LIGHT FOR THEM THAT SIT IN DARKNESS;
A DISCOURSE OF JESUS CHRIST:
AND THAT HE UNDERTOOK TO ACCOMPLISH BY HIMSELF THE ETERNAL REDEMPTION OF SINNERS:
ALSO, HOW THE LORD JESUS ADDRESSED HIMSELF TO THIS WORK; WITH UNDENIABLE DEMONSTRATIONS THAT HE PERFORMED THE SAME.
OBJECTIONS TO THE CONTRARY ANSWERED.
'Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.'—Galatians 3:13.
by John Bunyan—1674
ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR.
This solemn and searching treatise was first published in 1674, a copy of which is in the Editor's possession. The author's object is to correct some fatal errors which then peculiarly abounded, and to recommend the gospel in its purity to the acceptation of his fellow-sinners. Possessing that inward peace, serenity, happiness, and safety, arising from a scriptural knowledge of Christ and him crucified, he proclaims, 'I have ventured my own soul thereon with gladness,' and 'if all the souls in the world were mine, I would venture them all.' His prayer is that others may receive the same light and life by faith.
Every age has had its peculiar delusions for the trial of the spirit—mysticism in Bunyan's time, Puseyism in our days. Prior to the Reformation, the clergy, called the church, claimed implicit obedience from the laity as essential to salvation, and taught that inquiry was the high road to eternal ruin. After the Bible had been extensively circulated, many regarded it as the letter which killeth—that it was of no importance, compared with the light within, which alone was essential. These were not the notions of any one or two sects, but had spread their influence to a considerable extent over the Christian church. To check the growth of these errors, and to recover those who had been misled by them, Bunyan published this 'Light for them that sit in darkness.' His object is to prove that all our knowledge of the Saviour must be received directly from the written Word—that to understand these holy oracles, we must seek and obtain Divine light. By this light we shall find that Christ took upon himself our nature, and, by his holy and perfect obedience to the law, and sacrifice of himself as a sin-atoning offering, he redeemed all his saints, paid the FULL price of their redemption, and will present them unblameable, unreprovable, and acceptable to him that is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. Their robes are washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb; they are perfect as Christ is perfect; there is no condemnation to them; their salvation is sure. To those whose spirits are dismayed under a fear that they have sinned the unpardonable sin, the arguments on the following pages are most consoling. Those who are under that awful curse are sunk in a deathly state of insensibility, while they sit in the seat of the scorner. To be alarmed with the fear of having so offended the Saviour, is the best evidence that no such sin can have been committed. The closing chapter is full of striking solemnity. May its beneficial effects be felt, to the glory of God and the reader's solid peace.
THE AUTHOR TO THE READER.
It was the great care of the apostle Paul to deliver his gospel to the churches in its own simplicity, because so it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. And if it was his care so to deliver it to us, it should be ours to seek so to continue it; and the rather, because of the unaptness of the minds, even of the saints themselves, to retain it without commixture. For, to say nothing of the projects of hell, and of the cunning craftiness of some that lie in wait to deceive even the godly themselves, as they are dull of hearing, so much more dull in receiving and holding fast the simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. From their sense, and reason, and unbelief, and darkness, arise many imaginations and high thoughts, which exalt themselves against the knowledge of God and the obedience of Jesus Christ, wherefore they themselves have much ado to stand complete in all the will of God. And were they not concerned in electing love, by which they are bound up in the bundle of life, and blessed with the enjoyment of saving grace, which enlighteneth their souls and maintaineth their fath and hope, they would not only be assaulted and afflicted with their own corruptions, but, as others, overcome thereby.
Alas! how ordinary a thing is it for professors to fall from the knowledge they have had of the glorious gospel of the blessed God, and to be turned unto fables, seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils, through the intoxications of delusions and the witchcraft of false preachers.
Now, this their swerving from the gospel ariseth, 1. Either from their not having, or, having, not retaining, the true knowledge of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ; or, 2. From their not believing the true causes of his coming into the world, with his doing and suffering there. Upon one or both these accounts, I say, it is that they everlastingly perish; for if they have not, and do not also retain the knowledge of his person, they want the HE, on whom, if they believe not, they must die in their sins; and if they know not the reason of his coming, doing, and suffering, they are in the same condition also.
Now, those professors that have had some knowledge of these things, and yet have lost them, it hath come thus to pass with them because they first lost the knowledge of themselves and of their sins. They know not themselves to be such nothing ones as the Scriptures reporteth them to be, nor their sins to be so heinous as the law hath concluded; therefore they either turn again with the dog to his vomit, or adhere to a few of the rags of their own fleshly righteousness, and so become pure in their own eyes, yet are not purged by blood from their filthiness.
For the person and doings of Jesus Christ are only precious to them that get and retain the true knowledge of themselves, and the due reward of their sins by the law. These are desolate, being driven out of all; these embrace the rock instead of a shelter. The sensible sinner receiveth him joyfully.
And because a miscarriage in this great truth is the most dangerous and damning miscarriage, therefore should professors be the more fearful of swerving aside therefrom. The man that rejecteth the true knowledge of the person of the Lord Jesus, and the causes of his doing and suffering in the world, takes the next way to be guilty of that transgression that is not to be purged with sacrifice for ever; that fearful transgression for which is left no offering at all, nor anything to be expected by the person transgressing but fearful judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversary.
Now, for their sakes that have not sinned this sin, for their sakes that are in danger thereof, but yet not overcome, for their sakes have I written this little book, wherein is largely, and yet with few words, discovered the doctrine of the person, and doings, and sufferings of Christ, with the true cause thereof, also a removal of those objections that the crafty children of darkness have framed against the same.
And I have been the more plain and simple in my writing, because the sin against the Holy Ghost is in these days more common than formerly, and the way unto it more beautified with colour and pretence of truth. I may say of the way to this sin, it is, as was once the way to Jerusalem, strewed with boughs and branches; and by some there is cried a kind of hosanna to them that are treading these steps to hell. O the plausible pretences, the golden names, the feigned holiness, the demure behaviours, mixed with damnable hypocrisy, that attend the persons that have forsaken the Lord Jesus, that have despised his person, trampled upon him, and counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing! They have crucified him to themselves, and think that they can go to heaven without him; yea, pretend they love him, when they hate him; pretend they have him, when they have cast him off; pretend they trust in him, when they bid defiance to his undertakings for the world.
Reader, let me beseech thee to hear me patiently; read, and consider, and judge. I have presented thee with that which I have received from God; and the holy men of God, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, do bear me witness. Thou wilt say, All pretend to this. Well, but give me the hearing, take me to the Bible, and let me find in thy heart no favour if thou find me to swerve from the standard.
I say again, receive my doctrine; I beseech thee, in Christ's stead, receive it; I know it to be the way of salvation. I have ventured my own soul thereon with gladness; and if all the souls in the world were mine, as mine own soul is, I would, through God's grace, venture every one of them there. I have not writ at a venture, nor borrowed my doctrine from libraries. I depend upon the sayings of no man. I found it in the Scriptures of truth, among the true sayings of God.
I have done, when I have exhorted thee to pray, and give heed to the words of God as revealed in the Holy Writ. The Lord Jesus Christ himself give thee light and life by faith in him; to whom, with the Father and the good Spirit of grace, be glory and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.
LIGHT FOR THEM THAT SIT IN DARKNESS.
'OF THIS MAN'S SEED HATH GOD, ACCORDING TO HIS PROMISE, RAISED UNTO ISRAEL A SAVIOUR, JESUS.'—ACTS 13:23.
These words are part of a sermon which Paul preached to the people that lived at Antioch in Pisidia, where also inhabited many of the Jews. The preparation to his discourse he thus begins—'Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience' (v 16); by which having prepared their minds to attend, he proceeds and gives a particular relation of God's peculiar dealings with his people Israel, from Egypt to the time of David their king, of whom he treateth particularly—
That he was the son of Jesse, that he was a king, that God raised him up in mercy, that God gave testimony of him, that he was a man after God's own heart, that he should fulfil all his will (v 22).
And this he did of purpose both to engage them the more to attend, and because they well knew that of the fruit of his loins God hath promised the Messiah should come.
Having thus therefore gathered up their minds to hearken, he presenteth them with his errand—to wit, that the Messiah was come, and that the promise was indeed fulfilled that a Saviour should be born to Israel—'Of this man's seed,' saith he, 'hath God, according to his promise, raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus.'
