and set up my standard to the people' (49:22). 'Go through, go through the gates, prepare ye the way of the people,—gather out the stones, lift up a standard for the people. Behold the Lord hath proclaimed to the end of the world; say ye to the daughter of Zion, behold thy salvation cometh. Behold his reward is with him, and his work before him' (62:10,11). Hence again he is called the captain, the chieftain, of our salvation, and him without whom there neither is nor can be any.
But now the men of this confederacy, rather than they will submit themselves to the righteousness of God, will lay odiums and scandals upon them that preach they should (Rom 10:2,4). Not forsooth, if you will believe them, but that they are highly for the righteousness of God, let it be that which they count so; but then to be sure it shall never be the personal performances of Christ, by which they that believe in him are justified from all things; but that which they call 'first principles,' 'dictates of human nature,' 'obedience to a moral precept,' followed and done as they have Christ for an example; not understanding that Christ, in his own doings, is the end of all these things to every one that believeth. But if it be urged that Gentiles and Pagans are possessed with those very principles, only they have not got the art, as our men have, to cover them with the name of Christ and principles of Christianity, then they fall to commending the heathens and their philosophers, and the natural motives and principles by which they were actuated; preferring of them much before what by others are called the graces of the Spirit, and principles upon what the doctrine of the free grace and mercy of God by Christ are grounded. But, as I said, all the good that such preachers can do as to the next world, is, to draw the people away from their ensign and their standard, and so lead them among the Gentiles and infidels, to seek by their rules the way to this unspeakable mercy of God. Wherefore their state being thus deplorable, and their spirits thus incorrigible, they must be pitied, and left, and fled from, if we would live.
Third. Is Christ Jesus the redemption; and, as such, the very door and inlet into all God's mercies? Christian man, look well to thyself, that thou goest no whither, and dost nothing, I mean in any part of religious worship, &c., but as thou art in him (2 Cor 12:18,19). Walk in him, speak in him, grow in him, for he is THE ALL (Col 2:6,7). And though others regard not to 'hold the head, from which all the body by joints and bands have nourishment ministered,' yet have thou a care! (Eph 4:15; Col 2:19). This is he that is thy life, and the length of thy days, and without whom no true happiness can be had. Many there be that count this but a low thing; they desire to soar aloft, to fly into new notions, and to be broaching of new opinions, not counting themselves happy, except they can throw some new-found fangle, to be applauded for, among their novel-hearers. But fly thou to Christ for life; and that thou mayest so do, remember well thy sins, and the judgment and wrath of God; and know also that he is merciful, but at mercy none can come, but through the cursed death Christ underwent. And although some of the wanton professors of our age may blame thee for poring so much upon thy sins, and the pollution of thy nature, yet know that there is an advantage in it. There be some alive in the world, who, though they count the nature and commission of sin the very evil of evils, yet can say that the remembrance of how vile they are, and of what evils they have committed, has been to them a soul-humbling, a Christ-advancing, and a creature-emptying consideration. Though sin made death bitter to Christ, yet sin makes Christ sweet to his. And though none should sin, that grace might abound, yet where sin has abounded, grace doth much more abound, not only as an act of God, but also in the eye of faith.
A sight of the filth, and a sense of the guilt of sin, makes a pardon to such a soul more than empty notion; and makes the mean through which the pardon comes more to be desired than is either life or limb. This is it that makes the sensible soul prize the Lord Jesus, while the self-justiciary laugheth him to scorn. This is it which makes the awakened sinner cast away his own righteousness, while the self-conceited one makes it his advocate with the Father.
