I consider it proper to inform you, that, though "Jesus Christ, and him crucified" is the general drift of my preaching, I was particularly led to that glorious subject on the Lord's Day, Dec. 2nd, in consequence of a pamphlet sent to me by a friend in the south: in which I perceived several things that appeared to me to impugn the justice of the everlasting Father in his dealings with his beloved Son as the "surety of the better testament:" as also to diminish "the kindness and love of God our Saviour;" and to contradict the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Though I never once mentioned either the author or his pamphlet in my discourses, yet many remarks were made in my preaching which would otherwise have been omitted. This must account for several explanations and proofs which will appear in the ensuing pages, though they are scarcely necessary to them who know the truth.
May the Holy Spirit own and bless all that is consistent with his mind and will in what I have written: may he shed abroad the Father's love in our hearts: endear the Saviour more abundantly to us; and enable us, with loyal hearts, to ascribe all "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever." Amen.
"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: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." (Galatians 3:13,14)
THE apostle John expresses himself to those he wrote to, in these words, "I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth." (1 John 2:21) So in preaching from those words which I have taken for a text, I would address many here, not as having not known the truth, but as having known it. There are two things very desirable, or ought to be so, to them that know the truth: I mean those who have a spiritual understanding of the truth, and who believe in, and love it. First, to experience and enjoy its sweetness and preciousness; and to be enabled to walk agreeably to it, by "faith that worketh by love:" secondly, that others may be brought to the saving knowledge of it, who at present know it not. For though the apostle knew that many among them had received an unction from the Holy One, which had taught them all things essential to salvation, yet he knew that a repetition of the same truths would be profitable to them, by the blessing of God, to renew the savor of them, to the revival of their hearts, that they might rejoice in God; and for the ingathering of the scattered sheep.
The whole chapter, out of which I have taken my text, has, many times, been very profitable and precious to me. The blessings and privileges of the glorious gospel of the blessed God, are therein freely, fully, and blessedly stated. The great error, in which some belonging to the church in Galatia were entangled, and to which others were likely so to be, was, the mixing of the works of the law, and the observance of the ceremonies thereunto attached, with the perfect and free justifying righteousness of the Son of God. The apostle Paul, knowing how plausible and how pleasing such doctrine is to our corrupt, proud, and deceitful hearts; and being so great a debtor to rich and sovereign grace himself, and being favored with such loyalty of heart to the Saviour, he could not bear the least innovation, or diminution of the perfect, certain, and everlasting salvation of sinners, fully wrought out for, and freely bestowed upon sinners, by Immanuel, God with us. Therefore, he treats of that glorious subject, in most plain and precious language; and scarcely anywhere in his epistles more so than in this valuable chapter.
In these expressive words of my text, there are these five particulars:
1st. The Redeemer, revealed by the name, Christ.
2ndly. The nature of his redemption--from the curse of the law.
3rdly. The means of its accomplishment--being made a curse for us.
4thly. The proof thereof, appealing to Scripture, Deut. 21:23.
5thly. The great, gracious, and glorious results thereof, which are comprised in "the blessing of Abraham, and the gift of the Spirit."
All the above are contained in these astonishing and exceedingly precious words. For it is a matter of amazement, and worthy our greatest admiration and adoration, that Christ should redeem us, insignificant and sinful creatures, by such means; and that such as we should be made partakers of those invaluable blessings and privileges which follow upon it. I desire, by the help of God, to enlarge upon each particular.
First, respecting Christ the Redeemer. The word "Christ" in the New Testament, is the same as "Messiah" in the old. Both signify the "anointed." This name is given peculiarly to the Lord Jesus. For though his fellows, or companions, are anointed, and, consequently, called Christians, yet they have only a measure of the Spirit: the Lord Jesus without measure. Therefore, David's Son and Lord is said to be anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows. (Ps. 45:7, Heb. 1:9) For he was peculiarly anointed by the Father to an office, for the accomplishment of a work which none but himself could do. In the 2nd Psalm it is said, "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us" (Ps. 2:1-3)--which prophesy is immediately applied to Jesus of Nazareth, by the apostles and disciples, Acts 4:25,27, who, with one accord, said, "Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the mouth of thy servant David has said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against the holy child Jesus, whom thou has anointed," etc. Let us a little consider this anointing. It is certain from scripture that it respects the Son of God, as eternally designed of the Father to be the Mediator between him, the offended God, and offending creatures; and to sustain the offices of King, Priest, and Prophet, to perform the work assigned to him as such, that is, the salvation of sinners. Therefore, under the Mosaic dispensations, which had the Lord Jesus in view, the high priests, the kings, and the prophets were anointed to those offices with the anointing oil, to manifest God's choice and appointment of them thereto. Aaron, David, Elisha, and others were thus anointed.