In this assertion he concludeth—1. That the promise had kept its due course in presenting a Saviour to Israel—to wit, in David's loins—'Of this man's seed.' 2. That the time of the promise was come, and the Saviour was revealed—'God hath raised unto Israel a Saviour.' 3. That Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph, was he—'He hath raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus.'
From these things we may inquire, for the explication of the words, First. What this Jesus is? Second. What it was for this Jesus to be of the seed of David? Third. What it was for Jesus to be of this man's seed according to the promise? And, Fourth, what it was for him to be raised unto Israel? These things may give us light into what shall be spoken after.
Quest. First. What this Jesus is?
He is God, and had personal being from before all worlds; therefore not such an one as took being when he was formed in the world; he is God's natural Son, the Eternal Son of his begetting and love—'God sent forth his Son.' He was, and was his Son, before he was revealed—'What is his name, and what is his Son's name, if thou canst tell?' (Prov 30:4; Eze 21:10). He hath an eternal generation, such as none can declare, not man, not angel (Isa 53:8). He was the delight of his Father before he had made either mountain or hill. While as yet he had not made the earth or the fields, or the highest part of the dust of the world, all things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made, and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. It is he with whom the Father consulted when he was about to make man, when he intended to overthrow Babel, and when he sent Isaiah to harden the hearts of Israel (Prov 8:26; John 1:3; Heb 1:2,3; Col 1:17; Gen 1:26, 11:7; Isa 6:8). This is the person intended in the text. Hence also he testifies of himself that he came down from the Father; that he had glory with him before the world was. And 'what and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?' (John 6:62, 16:28, 17:5).
Quest. Second. What was it for Jesus to be of David's seed?
To be of David's seed is to spring from his loins, to come of his race according to the flesh; and therefore as he is David's God, so likewise is he David's Son; the root and also the offspring of David. And this the Lord himself acknowledgeth, saying, 'I am the root,' or God, 'and the offspring,' and Son, 'of David, and the bright and morning star' (Rev 22:16). This is indeed the great mystery, the mystery of godliness. 'If David then call him Lord, how is he his Son?' (Matt 22:45; Luke 2:4; Rom 1:3; 2 Tim 2:8). And hence it is that he is said to be 'wonderful,' because he is both God and man in one person—'Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful' (Isa 9:6). Wonderful indeed! Wonderful God, Wonderful man, Wonderful God-man, and so a Wonderful Jesus and Saviour. He also hath wonderful love, bore wonderful sorrows for our wonderful sins, and obtained for HIS a wonderful salvation.
Quest. Third. What was it for Jesus to be of this man's seed according to the promise?
This word 'promise' doth sometimes comprehend all the promises which God made to our fathers, from the first promise to the last, and so the Holy Ghost doth call them—'The promise made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children' (Acts 13:32,33). But the word 'promise' here doth in special intend that which God made to David himself—'Men and brethren,' said Peter, 'let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ,' &c. (Acts 2:29,30).
Quest. Fourth. What was it for Jesus to be raised thus up of God to Israel?
Here we have two things to consider of—1. Who Israel is. 2. What it was for Jesus to be raised up unto them.
1. Who Israel is. By 'Israel' sometimes we should understand the whole stock of Jacob, the natural children of his flesh; for that name they have of him, for he obtained it when he wrestled with the angel, and prevailed, and it remained with his seed in their generations (Gen 32). By 'Israel' we are to understand all those that God hath promised to Christ—'The children of the promise are counted for the seed,' the elect Jews and Gentiles. These are called 'the Israel of God,' and the seed of Abraham, whom Jesus in special regarded in his undertaking the work of man's redemption (Rom 9:8; Gal 6:16; Heb 2:14-16).
2. What it was for Jesus to be raised up unto them. This word 'raised up' is diversely taken in the Scripture. (1.) It is taken for 'sending'; as when he saith he raised them up judges, saviours, and prophets, he means he sent them such, and thus he raised up Jesus—that is, 'he sent him' (Judg 2:16,18, 3:9,15; Amos 2:11). 'I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment' (John 12:49). (2.) To be raised up, intimateth one invested with power and authority. Thus he raised up David to be the king of Israel, he anointed him and invested him with kingly power (1 Sam 16:13; Acts 13:22). And thus was Jesus Christ raised up. Hence he is called 'the horn of salvation'—'He hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David' (Luke 1:69). (3.) To be raised up, intimateth quickening and strengthening, to oppose and overcome all opposition. Thus was Jesus raised up from under sin, death, the rage of the world, and hell, that day that God raised him out of the grave.
Thus, therefore, was Jesus raised up to Israel—that is, he was sent, authorized, and strengthened to, and in the work of, their salvation, to the completing of it.
The words thus opened do lay before us these two observations—FIRST. That in all ages God gave his people a promise, and so ground for a believing remembrance, that he would one day send them a Saviour. SECOND. That when Jesus was come into the world, then was that promise of God fulfilled.
To begin with the first, THAT IN ALL AGES GOD GAVE HIS PEOPLE A PROMISE, AND SO GROUND FOR A BELIEVING REMEMBRANCE, THAT HE WOULD ONE DAY SEND THEM A SAVIOUR.
This Zacharias testifies when he was filled with the Holy Ghost; for, speaking of the Messiah or the Saviour, he saith that God spake of him by the mouth of all the prophets which have been since the world began; to which I will add that of Peter, 'Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel, and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days' (Luke 1:69,70; Acts 3:24).
From these texts it is evident that in every generation or age of the world God did give his people a promise, and so ground for a believing remembrance, that he would one day send them a Saviour; for indeed the promise is not only a ground for a remembrance, but for a believing remembrance. What God saith is sufficient ground for faith, because he is truth, and cannot lie or repent. But that is not all; his heart was engaged, yea, all his heart, in the promise which he spoke of sending us a Saviour.
From this observation I shall make inquiry into these three things—FIRST. What it is to be a Saviour. SECOND. How it appears that God in all ages gave his people a promise that he would one day send them a Saviour. THIRD. That this was ground for believing remembrance that a Saviour should one day come.
FIRST. What it is to be a Saviour.
First. This word 'Saviour' is easy to be understood, it being all one with Deliverer, Redeemer, &c. 'A Saviour, Jesus,' both words are of the same signification, and are doubled, perhaps to teach us that the person mentioned in the text is not called 'Jesus' only to distinguish him from other men—for names are given to distinguish—but also and especially to specify his office; his name is Saviour, because it was to be his work, his office, his business in the world. His name shall be called Jesus, 'for he shall save his people from their sins' (Matt 1:21).
Second. This word 'Saviour' is a word so large that it hath place in all the undertakings of Christ: for whatever he doth in his mediation he doth as a Saviour. He interposeth between God and man as a Saviour; he engageth against sin, the devil, death, and hell, as a Saviour, and triumphed over them by himself as a Saviour.
Third. The word 'Saviour,' as I said, is all one with Redeemer, Deliverer, Reconciler, Peace-maker, or the like; for though there be variation in the terms, yet Saviour is the intendment of them all. By redeeming he becomes a Saviour, by delivering he becomes a Saviour, by reconciling he becomes a Saviour, and by making peace he becometh a Saviour. But I pass this now, intending to speak more to the same question afterwards.
SECOND. How it appears that God in all ages gave his people a promise that he would one day send them a Saviour.
It appears evidently; for so soon as man had sinned, God came to him with a heart full of promise, and continued to renew, and renew, till the time of the promised Messiah to be revealed was come.
[First.] He promised him under the name of 'the seed of the women,' after our first father had sinned—'I will also put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed. He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel' (Gen 3:15). This the apostle hath his eye upon when he saith, 'When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law' (Gal 4:4,5).
Second. God renewed this promise to Abraham, and there tells him Christ should be his seed, saying, 'In thy seed shall all families of the earth be blessed' (Gen 12:3). 'Now,' saith Paul, 'to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ' (Gal 3:16).
Third. He was promised in the time of Moses under the name of a 'prophet'—'I will raise them up,' saith God to him, 'a prophet from among their brethren like unto thee' (Deut 18:18). This Peter expounds of Christ, 'For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you' (Acts 3:22).
Fourth. He promised him to David under the title of a 'son,' saying, 'I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son' (2 Sam 7:14). For this the apostle expounded of the Saviour, saying, 'Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee'; and again, 'I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son' (Heb 1:5).
Fifth. He was promised in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah—
1. By the name of a 'branch'—'In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious' (Isa 4:2).
2. Under the name of the 'son of a virgin'—'Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.' This Matthew expounds of Christ (Isa 7:14; Matt 1:23).