Some, indeed, count their own doings the only darling of their soul, while others cast it to the dogs. And why should a man cumber himself with what is his, when the good of all that is in Christ is laid, and to be laid out for him? Not that a believer casts off to do good, for he knows that what good thing is done in faith and love, is acceptable to God, and profitable to his neighbour. But this is it, he setteth not his good deed against the judgment of God; he cometh not in his own good. When he comes to God for forgiveness of sins, then he sees nothing, knows nothing, mentions nothing as righteousness, but that which Christ wrought out in the days of his flesh, and that only. But how then is what he doth accepted of God? Verily as the duty of a son, and as the work of one that is justified. We must therefore conclude that there is acceptation, and acceptation: acceptation of the person, and acceptation of his performance. Acceptation of the person may be considered with respect to justification from the curse, and so acceptation there can be none, but through the one offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Also the acceptation of a duty done by such a person is, by virtue of the self-same offering, the person being considered as standing just through Christ before God. And the reason why a justified person must have his duties accepted the same way, as is his person, is because justifying righteousness sets not the person free from sin, save only in the sight of God and conscience; he remaineth still infirm in himself, and standeth still in need of the fresh and continual application of the merits of the Lord Jesus, which also the soul receiveth by virtue of Christ's intercession. I speak now of acceptation with reference to the justice of the law, and the judgment of God upon person or work, according to the self-same law. For so they both must be accepted through the self-same Mediator, or they cannot be accepted at all. Nor is it a thing to be wondered at, that a man should stand just in the sight of God, when polluted and defiled in his own sight. He stands just before God in the justice of his Son, upon whom God looks, and for whose sake he accepts him. May not a scabbed, mangy man, a man all over-run with blains and blotches, be yet made beautiful to the view of a beholder, through the silken, silver, golden garment that may be put upon him, and may cover all his flesh? Why, the righteousness of Christ is not only unto but upon all them that believe (Rom 3:22). And whoso considers the parable of the wretched infant, shall find, that before it was washed with water it was wrapped up or covered, as it was found, in its blood, in and with the skirt of his garment that found it in its filth. And then he washed it with water, and then he sanctified it by the anointing oil of the Spirit of God (Eze 16:8,9). I speak thus to thee, Christian reader, partly because in the faith of these things is thy life; and because I would yet enforce the exhortation upon thee with the reason and the amplification thereof, to wit, to put thee upon trusting in the Lord through the encouragement that thou hast in redeeming mercy so to do.
Some may say, Will God see that which is not? and will he judge a man just that is a sinner? But I will answer, The man that had the rainbow about his head, was to look on, or be looked upon, while he shone like a jasper and a sardix-stone (Rev 4:3). The blood of the paschal lamb was to be looked upon by him that came to destroy the land of Egypt in their firstborn (Exo 12:13). I add, The rainbow that God gave to Noah for a token that he would no more destroy the earth with the waters of the flood, was to be looked upon, that God might remember to show mercy to his people (Gen 9:8-17). Now all these meet in the man Christ Jesus, who is the only one, for the sake of whom the sinner that believeth in him stands acquitted in the sight of God. His is the blood, he is the prince, that is more than the token of the covenant: nor do all the colours in the rainbow appear so beautiful in the eyes of man, as does the garment of Christ; which is from his loins, even upward, and from his loins, even downward, in the eyes of the God of heaven (Eze 1:27,28). And wilt thou say these are things that are not? Also, he can legally judge a man just, that is a sinner. Do but admit of a diverse consideration, and God will so consider of that sinner which he justifieth, in despite of all the teeth in thy proud mouth! 'He justifieth the ungodly' (Rom 4:5). Not that were, but that are such now, in the judgment and verdict of the law, might deal with them in their own persons as men (Rom 5:5-10). He will then consider them in his Son; in, and under the skirt of his Son. He will consider them as washed in the blood of his Son, and will also consider 'that in him is no sin,' and so he will deal with them. 'We know that he was manifested to take away our sins, and in him is no sin' (1 John 3:5).
What though I have broke a thousand pound in my creditor's debt—yet if another will discharge the whole freely, what has the law to do with me as to that? Or what if I cannot but live upon the spend all my days, yet if my friend will always supply my need, and, through his bounty, keep me from writ, bailiff, or jail, is it not well for me? Yea, what if what I can get shall be laid up for me for hereafter, and that my friend, so long as there is death or danger in the way, will himself secure me, and bear my charges to the world's end; may I not accept thereof, and be thankful? Blessed be God for Jesus Christ! I believe he is more than all this to me. 'In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory' (Isa 45:25). I know similitudes will not hold in all things; but we that believe are set free from the curse of the law by another man's obedience. For 'by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous' (Rom 5:19). Let then the believer, as was said, study and pray, and read God's Word continually, for the sake of the glory of this truth, that it may be made more his own, and that his conscience may be more and more settled in the power and glory thereof.
Fourth. As the Christian should most labour to get into the power and glory of this doctrine, so let him see that he holds it fast. This doctrine is foreign to flesh and blood; it is not earthly, but from heaven (Matt 16:17). It is with many that begin with this doctrine, as it is with boys that go to the Latin school; they learn till they have learned the grounds of their grammar, and then go home and forget all. How have many, that as to the grounds of Christian religion, one would think, had been well taught, yet not taking such heed thereto as they should, they have let slip all, and their hearts have been filled with the world again, or else have drunk in some opinion that has been diametrically opposite to what they professed of the truth before (Heb 2:1-4). Wherefore hast thou anything of the truth of Christ in thy heart? 'Hold that fast, that no man take thy crown' (Rev 3:11). Yea 'grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ' (2 Peter 3:18).