In the 8th chapter of Proverbs, the Eternal Wisdom of God, that was with the Father from eternity (see John chapter 1:1,15) saith, "I was set up from everlasting." This undoubtedly signifies his eternal designation to the office of Mediator. Hence the Lord Jesus himself, in the days of his flesh, speaking to the Jews, saith, "Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works; that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him." (John 10:36,38) Hence Peter, speaking of Christ as the Lamb of God, saith, "Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you." (1 Peter 1:19,20) To this the apostle Paul perfectly agrees, "But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law." (Gal. 4:4) This glorious truth, that it was God's own, proper, begotten Son, that was eternally anointed or designated to the office of Mediator, is essential to salvation. For were he not "over all, God blessed for evermore," possessed of all the glorious attributes, or perfections, of the Deity, his precious blood could not have atoned for our sins, nor his obedience justified us from all things. Hence those blasphemers who deny his eternal power and Godhead, also reject his sin-atoning blood, and his sinner-justifying righteousness. But though in the form of God, he thought it no robbery to be equal with God (which would be blasphemy for the highest archangel to aspire to) "he made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant." (Phil. 2:6,7) For "the children," whom he was to redeem, "being partakers of flesh and blood he also himself likewise took part of the same," (Heb. 2:14) and so became near of kin, our elder brother, who had a right to redeem. This human nature he took into union with his divine person. Hence the angel told his virgin mother, "That holy thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35) His divine nature gave all the worth, value, and merit, to the obedience, sufferings, and death, of his human nature, making them acceptable to God for the pardon, justification, and salvation of myriads of believing sinners. I would observe, that the human nature of Christ, as united to his divine person, is exalted above the state and condition of a mere creature; and, therefore, it was a gracious act of condescension in the Lord Jesus, and entirely for our sakes, that, as Mediator, it should be made subject to the law: but "being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and become obedient, not only in, but unto death, even the death of the cross." (Phil. 2:8)
The human nature which the Son of God assumed, was anointed by the Holy Spirit from its very birth. Hence the angel's message to the shepherds: "Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ (the anointed) the Lord." (Luke 2:11) This anointing was essentially necessary to preserve his human nature from the least taint of sin. God the Holy Spirit filled every faculty of his soul with his grace, typified by the mixture of various spices with oil, with which the priests and kings were anointed under the former dispensation. At his baptism, the commencement of his ministry, the anointing was more visible; and at his entrance into heaven, more abundant still. For to that entrance does the scripture more particularly refer, when it is said, "God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows."