3. He was promised under the name of a 'rod'—'There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots, and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.' This answereth the text, David was the son of Jesse, and Christ the Son of David (Isa 11:1,2).
4. He is promised under the title of a 'king'—'Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness,—and a man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land' (Isa 32:1,2).
5. He was promised under the name of an 'elect servant'—'Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my Spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench' (Isa 42:1-3; Matt 12:17-20).
6. He was promised to Jeremiah under the name of 'the Lord our Righteousness'—'Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper; and shall execute judgment—in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS' (Jer 23:5,6).
7. He was promised by the prophet Ezekiel under the name of 'David, a shepherd'—'And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the Lord have spoken it' (Eze 24:23; John 10:1-3).
8. He was promised by the prophet Daniel under the name of 'Messiah, or Christ, the most holy'—'And after threescore and two weeks shall the Messiah be cut off, but not for himself' (Dan 9:26).
9. He was promised by the prophet Micah under the name of the 'ruler in Israel'—'But thou, Bethlehem-Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come—that is to be ruler in Israel' (Micah 5:2; Matt 2:6).
10. He was promised to Haggai as 'the desire of all nations'—'I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts' (Hagg 2:7).
11. He was promised by Zechariah under the name of 'servant and branch'—'For, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.' And again, 'Behold the man whose name is the BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory' (Zech 3:8, 6:12,13).
12. He was promised by Malachi under the name of 'the Lord, and the messenger of the covenant'—'Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts' (Mal 3:1).
Indeed, the Scriptures of the Old Testament are filled with promises of the Messias to come, prophetical promises, typical promises; for all the types and shadows of the Saviour are virtually so many promises.
Sixth. Having therefore touched upon the prophetical, I will briefly touch the typical promises also; for as God spake at sundry times to the fathers, so also in diverse manners, prophetically, providentially, typically, and all of the Messias (Heb 1:1). The types of the Saviour were various—1. Sometimes he was typed out by men; 2. Sometimes by beasts; 3. Sometimes by insensible creatures.
1. He was typed forth sometimes by men. Adam was his type in many things, especially as he was the head and father of the first world. He was 'the figure of him that was to come' (Rom 5:14). Moses was his type as Mediator, and as builder of the tabernacle (Heb 3:2,3). Aaron was his type as he was high-priest, and so was Melchisedec before him (Heb 5:4,5, 7:1,21). Samson was his type in the effects of his death; for as Samson gave his life for the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines, Christ gave his life to deliver us from sin and devils. Joshua was his type in giving the land of Canaan to Israel, as Jesus will give the kingdom of heaven to the elect (Heb 4:8). David was his type in many things, especially in his subduing of Israel's enemies, and feeding them [Israel]: hence he is sometimes called David their king, and David their shepherd (Eze 34:23,24). Solomon was his type in his building the temple, and in his peaceable kingdom. Hence it is said, 'He shall build the temple of the Lord'; and again, 'Of his government and peace there shall be no end.'
2. Beasts were his types. To instance some—
(1.) The paschal lamb was his type (Exo 12). In its spotlessness; Christ was 'a lamb without blemish and without spot' (1 Peter 1:18,19). In its being roasted it was a figure of the cursed death of Christ; for to be roasted bespake one accursed (Jer 29:22; Gal 3:13). In that it was to be eaten—'Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood,' saith Christ, 'hath eternal life' (John 6:54). In that its blood was to be sprinkled upon the doors of their houses, for the destroying angel to look on; the blood of Christ is sprinkled upon the elect for the justice of God to look on (Heb 9; 1 Peter 1:2). By eating the paschal lamb, the people went out of Egypt; by feeding upon Christ by faith we come from under the Egyptian darkness, tyranny of Satan, &c.
(2.) The red cow was his type (Num 19:2, &c.). In that she was to be without blemish. In that she was to be slain without the camp—'Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate' (Heb 13:12). In that her flesh was to be burnt; a type of the grievous death of Christ. Her ashes were to be carried into a clean place without the camp; a type of the clean sepulchre where the body of Jesus was laid (John 19:38-41).
There were also divers other sacrifices, as bulls, goats, and birds, which were types of him, which I here omit.
3. Insensible creatures were his types. As,
(1.) The man in the wilderness (Exo 16). And that as it came down from heaven, for so did Christ—'I came down from heaven,' saith he; and again, 'I am the living bread which came down from heaven' (John 6:51). The manna was to be eaten; so is Christ by faith—'If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world' (John 6:51). The manna was to be gathered daily; so is Christ to be daily eaten. The manna was all the bread that Israel had in the wilderness; Christ is all the bread that believers have in this life for their souls. The manna came not by Moses' law, neither comes Christ by our merits—'Moses gave you not that bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven' (John 6:32).
(2.) Again; the rock that gave them out water for their thirst was a type of him (Num 20). They 'did all drink the same spiritual drink, for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ' (1 Cor 10:4). This rock was his type in four things—
(a.) It gave drink to the people in the wilderness when they were come out of Egypt; Christ gives drink to them that forsake the world for him. (b.) The rock yielded water by being smitten by Moses' rod; Christ giveth drink, even his blood, by being stricken by Moses' law (Num 20:11; Isa 53). (c.) The water out of this rock was given to the thirsty—'I will give unto him that is athirst,' saith Christ, 'of the fountain of the water of life freely' (Rev 21:6). (d.) The water of the rock in the wilderness ran after the people; they drank of that rock that followed them—'He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out, they ran in the dry places like a river' (Psa 110:41). Christ also is said by that type to follow us—'They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ' (1 Cor 10:4).
(3.) Again, the mount Moriah was his type. That mount stood in Jerusalem; Christ also stands in his church. Upon that rock was built the temple (2 Chron 3:1)—'And upon this rock,' said Christ, 'I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it' (Matt 16:18).
Other things might be urged, but these being virtually of the force of the promises, and also as a key to open them, therefore I thought good to place them here with the promises; because, as they are standing with them, so they are written to beget faith in the same Lord Jesus Christ.
THIRD. I come now to the third thing—to wit, That these promises were ground for a believing remembrance that a Saviour should one day come.
There is a remembering, and a believing remembering, or such a remembering that begetteth and maintaineth faith in the heart. Jacob had a believing remembrance when he said, 'I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord' (Gen 49:18). And so had David when he cried, 'O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion' (Psa 53:6). These, with Simeon and Anna, had not a remembrance only, but a believing remembrance that God would send them a Saviour. They had the promise not in the book only, but in their hearts; this gospel was mixed in them with faith; therefore they with their fellows remembered and believed, or made the promise the ground of their believing that God would one day send them a Saviour.
Let me make some
Use of this Doctrine.
Here we may see how much the heart of God was set upon the salvation of sinners—he studied it, contrived it, set his heart on it, and promised, and promised, and promised to complete it, by sending one day his Son for a Saviour (2 Same 14:14; Eph 1:3; Titus 1:2). No marvel, therefore, if when he treateth of the new covenant, in which the Lord Jesus is wrapped, and presented in a word of promise to the world, that he saith, I will do it 'assuredly with my whole heart, and with my whole soul' (Jer 32:41).
Now this is of singular comfort to sensible sinners; yea, what greater ground of consolation to such than to hear that the God against whom they have sinned should himself take care to provide them a Saviour. There are some poor sinners in the world that have given such way to discouragement, from the sense of the greatness of their sins, that they dare not think upon God, nor the sins which they have committed; but the reason is, because they are ignorant that God's heart was wrapt up in this good work of providing and sending a Saviour. Let such hearken now to the call of God—'Return unto me, for I have redeemed thee' (Isa 44:22). Ho! turn again, hearken; the heart of God is much set upon mercy; from the beginning of the world he resolved and promised, aye, and sware we should have a Saviour.
I now proceed to the second observation—THAT WHEN JESUS WAS COME INTO THE WORLD, THEN WAS THE PROMISE OF GOD FULFILLED—namely, THAT HE WOULD ONE DAY SEND US A SAVIOUR.
Take three texts for the confirmation of this point—1. 'This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world' (John 6:14). These words were spoken of them that were present at that miracle of Jesus, when he fed five thousand with five barley loaves, which a lad had about him in the company; for these men, when they had seen the marvel, being amazed at it, made confession of him to be the Saviour. 2. 'Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world' (John 11:27). 3. 'This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners' (1 Tim 1:15).