He that will retain and hold fast the doctrine of redemption, and so by that have, through faith, an inlet into all the abounding mercy of God, must not deal in God's matters with a slack hand. It is not enough for them that would do so, to be content with sermons, family duties, and other public assemblies for worship, but there must be a continual exercise of the mind about these matters, and a labour of the soul to retain them in their glory and sweetness; else they will, first as to their excellency, then as to the very notion of them, slip from the heart and be gone (Heb 2:1-3). Not that there is treachery or deceit therein, but the deceit lies in the heart about them. He that will keep water in a sieve, must use more than ordinary diligence. Our heart is the leaking vessel; and 'therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.'
That this doctrine may remain with us, we must also mortify our carnal reason: for that makes head against the truth thereof, and what can foolishness do else? And the wisdom of this world, which is carnal reason in its improvements, is foolishness with God (1 Cor 1:20-25). It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be. It judges this doctrine that we have been speaking of, foolishness; wherefore it must be avoided, opposed and mortified, and the word of faith the more carefully submitted to. 'Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding' (Rom 3:5). See here, that trusting in the Lord, and leaning to our own understanding, are opposites; wherefore they must either be reconciled, or one quite adhered unto, in a way of mortification of the other. Now, it is safest in this matter to keep a continual guard upon our carnal powers; and to give up ourselves to the conduct of our God, and in all our ways acknowledge him, that he, not ourselves, may direct our paths (v 6). It is a great thing for a man, when the Word and his reason clashes, then to adhere to the Word, and let his reason fall to the ground. And this indeed is Christianity in the practical part thereof. The Spirit of Christ in the Word is to be hearkened unto, above all things (2 Cor 10:3-5).
There must also be a continual war maintained upon all the lusts of the flesh, that they may not draw away the heart from the study and delight, the love and faith, of the things that are hid in Christ (Isa 28:9). This, I say, must be done, else the heart cannot be at liberty to wait upon the Lord without distraction, for the further communications of himself in his Son, according to his blessed gospel to us. Many Christians are lean in their faith and too barren in their lives, and all for want of being diligent here. Wherefore having faith in this blessed Lord Jesus Christ, as has been afore discoursed; in the next place, 'giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord' and Saviour 'Jesus Christ' (2 Peter 1:5-8). There is a method that the Holy Ghost has prescribed in the Word, for them that hath faith to observe, and without the observation thereof, though they indeed may be of the number of them that shall be saved, yet they shall not have much, nor do much, for Christ and his name, in this world. Now the unskilful, that are so in the word of righteousness, finding this method, and not discerning to whom it belongs, forthwith apply it to all; and forgetting that faith must go before, they press them as duties preparatory to faith, or else so call that which is not so; and so the blind leading of the blind, both fall into the ditch, and are smothered. But do thou, O child of God, distinguish, and keep faith and duty for justification of thy person in the sight of God far asunder; also be sure to let faith go before, and be always with thy Saviour, but add unto thy faith, virtue, &c., not as though thy faith could not lay hold of Christ, unless accompanied with these, but to show that thy faith is of the right kind, as also for the emboldening of thee to an holy endeavour yet to press further into his everlasting kingdom and his word; for he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
Fifth. That thou mayest keep steadfast to this doctrine take heed of being offended, or of stumbling at the Word, because of the offensive lives and conversations of some that are professors of the same. There will be offences, and it is needful there should; yea, scandals and heresies also, that they that are approved of God 'may be made manifest among you' (1 Cor 11:19). There are many causes of the offensive lives of them that profess this faith, some of which I will give a touch upon here.
1. Many that adhere to, and profess this gospel, are short of the power and glory of the things which they profess: now the word, the word only, will not bring those that profess it into a conformity to it; into a conformity in heart and life (1 Cor 4:18-20). Wherefore they that know it only in word, live scandalous lives, to the reproach of the faith, the emboldening of its enemies, the stumbling of the ignorant, and grief of the godly, that are so indeed, and such must bear their judgment in the next world.
2. This also flows from the wisdom of hell: the devil knows that the faith of the gospel rightly professed, is, not only saving to those in whom it is, but alluring unto beholders: wherefore that he may prevent the beauteous lustre thereof, he sows his tares among God's wheat, and goes his way, that is, to the end those that stumble may not see what he hath done, or whose are the tares indeed. Now by these the sunshine of the faith of the true professors of the blessed gospel is clouded; yea, and the world made believe, that such as the worst are, such are the best; but there is never a barrel better herring, but that the whole lump of them are, in truth, a pack of knaves. Now has the devil got the point aimed at, and has caused many to fall; but behold ye now the good reward these tares shall have at the day of reward for their doings. 'As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth' (Mat 13:37-42).