To sum up all that has been said upon this point, it was "The child born, the son given--the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace"--the great God our Saviour, in our nature--Emmanuel, God with us, God manifest in the flesh, that was anointed to be, the Redeemer of his church, his flock, his people. I come now to treat of,
2ndly. The nature of his redemption--"from the curse of the law." By the "curse of the law," we are to understand, its righteous, awful sentence of DEATH, pronounced against every transgressor of its holy, just, and good precepts. Those who are redeemed therefrom must have been under that curse or sentence, or they could not be said to be redeemed from it. This, the apostle states in this chapter, and more fully in Rom. 5:12, to the end. In this chapter he saith, "But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Christ Jesus might be given to them that believe:" and, again, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." In the 5th chapter of the epistle to the Romans, the apostle clearly shows the condemnation of Adam and all his posterity, without a single exception, by his offence, or transgression, in the garden of Eden. His words are these: "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death, (the curse of the law) passed upon all men, for that all have sinned"--that is, in their first father and covenant head, Adam. For of the imputation of Adam's one offence to all his offspring, the apostle is evidently treating in that verse, and in the following verses, of that chapter. Proud sinners may, and many of them do, say, that it ought not to be so; for it is unjust to punish others for the transgression of one man. "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus!" (Rom. 9:20) And, "Woe be to him that striveth with his Maker." (Isa. 45:9) Nothing can be more certain than this, that we have all, personally, by a depraved nature and sinful thoughts, words, and actions, transgressed the holy law of God: consequently every individual of mankind is under its just and awful sentence. Hence the apostle saith, "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." (Rom. 3:19) Every rational creature is bound to obey his Creator; and in consequence of disobedience, comes under the curse or sentence. "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23) The chosen, predestinated children of God are, in a state of nature, under that fearful sentence. Hence the apostle, writing to and of such, saith, "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." (Eph. 2:2,3)
The curse of the law is DEATH. It was pronounced by God in the garden of Eden: "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Adam did eat thereof, and thus brought death upon himself and all his posterity, as before stated and proved by the Apostle's words. Death, includes all the miseries of this life, in mind, body, and estate; for all these are the effects of sin, and are inflicted on account of sin:--it also comprises the separation of soul from body at the end of our race; "The body without the spirit is dead"--and the full execution of it consists in the eternal separation of soul and body from the living God. "Depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matt. 25:21) And again, "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord (in which presence is fullness of joy) and from the glory of his power." (2 Thess. 1:9) Under the curse, the whole of mankind must have eternally laid, had it not been for the gracious interference of God's ANOINTED. But he being made a curse for us, that is, he bearing the punishment which our sins deserved, all the miseries of this life, which his redeemed and called people are exercised with, are caused by infinite wisdom, grace, and power, to "work together for their good," and are "blessings in disguise." The parting of soul from body is "better than the day of their birth," for the spirit is ranked amongst "the spirits of just men made perfect," and the flesh rests in hope of a certain, and joyful resurrection; and at the resurrection morning, the body will be fashioned like unto the glorious body of Christ, and both soul and body "be for ever with the Lord." The righteous demands of the law are, a perfect and perpetual obedience to all and every one of its holy requirements, and a just punishment for every transgression thereof. This the great Redeemer paid to the uttermost mite for the eternal redemption, (Heb. 9:12) and everlasting salvation of myriads of sinners, Heb. 5:9, of "all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues;" who are "delivered from the wrath to come." (1 Thess. 1:10; Rom. 5:9) The payment was perfectly satisfactory to the Great Lawgiver and Judge of all, and was accepted as such in their behalf, and on their account. Thus he paid the ransom price, and redeemed us from the curse of the law: which leads me to the third particular.