For the explaining of this observation I will briefly handle three questions—FIRST. How this Jesus is to be distinguished from others of that name. SECOND. What it was for this Jesus to come into the world. THIRD. What it was for him to come to be a Saviour.
[HOW THIS JESUS IS TO BE DISTINGUISHED FROM OTHERS.]
QUEST. FIRST. For the first, the Jesus in the text is distinguished from all others of that name.
First. By the manner of his birth; he was born of a virgin, a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph; but he 'knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son, and he called his name JESUS' (Matt 1:25).
Second. He is distinguished from others of that name by the place of his birth—to wit, Bethlehem, the city of David; there he must be born, there he was born (John 7:42; Matt 2:4-6).
Third. He is distinguished by his lineage—he came 'of the house and lineage of David' (Luke 2:4-6).
Fourth. He is distinguished by the time of his birth—to wit, the time of the prophets prefixed (Gal 4:4).
Fifth. But his common distinction is Jesus of Nazareth; by this name he is distinguished one and twenty times in the New Testament—1. His enemies called him 'Jesus of Nazareth' (Matt 26:71; Mark 14:67; John 18:5). 2. His disciples called him 'Jesus of Nazareth' (Matt 21:11; Luke 24:19; John 1:45; Acts 2:22). 3. The angels called him 'Jesus of Nazareth' (Mark 16:6). 4. And he calleth himself 'Jesus of Nazareth' (Acts 22:8). 5. Yea, and he goeth also by the name of 'Jesus of Nazareth' among the devils (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34).
He was called 'Jesus of Nazareth' because he dwelt there with his mother Mary and her husband. Nazareth was his city, where he had been brought up, whither for shelter Joseph carried him when he came out of Egypt with him; in Nazareth was his common abode until the time that John was cast into prison; wherefore he might well say, 'I am Jesus of Nazareth' (Luke 4:16; Matt 2:23, 4:12,13). Yea, though he was now in heaven, for heaven shall not make us forget what countrymen we were when we lived in the world. Jesus, you see here, though glorified in heaven, yet forgets not what countryman he was when he dwelt in the world. 'I am Jesus of Nazareth,' saith he; I am the Jesus that thou persecutest; and that thou mayest know I am he, I tell thee I dwelt once in the city of Nazareth in Galilee; Joseph and my mother Mary brought me up there, and there I dwelt with them many years. 'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest' (Acts 22:8).
[WHAT IT WAS FOR JESUS TO COME INTO THE WORLD.]
QUEST. SECOND. What it was for Jesus to come into the world.
Answ. Not his coming in, or by his Spirit in his people; for so he was never out of the world. Neither is it his appearance in his ordinances. Nor that coming of his by which he destroyeth Antichrist. Nor his appearing in his dreadful providences or judgments. But by the coming of Jesus, according to the text, we are to understand that, or such a coming, whereby he was manifest to be God-man in one person; God in our flesh without us, or distinct in his own person by himself; such a coming by which he was manifested to be in all points like as men are, sin only excepted; such a coming wherein, or by which, the Son of God became also the Son of man.
[First.] For the further clearing of this, you find it expressly said, he was 'born into the world'; Mary, 'of whom was born Jesus.' Now, when Jesus was born, it is said, 'Where is he that is born King of the Jews?' Herod 'demanded of them where Christ should be born' (Matt 1:16, 2:1,2,4; Luke 1:35, 2:11).
Now, that this was fulfilled according to the very word of the text, without any juggle, evasion, or cunningly-devised fable, consider—
1. He is called the first-born of this woman; the male child that opened her womb (Luke 2:7,23).
2. He was not born till nourished in her womb the full time, according to the time of life: 'And so it was, that while they were there [at Bethlehem], the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling-clothes, and laid him in a manger' (Luke 2:6,7).
3. She also continued in her separation at the birth of Jesus, as other women at the birth of their children, until 'the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished' (Luke 2:22).
4. Himself also, as other Hebrew children, was brought to Jerusalem to present him unto the Lord—'As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord' (Luke 2:23,24).
5. Thus Jesus also, as other Hebrew children, when the set day was come, was circumcised—'And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb' (Luke 2:21).
6. After this he is often called the young child, the child Jesus; and further, it is said of him, that he grew, that he increased in wisdom and stature (Matt 2:20,21; Luke 2:40,52).
Behold with what diligence, even to a circumstance, the Holy Ghost sets forth the birth of the Lord Jesus, and all to convince the incredulous world of the true manner of the coming of the Saviour into the world.
Second. The reality of the manhood of this Lord Jesus is yet further manifest, and that, 1. By those natural infirmities that attend human flesh; 2. By the names the prophets gave him in the days of the Old Testament and the New.
1. By those natural infirmities that attend human flesh. As, at his birth he could not go but as carried by his parents. He was sensible of hunger (Luke 4:2). He was sensible of thirst (John 19:28). He was sensible of weariness (John 4:6). He was nourished by sleep (Mark 4:38). He was subject to grief (Mark 3:5). He was subject to anger (Mark 3:5). He was subject to weep (John 11:35; Luke 19:41). He had joy as a man, and rejoiced (Matt 11:25; Luke 10:21). These things, I say, Jesus was subject to as a man, as the son of the Virgin.
2. The reality of his manhood is yet made manifest by the names the prophets gave him, both in the Old Testament and in the New. As,
(1.) He is called the 'seed'—the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, the seed of David, by which is meant he was to come of their children (Gen 3:15, 12, 22; Gal 3:16,17; Rom 1:3).
(2.) Therefore it is added (where mention is made of the fathers), 'of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came.' He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and hence again he calleth himself the offspring of David; therefore, I say, he is said to be of their flesh, their loins, and is called their Son (Rom 1:3, 4:5; Acts 2:30; Rev 22:16).
(3.) He therefore is frequently called 'a man, and the Son of man'—'Then shall you see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven.' 'When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him.' 'This man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.' 'Wherefore, it is necessary that this man have somewhat also to offer' (Matt 25:31, 26:64; Heb 7:24, 8:3, 10:12).
(4.) What shall I say? He himself gave undeniable demonstration of all this when he said he 'was dead'; when he called to Thomas to put his finger to, and behold his hands, to reach to him his hand and thrust it into his side, and bid him he should not be faithless, but believing. At another time, when he stood in the midst of the eleven, as they were troubled with the thoughts of unbelief, he said, 'Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have' (John 20:27; Luke 24:39).
Thus have I showed you what it was for Jesus to come into the world—namely, to be born of a woman, to take flesh, and to become God-man in one person. I come now to the third question; but before I speak particularly to that, I will produce further testimony that we find upon record concerning the truth of all this.
Particular testimonies that this coming of Jesus is his coming to save us.
The Testimony of Simeon.—Simeon the Just gives testimony of him: 'And the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,—for mine eyes have seen thy salvation' (Luke 2:25-32).
The Testimony of Anna.—Anna, a prophetess, one 'of a great age,—which departed not from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day. And she, coming in at that instant, gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem' (Luke 2:36-38).
The Testimony of John Baptist.—John Baptist, as he fulfilled his ministry, he cried concerning this Jesus, 'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.—And he,' saith John, 'that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining' or abiding, 'the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God' (John 1:29-34).
The Testimony of the Star and Wise Men.—The star that appeared at his birth in the east, and that coasted through the heavens till it came over the place where the young child Jesus was, that star gave testimony that he was the Saviour. This star alarmed many, especially the wise men of the east, who were brought by it from afar to worship him: 'And lo, the star which they saw in the east, went before them till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child, with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh' (Matt 2:9-11).
The Testimony of the Angels.—1. To Mary herself—'And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, -and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured.—And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end' (Luke 1:26-33). 2. The angels' testimony to the shepherds, as they were feeding their flocks in the fields by night—'And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord' (Luke 2:9-11). 3. How the angels solemnized his birth among themselves—'And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men' (vv 13,14).
The Testimony of God the Father.—1. When he was baptized—'And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water; and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: and, lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased' (Matt 3:16,17). 2. The Father's testimony of him at his transfiguration—'And he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.' And there appeared Moses and Elias talking with him, and a cloud from heaven overshadowed them; at which the three disciples began to be afraid. Then 'there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, hear him' (Luke 9:28-35). This is that testimony of God which Peter speaks of, saying, 'We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount' (2 Peter 1:16-18). 3. God gave testimony of him by signs and wonders—'Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father, that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.' 'God also bearing them witness,' that preached salvation by Jesus, 'both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will' (John 14:10; Heb 2:4).
Concerning Jesus, how he put himself upon the test among his adversaries.
The Lord Jesus also putteth himself upon the test among his adversaries divers ways.
First. He urgeth the time of the appearing of the Messias to be come—'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel' (Mark 1:15).
For this he had a threefold proof—1. The heathens had invaded and taken the land, according to that of Daniel (9:25,26). 2. The sceptre was departed from Judah, according to that of Jacob (Gen 49:10). To which also suited that prophecy: 'Before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings' (Isa 7:16). 3. The Roman emperor had not only subdued the nation, and put down the kingly race of the Jews, but had set up and established his own power over them. In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea; Herod was tetrarch of Galilee; Philip, tetrarch of Iturea; and Lysanias, tetrarch of Abilene; all heathens, and of Tiberius' making.
Besides, the kingly race of Judah was at this time become so low by reason of the Roman oppression, that the chief of them were put to get their living by their own hands; even Joseph, the supposed father of Jesus, was then become a carpenter. Poor man! when Jesus was born, he was fain to thrust into a stable, for there was in the inn no room for such guests as they. The offering also which was brought unto God at the time when Jesus was presented unto the Lord, was two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons—a sacrifice allowed only for them that were poor, and could provide no bigger—'And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons, the one for the burnt-offering, and the other for a sin-offering' (Lev 12:8). Besides, Jesus himself saith, 'Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.'
Now, I say, all these things were so apparent to the Jews, that they could not object; they felt the Romans were come, they knew the sceptre was gone, they smarted under the Roman tyranny, and knew the kingly race of Judea was overthrown. How, then, could they object that the time was not come for Christ to be born?
Further, the people were generally convinced that the time was come, and therefore, saith the text, they were in expectation. 'And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ or not' (Luke 3:15). The unbiased people, observing the face of things, could do no other but look for the Messias. And hence it is that the Lord Jesus gives the Pharisees, those mortal enemies of his, such sore rebukes, saying, 'O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky, but can ye not discern the signs of the times?' The kingdom is lost, the heathens are come, and the sceptre is departed from Judah. 'Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky, and of the earth, but how is it that ye do not discern this time?' (Matt 16:3; Luke 12:56).
Second. He yet again puts himself upon the test by the miracles which he wrought before them—'Believe me, that I am in the Father, and the Father in me, or else believe me for the very works' sake' (John 14:11). 'For the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me' (John 5:36.)
This proof they could not withstand, but granted that he did many miracles, while they did nothing. 'Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him, and the Romans shall come, and take away both our place and nation' (John 11:47,48).
Yea, so did Jesus confound them, that by their own records and laws, by which they were to prove persons clean or unclean, they, in reading their lectures, did justify him, and overthrow themselves.
For instance, it was written in their law, 'If he that hath an issue spit upon him that is clean,' that spittle should make him unclean (Lev 15:8). Now Jesus, whom they counted most unclean, because he said he was the Son of God, as they thought, speaking blasphemy, he spits upon people, and makes them whole. He spat, and made clay with the spittle, and with that clay made a blind man see (John 9:6). Also he spat on the eyes of another, and made him see (Mark 8:23-25). Again, he spat, and with his spittle touched the tongue of one that was dumb, and made him speak immediately (Mark 7:33-35). Thus he proved himself clear of their accusations, and maintained before them that by their law he was guiltless, and the Son of God; for the miracles which he wrought were to prove him so to be.
Again, in their law it was written that whoso toucheth the altar of incense should be holy (Exo 29:37). A woman with a bloody issue touched him, and is whole of her plague (Mark 5:28). Yea, they brought to him many diseased persons, 'and besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment; and as many as touched were made perfectly whole' (Matt 14:36).
Thus was he justified before them out of their own law, and had his glory manifest before their faces, to their everlasting confusion and contempt.
Indeed, the Jews did make one objection against Jesus Christ that seemed to them to have weight in it, and that was, because he first began to appear and manifest his glory in Cana of Galilee. At this, I say, they stumbled. It was their sore temptation; for still, as some affirmed him to be the Christ, others as fast objected, 'Shall Christ come out of Galilee?' 'Art thou also of Galilee? Search and look; for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet' (John 2:1,11, 7:40-42,52).
But this their stumble might arise either from the cruelty of Herod, or from their own not observing and keeping mind the alarm that God gave them at his birth.
1. It might arise or be occasioned through the cruelty of Herod; for Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the city where David dwelt. But when Herod sent out to kill him, and for his sake killed all the young children in Bethlehem, then was Joseph warned by an angel of God to take the young child and his mother, and fly into Egypt, and so he did, and was there till the death of Herod (Matt 2:1,13,16). After this, the angel comes to them in Egypt, and bids them take the young child, and return into the land of Israel; wherefore they arose and went. But hearing that Herod's son, that tyrant, ruled in the room of his father, they were afraid to go to Bethlehem, but turned aside into the parts of Galilee, where they remained till the time of his showing to Israel (Matt 2:19-23).
2. This stumble of theirs might arise from their not observing and keeping in mind the alarm that God gave them of his birth. (1.) God began to give them the alarm at the birth of John the Baptist, where was asserted that he was to go before the face of the Lord Jesus, and to prepare his ways. 'And fear came on all that dwelt round about them, and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judea' (Luke 1:65). (2.) Again, what a continuation of this alarm was there also at the birth of Jesus, which was about three months after John Baptist was born? Now come the angels from heaven. Now comes a strange star over the country to lead the men of the east to the stable where Jesus was born; now was Herod, the priests, the scribes, and also the city of Jerusalem, awakened and sore troubled; for it was noised by the wise men that Christ the King and Saviour was born. Besides the shepherds, Simeon and Anna gave notice of him to the people. They should, therefore, have retained the memory of these things, and have followed God in all his dark providences, until his Sun of Righteousness should arise among them with healing under his wings.
3. I may add another cause of their stumble—they did not understand the prophecies that went before of him. (1.) He was to come to them out of Egypt—'Out of Egypt have I called my Son' (Matt 2:15; Hosea 11:1). (2.) He turned aside into Cana of Galilee, and dwelt in the city of Nazareth, 'that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene' (Matt 2:23). (3.) That saying also was to be fulfilled, 'The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw great light, and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up' (Matt 4:15,16; Isa 9:2, 42:7).
At these things, then, they stumbled, and it was a great judgment of God upon them. Besides, there seemed to be a contradiction in the prophecies of the Scripture concerning his coming. He was to be born in Bethlehem, and yet to come out of Egypt. How should he be the Christ, and yet come out of Galilee, out of which ariseth no prophet? Thus they stumbled.
Hence note, that though the prophecies and promises be full and plain as these were, that he should be born in Bethlehem, yet men's sins may cause them to be fulfilled in such obscurity, that instead of having benefit thereby, they may stumble and split their souls thereat. Take heed then; hunt not Christ from plain promises with Herod, hunt him not from Bethlehem, lest he appear to your amazement and destruction from Egypt, or in the land of Zabulon! But this much to the second question; to wit, What it was for Jesus to come into the world.
I come now to the third question.
[WHAT IT WAS FOR JESUS TO COME TO BE A SAVIOUR.]
QUEST. THIRD. What it was for him to come to be a Saviour.
For the further handling of this question I must show—First. What it is to be a Saviour. Second. What it is to come to be a Saviour. Third. What it is for Jesus to come to be a Saviour. To these three briefly—
First. What it is TO BE a Saviour. 1. A saviour supposeth some in misery, and himself one that is to deliver them. 2. A saviour is either such an one ministerially or meritoriously.
Ministerially is, when one person engageth or is engaged by virtue of respect or command from superiors, to go and obtain, by conquest or the king's redemption, the captives, or persons grieved by the tyranny of an enemy. And thus were Moses and Joshua, and the judges and kings of Israel, saviours—'Thou deliveredst them into the hands of their enemies, who vexed them: and in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies' (Neh 9:27). Thus was Jesus Christ a Saviour; he was engaged by virtue of respect and command from God to obtain, by conquest and redemption, the captives or persons grieved. God sent his Son to be 'the Saviour of the world' (John 4:42).
Meritoriously is, when the person engaging shall, at his own proper cost and charge, give a sufficient value or price for those he redeemeth. Thus those under the law were redeemed by the money called the redemption-money—'And Moses gave the money of those that were redeemed unto Aaron and to his sons' (Num 3:46-51). And thus was Jesus Christ a Saviour. He paid full price to Divine justice for sinners, even his own precious blood—'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' (1 Peter 1:18,19).