3rdly. The manner or means of that redemption expressed in these words, "Being made a curse for us." I would first observe that these words most evidently imply, what other passages of scripture plainly express, that all the sins of redeemed sinners, with all their guilt and deserved punishment, were transferred, imputed, reckoned to him: placed to the account of the holy, harmless, and undefiled Lamb of God, or he could not have been justly punished by God for them. For, when he is said to be made a curse for us, it is an act of God that is meant. To God himself are the following things ascribed: "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isa. 53:6) "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin." (2 Cor. 5:21) "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all." (Rom. 8:32) "He was delivered for our offences." (Rom. 4:25) "Awake, O Sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of Hosts: smite the shepherd." (Zech. 13:7) "Him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." (Acts 2:23) Nothing can be more certain from scripture than that the Lord Jesus actually suffered the very same curse or punishment of the law, that actual transgressors must have endured, had he not been their surety or substitute. This is the blessed argument in Isaiah's 53rd chapter. Prophesying of the fact, he saith, "Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." Then foretelling the blind, false, and, with many, the willful and malicious conceptions of the bulk of the Jewish nation, he saith, "Yet we did esteem him stricken of God and afflicted." That is, they "called Jesus accursed:" supposing that he was justly punished, or became a curse, for his own sins, or for crimes which he had personally been guilty of. In opposition to such a blasphemous surmise, the prophet adds, "But he was wounded for our trangressions, bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." The prophet did not, he could not, deny, that he was judicially smitten and afflicted of God, for this he acknowledges in the same chapter, verses 9 and 10; but the grand, the immense difference consisted in this, that the Jews considered punishment to be inflicted on him for his own sins; but those who are guided and led by the Holy Spirit, consider it as a matchless display of the grace, mercy and wisdom of the everlasting Father; and the brightest, greatest, and sweetest manifestation of the grace, mercy, wisdom, compassion, and condescension of the Son of God, that the HOLY ONE and the JUST should endure the punishment due to others for crimes by them actually committed. Hence the apostle Peter saith, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the JUST for the UNJUST, that he might bring us to God." (1 Pet. 3:18) To the objection that is made to the vicarious sufferings of the Saviour, that he did not suffer eternal death, the answer is, that eternal suffering is the consequence of its being inflicted on finite sinners, who can only answer the demands of Eternal Justice, and suffer for sins against an infinite God, by eternal sufferings. But Christ, in his highest nature being the eternal Son of God, and the human nature, which he assumed, being taken into union with his divine person, was able to endure sufferings at once equivalent to eternal sufferings. Also, the infinite dignity of our adorable Redeemer stamped a value upon his sufferings and death, that made them more than equivalent to the eternal sufferings of mere creatures. He who suffered was the Almighty God, though he suffered not as God, for he was also man, and it was his manhood alone which suffered. But the human nature being united to the Son of God, the apostle saith, "Feed the Church of GOD, which HE hath purchased with his own blood." (Acts 20:28)
We must not conceive of God's anger, wrath, fury, vengeance, etc. as passions or affections in God. They only signify the different degrees of punishment in the righteous dealings of God with sinners, according to the different degrees of their crimes. Even an earthly judge may sentence a transgressor of the laws of the realm with death, and yet pity him, and have no anger in his heart against him. The Son of God is the object of his Father's love, from everlasting to everlasting, without any variableness or shadow of turning; and as his righteous servant, in his state of humiliation, yea, in his sufferings and death, God was always well pleased with him. Hence those declarations of the Most High: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matt. 3:17) And as it respects his Person and work as Mediator, it is said, "Behold my servant whom I have chosen: my beloved, in whim my soul is well pleased." (Matt. 12:18) It was an eternal act of the love of God that appointed his own Son to be the "surety of the better testament," and the Saviour of sinners. (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10) The glory of his own perfections, and the glory of the Mediator, possessing and displaying those perfections, were the supreme end and aim of the Almighty in the humiliation, sufferings, and death of the Lord Jesus; and in subordination thereto, the eternal redemption, and everlasting salvation, of all his chosen people. But the Lord Jesus Christ being appointed to be their surety, God dealt with him as a judge. The law and justice of God pursued him to the uttermost, for the sins of his people, which he had taken upon himself, and engaged to suffer for. Nothing less than this can account for the agony of the Saviour's soul in the garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross. The former was before the sufferings of his body came on. His soul was exceedingly sorrowful, sorrowful even unto death; and in such anguish that he sweat great drops of blood. What adequate cause can be assigned for such horror, amazement, and distress in the soul of the holy Lamb of God, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, but the wrath of his Almighty Father, who was then treating him, not as his beloved Son, but as the surety of sinful, guilty creatures; and as a JUST JUDGE, letting loose his wrath, or justly punishing him in their stead.
"When I by faith my Maker see
In weakness and distress,
Brought down to that state for me
Which angels can't express:
"When that great God, to whom I go
For help, amaz'd, I view
By sin and sorrow sunk as low
As I--and lower too.
"(For all our sins we his may call,
As he sustain'd their weight,
How huge the heavy load of all,
When only mine's so great.)
"Then ravish'd with rich belief
Of such a love as this,
I'm lost in wonder, melt with grief,
And faint beneath the bliss."--Hart.