And forasmuch as, in man's redemption, the undertaker must have respect, not only to the paying of a price, but also to the getting of a victory; for there is not only justice to satisfy, but death, devil, hell, and the grave, to conquer; therefore hath he also by himself gotten the victory over these. He hath abolished death (2 Tim 1:10). He hath destroyed the devil (Heb 2:14,15). He hath been the destruction of the grave (Hosea 13:14). He hath gotten the keys of hell (Rev 1:18). And this, I say, he did by himself, at his own proper cost and charge, when he triumphed over them upon his cross (Col 2:14,15).
Second. What it is TO COME to be a Saviour.
1. To come to be one, supposeth one ordained and fore-prepared for that work—'Then said he, Lo, I come, a body hast thou prepared me' (Heb 10).
2. To come to be a Saviour supposeth one commissionated or authorized to that work—'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me,' authorized me, 'to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent met to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised' (Luke 4:18). And upon this account it is that he is so often called Christ, or the Anointed One; the anointed Jesus, or Jesus the Anointed Saviour. 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.' 'This Jesus whom I preach unto you is Christ.' He 'testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ,' 'and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving' by the Scriptures 'that this is very Christ' (John 11:27; Acts 9:22, 17:3, 18:5); the very anointed of God, or he whom God authorized and qualified to be the Saviour of the world.
3. To come to be a Saviour supposeth a resolution to do that work before he goeth back—'I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction; repentance shall be hid from mine eyes' (Hosea 13:14).
And as he resolved, so he hath done. He hath purged our sins (Heb 1:3). By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified (Heb 10:14). He hath obtained eternal redemption for them (Heb 9:12; 2 Tim 1:10; Heb 9:26; Col 2:15; Heb 6:18-20).
Third. I come now to the third question—What it is for JESUS to come to be a Saviour.
1. It is the greatest discovery of man's misery and inability to save himself therefrom that ever was made in the world. Must the Son of God himself come down from heaven? or can there be no salvation? Cannot one sinner save another? Cannot man by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him? Cannot an angel do it? Cannot all the angels do it? No; Christ must come and die to do it.
2. It is the greatest discovery of the love of God that ever the world had, for God so to love the world as to send his Son! For God so to commend his love to the world as to send it to them in the blood of his Son! Amazing love! (John 3:16; Rom 5:8).
3. It is the greatest discovery of the condescension of Christ that ever the world had, that he should not come 'to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many' (Matt 20:28). That he should be manifest for this purpose, 'that he might destroy the works of the devil' (1 John 3:8). That he should come that we 'might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly' (John 10:10). That the Son of God should 'come to seek and to save that which was lost' (Luke 19:10). That he should not come 'to judge the world, but to save the world' (John 12:47). That 'Christ Jesus should come into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief' (1 Tim 1:15). That he should 'love us, and wash us from our sins in his own blood' (Rev 1:5). What amazing condescension and humility is this! (Phil 2:6-9).
HOW JESUS CHRIST ADDRESSED HIMSELF TO THE WORK OF OUR REDEMPTION.
I come, then, in the next place, to show you how Jesus Christ addressed himself to the work of man's redemption.
The Scripture saith, 'he became poor,' that he made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, that he humbled himself unto death, even the death of the cross. But particularly, FIRST. He took upon him our flesh. SECOND. He was made under the law. THIRD. He took upon him our sins. FOURTH. He bore the curse due to our sins.
[HE TOOK UPON HIM OUR FLESH.]
FIRST. He took upon him our flesh. I showed you before that he came in our flesh, and now I must show you the reason of it—namely, because that was the way to address himself to the work of our redemption.
Wherefore, when the apostle treated of the incarnation of Christ, he added withal the reason—to wit, that he might be capable to work out the redemption of men.
There are three things to be considered in this first head. First. That he took our flesh for this reason—that he might be a Saviour. Second. How he took flesh, that he might be our Saviour. Third. That it was necessary that he should take our flesh, if indeed he will be our Saviour.
[He took our flesh, that he might be a Saviour.]
[First.] For the first. That he took our flesh for this reason—that he might be a Saviour: 'For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh' (Rom 8:3).
The sum of the words is, Forasmuch as the law could do us no good, by reason of the inability that is in our flesh to do it—for the law can do us no good until it be fulfilled—and because God had a desire that good should come to us, therefore did he send his Son in our likeness, clothed with flesh, to destroy, by his doing the law, the tendency of the sin that dwells in our flesh. He therefore took our flesh, that our sin, with its effects, might by him be condemned and overcome.
The reason, therefore, why he took flesh is, because he would be our Saviour—'Forasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage' (Heb 2:14,15).
In these words it is asserted that he took our flesh for certain reasons.
1. Because the children, the heirs of heaven, are partakers of flesh and blood—'Forasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took part of the same.' Had the children, the heirs, been without flesh, he himself had not taken it upon him; had the children been angels, he had taken upon him the nature of angels; but because the children were partakers of flesh, therefore leaving angels, or refusing to take hold of angels, he took flesh and blood, the nature of the children, that he might put himself into a capacity to save and deliver the children; therefore it follows, that 'through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.'
2. This, therefore, was another reason—that he might destroy the devil.
The devil had bent himself against the children; he is their adversary, and goeth forth to make war with them—'Your adversary, the devil.—And he went to make war with the remnant of her seed' (1 Peter 5:8; Rev 12:17). Now the children could not destroy him, because he had already cast them into sin, defiled their nature, and laid them under the wrath of God. Therefore Christ puts himself among the children, and into the nature of the children, that he might, by means of his dying in their flesh, destroy the devil—that is, take away sin, his [the devil's] work, that he might destroy the works of the devil; for sin is the great engine of hell, by which he overthroweth all that perish. Now this did Christ destroy by taking on him the similitude of sinful flesh; of which more anon.
3. 'That he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver them.' This was the thing in chief intended, that he might deliver the children, that he might deliver them from death, the fruit of their sin, and from sin, the sting of that death—'That he might deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.'
He took flesh, therefore, because the children had it; he took it that he might die for the children; he took it that he might deliver the children from the works of the devil—'that he might deliver them.' No deliverance had come to the children if the Son of God had not taken their flesh and blood; therefore he took our flesh, that he might be our Saviour.
Again, in a Saviour there must be not only merit, but compassion and sympathy, because the children are yet to live by faith, are not yet come to the inheritance—'Wherefore it behoved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High-priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people' (Heb 2:17,18).
Two reasons are rendered in this text why he must take flesh—namely, that he might be their priest to offer sacrifice, to wit, his body and blood for them; and that he might be merciful and faithful, to pity and preserve them unto the kingdom appointed for them.
Mark you, therefore, how the apostle, when he asserteth that the Lord Jesus took our flesh, urgeth the reason why he took our flesh—that he might destroy the devil and death, that he might deliver them. It behoveth him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be merciful and faithful, that he might make reconciliation for the sins of the people. The reason, therefore, why he took our flesh is declared—to wit, that he might be our Saviour. And hence you find it so often recorded. He hath 'abolished in his flesh the enmity.' He hath 'slain the enmity' by his flesh. 'And you that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable—in his sight' (Eph 2:15,16; Col 1:21,22).
How he took flesh.
Second. I come now to the second question—to wit, How he took our flesh. This must be inquired into; for his taking flesh was not after the common way; never any took man's flesh upon him as he, since the foundation of the world.
1. He took not our flesh like Adam, who was formed out of the ground; 'who was made of the dust of the ground' (Gen 2:7, 3:19). 2. He took not our flesh as we do, by carnal generation. Joseph knew not his wife, neither did Mary know any man, till she had brought forth her first-born son (Matt 1:25; Luke 1:34). 3. He took flesh, then, by the immediate working and overshadowing of the Holy Ghost. And hence it is said expressly, 'She was found with child of the Holy Ghost.' 'Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost' (Matt 1:18). And hence again, when Joseph doubted of her honesty, for he perceived she was with child, and knew he had not touched her, the angel of God himself comes down to resolve his doubt, and said, 'Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost' (Matt 1:20).