Not a complaint, not a cry came out of his precious lips, on account of his bodily sufferings. But we find the HOLY ONE and the JUST, praying earnestly in the greatest agony, that if it were possible, the cup might pass from him. Nothing less than the tremendous burden of the guilt of the innumerable crimes of that great multitude, which no man could number, being laid upon HIM; and the judgment of God exacting the punishment thereof of HIM, can account for his inconceivably mental agony. (The bodily sufferings of our Saviour are much treated of by mere professors, as they excite their natural passions; which they mistake for the fellowship which real believers have in the sufferings of Christ, in the Garden and upon the Cross.) Thus the Holy One of Israel was made sin for us, who knew no sin: He who is over all, God blessed for evermore, and the Blesser of all nations, made a curse: the Object of God's eternal love, became the Object of what was equivalent to eternal wrath; and the Fountain of life, died an accursed death. O the manifold wisdom of God, and the exceeding riches of his divine grace! I now proceed to--
4thly, the proof which the apostle brings from scripture. It is most evident that the apostle quotes Deut. 21:22,23, to prove that "Christ was made a curse for us." The words are these: "And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him upon a tree: his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in anywise bury him that day (for he that is hanged is accursed of God) that this land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance." It was a notorious fact, that Christ hung upon the cross: that he expired on the cross; and that his dead body was taken down, and buried before sunset. The Jews taunt him with this to this day. "The man that was hung as a malefactor," is the title they give him, in scorn and hatred. Blessed be his Name, we believers confess, and glory in it. The fact itself cannot be denied. Peter saith, "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom ye slew and hanged upon a tree." Again, "Whom they slew and hanged on a tree." And again, "Who himself bare our sins in his own body on the tree." (Acts 5:30; Acts 10:39; 1 Pet. 2:24) Now if Christ was not alluded to in that passage, quoted by the apostle as a proof that Christ was made a curse for us, it would be of no avail. According to some men's opinion it would only amount to this: Criminals worthy of death, hung upon a tree, were accursed of God but Christ was free from sin, consequently not worthy of death, and though he hung upon the tree was not accursed of God; therefore he was made a curse for us. Such an attempt of proof would ill become Gamaliel's pupil, and much more so the apostle of Jesus Christ. But if we consider it thus: Criminals worthy of death, hung upon a tree, were accursed of God; Christ being made sin for us, as the substitute of guilty sinners, was in the eye of the law and justice of God, worthy of death, hung upon the tree, and was accursed of God: so was "he made a curse for us." In this light, and I conceive in this light only, is the apostle's quotation a solid and sufficient proof. Worthy of death and accursed of God he could not possibly be on his own account, for "he knew no sin;" but for us, he could be, and was. Bear in mind, that the curse of God is the sentence of the law--DEATH; and that death is the awful punishment of sin. Christ was made under the law for us, and for us he suffered the curse of the law.
"O love of infinite degree!
Must heaven's eternal darling die
To save a trait'rous race?
"Must angels sink for ever down,
And burn in quenchless fire:
While God forsakes his shining throne
To raise us wretches higher?
"O for this love let earth and skies
With hallelujahs ring;
And the full choir of human tongues
All hallelujahs sing."
It is true that he was most unjustly crucified, or hung upon a tree, by those who crucified him. Hence they are charged with betraying and murdering the Just One, Acts 7:52; with killing the Prince of Life, Acts 3:15; crucifying the Lord of glory. (1 Cor. 2:8) The charges of blasphemy, sedition, deceiving the people, etc., which the rulers brought against him, were false, unjust, and impious. The Saviour's innocence appeared so clear, that even the heathen judge Pilate, was convinced thereof. Hence the Holy Spirit saith, that Pilate "knew that for envy they had delivered him." And again, "I am innocent of the blood of his just person." (Matt. 27:18,23,24) And again, "I find no fault in this man." Pilate is said "to be willing to release him," "that he sought to release him," "that he was determined to let him go." (See Luke 23:20,22; Acts 3:13) But he was overawed by the fear of man; and, against his judgment and conscience, granted the requests of the rulers and people, that he might be crucified; and so conspired with them. But the Holy Spirit informs us, that, "the hand and counsel of God were in all this: "for they did whatsoever the hand and counsel of God determined before to be done." (Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28) Now, it is impossible that God should put him to death, or make him a curse, unjustly. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen. 18:25) And that the Almighty perfectly knew the perfect holiness and righteousness of his beloved Son, and his devoted, obedient servant, is beyond doubt. This is what the holy prophets and apostles all bear witness to. And Christ himself declares, he did all things that pleased the Father. Notwithstanding which, the Father delivered him up to death, to the shameful, painful, accursed death of the cross, "not sparing his own Son, but delivered him up for us all," to suffer for the sins committed by his people, but imputed to him. This the prophet Isaiah takes special notice of: "Although he had done no wrong, neither was there any guile found in his mouth; yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise him," etc., which does not signify that the Father was well pleased with the sacrifice of Christ; though that is a precious truth, see Eph. 5:2, but that it pleased the Father actively to bruise him. For the prophet adds, "he hath put him to grief." Hence, by the prophet Zachariah 13:7, we find these words: "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man, my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn my hand upon the little ones:" (Zech. 13:7) which the Lord Jesus applies to himself. (Matt. 26:31) This sword, beyond doubt, is the justice of God executing the righteous sentence of the law, that is, the curse of the law. This sword, in a figurative way of speaking, had been asleep for upwards of four thousand years when Christ came. Multitudes of sinners had been saved, but their sins had not been punished. When the adorable surety came, and the appointed hour arrived that he was to pay the dreadful debt, the sword awoke, pierced the Saviour's soul, and never ceased smiting till he cried out, with a loud voice, "It is finished." All that the law and justice of God required of him, as the substitute of myriads of guilty sinners, were then endured by HIM.
The substance of the precious truth I am contending for is, that the many sons, who were all of them worthy of death, and many of them most notoriously so, (see 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Per. 4:3) were, by the sovereignly gracious purpose of the ever-blessed God, appointed "to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thess. 5:9) As considered in themselves, and while they are in the state of fallen nature, they are under the curse of the law as transgressors of it. Therefore, the dear Redeemer stood in their law place, and endured that punishment, that very punishment, which they were worthy of. (When I say, "The very same punishment," I mean as to its essence. The enmity, rebellion, despair, and blasphemies against God, because of their plagues, belong to suffering sinners as such. These could have no place in the holy Redeemer. He was perfectly submissive to his heavenly Father's will, perfectly humble under his mighty hand, and patience in him had its perfect work. He was personally holy and obedient in and under all his sufferings.) Hence these sweet words of scripture, "The Son of Man must be lifted up." (John 3:14) There was a necessity for this, arising from the holiness and righteousness, or justice of God, which necessarily require that sin be punished; and also that God appointed, and the Son of God agreed to the appointment, that Christ should suffer that punishment instead of his people. Therefore it is said, he must be lifted up. In John chapter 12, it is recorded, "This he said, signifying what death he should die." By the apostle Peter it is expressed thus, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye are healed." (1 Peter 2:24) What words can be more clearly and blessedly expressive of the substitution of Christ for sinful, guilty creatures, "worthy of death?" It was our sins he bore, that is, suffered, or was punished for. These he bore upon the accursed tree. In consequence of which, we, the actually guilty sinners, are considered as "dead unto sins," having died in our covenant Head and Representative. To this our blessed apostle agrees, speaking of himself he said, "I am crucified with Christ;" and of all other believers in the Lord Jesus, he writes thus, "Likewise (that is, in consequence of Christ dying for us, in our room and stead, reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 6:11)
The Holy Spirit condescends to aid our conceptions of this glorious mystery, by treating of it in a metaphorical manner, or inspiring his servants to speak of it after the manner of men. In the scriptures, God is set forth as a creditor, man as a debtor, sins as debts, and Christ as a surety. The creditor justly demands the payment of the debts due to him. The debtor is unable to pay. The surety engages with the creditor to pay the utmost mite due. The creditor accepts the engagement, and law, justice, and equity demand that the surety pay the debt; and what ever difficulties attend the payment, the surety must bear them. Similes will not reach the case of what they are intended to represent, in every particular; and proper and candid allowances should be made to make them pass current. The great God, as the Creator, Lawgiver, and Judge, of mankind, requires obedience to his holy law in all things; and a righteous punishment for every transgression thereof. Man as a creature of God's make, owes him that obedience; and as a transgressing