But again, though the Holy Ghost was that by which the child Jesus was formed in the womb, so as to be without carnal generation, yet was he not formed in her without, but by, her conception—'Behold, thou shalt conceive in they womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS' (Luke 1:31). Wherefore he took flesh not only in, but of, the Virgin. Hence he is called her son, the seed of the woman; and hence it is also that he is called the seed of Abraham, the seed of David; their seed, according to the flesh (Gen 12, 13:15, 22; Luke 1:31, 2:7; Rom 1:3, 9:5; Gal 3:16, 4:4).
And this, the work he undertook, required, 1. It required that he should take our flesh. 2. It required that he should take our flesh without sin, which could not be had he taken it by reason of a carnal generation; for so all children are conceived in, and polluted with, sin (Psa 51). And the least pollution, either of flesh or spirit, had utterly disabled him for the work, which to do, he came down from heaven. Therefore, 'such an High-priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens' (Heb 7:26).
This mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God was thus completed, I say, that he might be in all points like as we are, yet without sin; for sin in the flesh disableth and maketh incapable to do the commandment. Therefore was he thus made, thus made of a woman; and this the angel assigneth as the reason of this his marvellous incarnation. 'The Holy Ghost,' saith he, 'shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God' (Luke 1:35).
The overshadowing of the Holy Ghost and the power of the Highest—the Father and the Holy Ghost—brought this wonderful thing to pass, for Jesus is a wonderful one in his conception and birth. This mystery is that next to the mystery of three persons in one God; it is a great mystery. 'Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.'
The conclusion is, that Jesus Christ took our flesh that he might be our Saviour; and that he might be our Saviour indeed, he thus took our flesh.
That it was necessary that he should take our flesh if he will be our Saviour.
Third. I come now to the third thing—namely, that it was necessary that he should take our flesh if he will be our Saviour.
1. And that, first, from the nature of the work; his work was to save, to save man, sinking man, man that was 'going down to the pit' (Job 33:24). Now, he that will save him that is sinking must take hold on him. And since he was not to save a man, but men, therefore it was necessary that he should take hold, not of one person, but of the common nature, clothing himself with part of the same. He took not hold of angels, 'but he took on him the seed of Abraham' (Heb 2:16). For that flesh was the same with the whole lump of the children to whom the promise was made, and comprehended in it the body of them that shall be saved, even as in Adam was comprehended the whole world at first (Rom 5).
Hence we are said to be chosen in him, to be gathered, being in him, to be dead by him, to be risen with him, and to be set with him, or in him, in heavenly places already (Rom 7:4; Eph 1:4,10; Col 2:12,13, 3:1-3). This, then, was the wisdom of the great God, that the Eternal Son of his love should take hold of, and so secure the sinking souls of perishing sinners by assuming their flesh.
2. The manner of his doing the work of a Saviour did call for his taking of our flesh.
He must do the work by dying. 'Ought not Christ to have suffered? Christ must needs have suffered,' or else no glory follows (Luke 24:26; Acts 17:3). 'The prophets testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow' (1 Peter 1:11). Yea, they did it by the Spirit, even by the Spirit of Christ himself. This Spirit, then, did bid them tell the world, yea, testify, that Christ must suffer, or no man be blest with glory; for the threatening of death and the curse of the law lay in the way between heaven gates and the souls of the children, for their sins; wherefore he that will save them must answer Divine justice, or God must lie, in saving them without inflicting the punishment threatened. Christ, then, must needs have suffered; the manner of the work laid a necessity upon him to take our flesh upon him; he must die, he must die for us, he must die for our sins. And this was effectually foretold by all the bloody sacrifices that were offered under the law—the blood of bulls, the blood of lambs, the blood of rams, the blood of calves, and the blood of goats and birds. These bloody sacrifices, what did they signify, what were they figures of, but of the bloody sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ? their blood being a shadow of his blood, and their flesh being a shadow of his flesh.
Therefore, when God declared that he took no pleasure in them, because they could not make the worshippers perfect as pertaining to the conscience, then comes Jesus Christ to offer his sinless body and soul for the sin of the people—'For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin. Wherefore, when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifices and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me; in burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come, in the volume of the book it is written of me, to do thy will, O God.' Since burnt-offerings cannot do thy will, my body shall; since the blood of bulls and goats cannot do thy will, my blood shall. Then follows, By the will of God 'we are sanctified, through the offering up of the body of Jesus Christ once for all' (Heb 10:4-10).
3. The end of the work required that Christ, if he will be our Saviour, should take upon him our flesh.
The end of our salvation is, that we might enjoy God, and that he by us might be glorified for ever and ever.
(1.) That we might enjoy God. 'I will dwell in them, and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.' This indwelling of God, and consequently our enjoyment of him, begins first in its eminency by his possessing our flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. Hence his name is called 'Immanuel, God with us'; and 'the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.' The flesh of Christ is the tabernacle which the Lord pitched, according to that saying, 'The tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God' (Rev 21:3). Here God beginneth to discover his glory, and to be desirable to the sons of men.
God could not communicate himself to us, nor take us into the enjoyment of himself, but with respect to that flesh which his Son took of the Virgin, because sin stood betwixt. Now this flesh only was the holy lump, in this flesh God could dwell; and forasmuch as this flesh is the same with ours, and was taken up with intent that what was done in and by that, should be communicated to all the children; therefore through that doth God communicate of himself unto his people—'God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself' (2 Cor 5:19). And 'I am the way,' saith Christ, 'no man cometh unto the Father but by me' (John 14:6).
That passage to the Hebrews is greatly to our purpose. We have boldness, brethren, 'to enter into the holiest,' the place where God is, 'by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh' (Heb 10:19,20).
Wherefore by the flesh and blood of Christ we enter into the holiest; through the veil, saith he, that is to say, his flesh.
(2.) As the end of our salvation is that we might enjoy God, so also it is that he by us might be glorified for ever—'That God in all things might be glorified, through Jesus Christ our Lord.'
Here indeed will the mystery of his grace, wisdom, justice, power, holiness, and glory, inhabit eternal praise, while we that are counted worthy of the kingdom of God shall admire at the mystery, and see ourselves, without ourselves, even by the flesh and blood of Christ through faith therein, effectually and eternally saved. Oh, this will be the burden of our eternal joy—God loved us, and gave his Son for us; Christ loved us, and gave his flesh for our life, and his blood for our eternal redemption and salvation!
THAT CHRIST WAS MADE UNDER THE LAW.
SECOND. But, secondly CHRIST WAS MADE UNDER THE LAW—'When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law' (Gal 4:4).
Of right, being found in flesh, he must needs be under the law, for that there is not any creature above or without law to God; but this is not to the point in hand. Christ was not therefore under the law because he was found in flesh, but he took flesh, and designedly put himself, or was made under the law; wherefore it is added, He was made under the law to 'redeem,' to redeem them that were under that law. Wherefore, here is a design, a heavenly contrivance and device on foot; Christ is made—that is, by design subjected—under the law, for the sake and upon the account of others, 'to redeem them that were under the law.'
Made under the law—that is, put himself into the room of sinners, into the condition of sinners; made himself subject to the same pains and penalties we were obnoxious to. We were under the law, and it had dominion over us, bound us upon pain of eternal damnation to do completely all things written in the law. This condition Christ put himself into that 'he might redeem'; for assuredly we had else perished.
The law had dominion over us, and since we had sinned, of right it pronounced the curse, and made all men subject to the wrath of God. Christ, therefore, did not only come into our flesh, but also into our condition, into the valley and shadow of death where we were, and where we are, as we are sinners. He that is under the law is under the edge of the axe. When David was to go to visit his brethren, and to save them from the hand of Goliath, he was to look how his brethren fared, and to 'take their pledge' (1 Sam 17:18). This is true of Jesus Christ when he came to save us from the hand of death and the law; he looked how his brethren fared, took to heart their deplorable condition, and put himself into the same plight—to wit, under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law.
I told you before that he came sinless into the world, that he had a miraculous conception, and wonderful birth; and here you see a reason for it, he was to be put, or made, under the law, 'to redeem.' He that will be made under the law to redeem, had need be sinless and spotless himself; for the law findeth fault with the least, and condemneth man for the first beginning of, sin.
Without this, then, there could not have been redemption, nor any the sons of God by adoption: no redemption, because the sentence of death had already passed upon all; no sons by adoption, because that is the effect of redemption. 'God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.' Christ, then, by being made under the law, hath recovered his from under the law, and obtained for them the privilege of the adoption of sons.
For, as I told you before, Christ stood a common person, presenting in himself the whole lump of the promised seed, or the children of the promise; wherefore he comes under the law for them, takes upon him to do what the law required of them, takes upon him to do it for them.
He began, therefore, at the first tittle of the law, and going in man's flesh, for man, through the law, he becomes 'the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.' The END of the law—what is the end of the law but perfect and sinless obedience? that is the end of the law, both with respect to its nature, and the cause of its being imposed. God gave the law, that complete righteousness should by that be found upon men; but because sin was got into man's flesh, therefore this righteousness, by us, could not be completed. Now comes Christ the Lord into the world, clothes himself with the children's flesh, addresseth himself to the work of their redemption, is made under the law; and going through every part of the law without sin, he becometh 'the end of the law for' justifying 'righteousness to every one that believeth' (Rom 10:4). For he obeyed not the law for himself, he needed no obedience thereto; it was we that needed obedience, it was we that wanted to answer the law; we wanted it but could not obtain it, because then the law was weak through the flesh; therefore God sent his own Son, and he did our duty for us, even to become the end of the law to every one that believeth. In this, therefore, Christ laboured for us, he was made under the law to redeem. Therefore, as I said before, it behoved him to be sinless, because the law binds over to answer for sin at the bar of the judgment of God. Therefore did his Godhead assume our human flesh, in a clean and spotless way, that he might come under 'the law, to redeem them that were under the law.'
For, consisting of two natures, and the personality lying in the Godhead, which gave value and worth to all things done for us by the manhood, the obedience takes denomination from thence, to be the obedience of God. The Son's righteousness, the Son's blood; the righteousness of God, the blood of God (Heb 5:8,9; Phil 3:9; Acts 20:28; 1 John 3:16).
Thus Jesus Christ came into the world under the law to redeem, not simply as God, but God-man, both natures making one Christ. The Godhead, therefore, did influence and give value to the human flesh of Christ in all its obedience to the law, else there would have been wanting that perfection of righteousness which only could answer the demands and expectation of the justice of God; to wit, perfect righteousness by flesh.
But the second Person in the Godhead, the Son, the Word, coming under the law for men in their flesh, and subjecting himself by that flesh to every tittle and demand of the law; all and every whit of what was acted and done by Jesus Christ, God-man, for us, it was and is the righteousness of God; and since it was not done for himself, but for us, as he saith in the text, 'to redeem,' the righteousness by which we are set free from the law is none other but the righteousness that alone resideth in the person of the Son of God.
And that it is absolutely necessary thus it should be, is evident, both with respect to God and also with respect to man.
With respect to God. The righteousness is demanded by God; therefore he that comes to redeem must present before God a righteousness absolutely perfect; this can be done by none but God.
With respect to man. Man was to present this righteousness to God; therefore must the undertaker be man. Man for man, and God for God, God-man between God and man. This daysman can lay his hand upon us both, and bring God and man together in peace (Job 9:33).
Quest. But some may say, what need of the righteousness of one that is naturally God? Had Adam, who was but a mere man, stood in his innocency, and done his duty, he had saved himself and all his posterity.
Answ. Had Adam stood, he had so long secured himself from the wages of sin, and posterity so long as they were in him. But had Adam sinned, yea, although he had not defiled his nature with filth, he could never after that have redeemed himself from the curse of the law, because he was not equal with God; for the curse of the law is the curse of God; but no man can deliver himself from the curse of God, having first transgressed. This is evident, because angels, for sin, lie bound in chains, and can never deliver themselves. He, therefore, that redeemeth man from under the law must not only do all the good that the law requireth, but bear all the penalty that is due by the law for sin.
Should an angel assume human flesh, and in that flesh do the law, this righteousness would not redeem a sinner; it would be but the righteousness of an angel, and so, far short of such a righteousness as can secure a sinner from the wrath of God. But 'thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy strength.' If there were no more required of us now to redeem ourselves, it would be utterly impossible for us to do it, because in the best there is sin, which will intermix itself with every duty of man. This being so, all the heart, all the soul, all the strength, and all the mind, to the exact requirement of the justice of the law, can never be found in a natural man.
Besides, for this work there is required a perfect memory, always to keep in mind the whole duty of man, the whole of every tittle of all the law, lest sin come in by forgetfulness; a perfect knowledge and judgment, lest sin come in by ignorance; an everlasting unweariedness in all, lest sin and continual temptation tire the soul, and cause it to fail before the whole be done.
For the accomplishing of this last, he must have—1. A perfect willingness, without the least thought to the contrary. 2. Such a hatred of sin as is not to be found but in the heart of God. 3. A full delight in every duty, and that in the midst of all temptations. 4. A continuing in all things to the well-pleasing of the justice of God.
I say, should the penalty of the law be taken off, should God forgive the penalty and punishment due to sins that are past, and only demand good works now, according to the tenor of the law, no man could be saved; there would not be found that heart, that soul, that mind, and that strength, anywhere in the world.
This, therefore, must cease for ever, unless the Son of God will put his shoulder to the work; but, blessed be God, he hath done it—'When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.'
CHRIST TOOK UPON HIM OUR SINS.
THIRD. But thirdly, CHRIST OUR SAVIOUR TAKES UPON HIM OUR SINS. This is another step to the work of our redemption. 'He hath made him to be sin for us.' Strange doctrine! A fool would think it blasphemy; but Truth hath said it. Truth, I say, hath said, not that he was made to sin, but that God made him to be sin—'He hath made him to be sin for us' (2 Cor 5:21).
This, therefore, showeth us how effectually Christ Jesus undertook the work of our redemption—He was made to be sin for us. Sin is the great block and bar to our happiness; sin is the procurer of all miseries to men both here and for ever. Take away sin, and nothing can hurt us; for death temporal, death spiritual, and death eternal, are the wages of sin (Rom 6:23).
Sin, then, and man for sin, is the object of the wrath of God. If the object of the wrath of God, then is his case most dreadful; for who can bear, who can grapple with the wrath of God? Men cannot, angels cannot, the whole world cannot. All, therefore, must sink under sin, but he who is made to be sin for us; he only can bear sins, he only can bear them away, and therefore were they laid upon him—'The Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all' (Isa 53:6).
Mark, therefore, and you shall find that the reason why God made him to be sin for us was, 'that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.' He took our flesh, he was made under the law, and was made to be sin for us, that the devil might be destroyed, that the captives might be redeemed, and made the righteousness of God in him.
And forasmuch as he saith that God 'hath made him to be sin,' it declareth that the design of God and the mystery of his will and grace was in it. 'He hath made him to be sin.' God hath done it, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. There was no other way; the wisdom of heaven could find no other way; we could not by other means stand just before the justice of God.
Now, what remains but that we who are reconciled to God by faith in his blood are quit, discharged, and set free from the law of sin and death? Yea, what encouragement to trust in him, when we read that God 'made him to be sin for us.'
Quest. But how was Jesus Christ made of God to be sin for us?
Answ. Even so as if himself had committed all our sins; that is, they were as really charged upon him as if himself had been the actor and committer of them all. 'He hath made him to be sin,' not only as a sinner, but as sin itself. He was as the sin of the world that day he stood before God in our stead. Some, indeed, will not have Jesus Christ our Lord to be made sin for us; their wicked reasons think this to be wrong judgment in the Lord; it seems, supposing that because they cannot imagine how it should be, therefore God, if he does it, must do it at his peril, and must be charged with doing wrong judgment, and so things that become not his heavenly Majesty; but against this duncish sophistry we set Paul and Isaiah, the one telling us still, 'the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all'; and the other, that 'God made him to be sin for us.'
But these men, as I suppose, think it enough for Christ to die under that notion only, not knowing nor feeling the burden of sin, and the wrath of God due thereto. These make him as senseless in his dying, and as much without reason, as a silly sheep or goat, who also died for sin, but so as in name, in show, in shadow only. They felt not the proper weight, guilt, and judgment of God for sin. But thou, sinner, who art so in thine own eyes, and who feelest guilt in thine own conscience, know thou that Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God in flesh, was made to be sin for thee, or stood sensibly guilty of all thy sins before God, and bare them in his own body upon the cross.
God charged our sins upon Christ, and that in their guilt and burden, what remaineth but that the charge was real or feigned? If real, then he hath either perished under them, or carried them away from before God; if they were charged but feignedly, then did he but feignedly die for them, then shall we have but feigned benefit by his death, and but a feigned salvation at last—not to say how this cursed doctrine chargeth God and Christ with hypocrisy, the one in saying, He made Christ to be sin; the other in saying that he bare our sin; when, in deed and in truth, our guilt and burden never was really upon him.