creature, the execution of the threatened punishment is his just due. Man being totally insolvent, by the awful fall, is both unwilling and unable to pay. The great Creator, determined to display his righteous judgments to some, leaves them to suffer eternally the just punishment of their sins. And that he might make known the riches of his glory to others, Rom. 9:22,23, appoints his dear Son, who is possessed of unsearchable riches, to be their surety. To this appointment the Son most willingly accedes: engages to perform a perfect obedience to the commands of the law, and to endure its righteous and awful sentence, curse, or punishment. Hence he saith, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." (John 10:17,18) Therefore, the law and justice of God laid hold of and treated him, as if he was the debtor himself; for he surely became so, by his voluntary engagement. Now, as the curse of the law was what sinful man was under, God, in "bringing the many sons to glory," acted becoming his holiness, justice, and truth, in making the Captain of their salvation perfect,--that is, a perfect Saviour, through suffering. (Heb. 2:10) Law, justice, and equity, most assuredly demand of the surety all that they claimed of the debtor. Therefore, Christ, to deliver his people from the curse of the law, must suffer that curse; and the proof that he did so is, he hung upon the tree. But all this brings no stain upon the holy and ever-blessed Lord Jesus. The debt of suffering was not contracted by him, nor did he suffer for any sin of his own: (for he was holy, harmless, and undefiled;) but by his own voluntary covenant engagement. The sins for which he suffered, committed by his people, were not transfused into him, but imputed to him; and being imputed to him, it was a righteous thing for the Just Judge of all, to put him to death, or punish him for them. And the death of the cross was the visible proof of his being made a curse, "the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge" (Eph. 3:19) appears in its most glorious luster; accompanied with a display of infinite kindness and pity, compassion and condescension. The benefits thereof that are bestowed upon those whom "God remembers with the favor which he beareth to his people," are revealed in the last verse of my text: which is the fifth particular, mentioned in the former part of my discourse.
5thly. The last verse of my text treats sweetly of the grand aim, end, or object, which the Great God our Saviour had in view, in suffering the painful, shameful, accursed death of the cross; and it is a revelation of the glorious results of his ignominious death. "That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles." The blessing of Abraham, is that blessing wherewith he and all his spiritual seed are blessed. This is, by the apostle Paul, declared to be, a free, full, and gracious imputation of the righteousness of Christ, and a communication of all the precious and invaluable fruit, and effects thereof. Hence he saith, "Even as David describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." (Rom. 4:6,7) Then to manifest that this was the blessing wherewith Abraham was blessed, and also to show that the Gentiles should be "fellow heirs" thereof, he adds, "Cometh this blessedness upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say, that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision." (Rom. 4:9,10) These words evidently prove, that the blessing of Abraham consisted of the imputation of the righteousness of that seed, in which God promised him that all nations should be blessed. Which seed the apostle affirms to be Christ. "He saith not of seeds as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." (Gal. 3:16) Herein the wisdom of God appears, in that Abraham was justified by faith, before he was circumcised, that he might be the father of those who believe in the Gentile world, as well as believers in the Jewish land. And so saith the apostle, "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed." (Gal. 3:8) Not every individual of mankind is blessed by that Seed, but every believer of all nations. For the apostle saith, "As many as are of faith, are blessed with faithful Abraham." (Gal. 3:9) But "all men have not faith." (2 Thess. 3:2) The greater part of mankind live and die in a state of unbelief.
The grand blessing of God is, the endless happiness of all his chosen people, with Christ in glory. The apostle Paul saith, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us, with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. According as he hath chosen us in him," etc. (Eph. 1:3,4) But the sweet Psalmist of Israel sums them all up in one, "Upon Mount Zion, God commanded the blessing, even life for evermore." (Ps. 133:3) So the apostle Peter speak of, "Exceeding great and precious promises;" (2 Pet. 1:4) but the apostle John includes them all in one," "And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life." (1 John 2:25) The precious harmony of the prophet and the apostles consists in this, that when they speak of many blessings and many promises, they treat of them as gracious means to bring all the chosen of God to everlasting holiness and happiness; and these blessings and promises, each and all, by the operations of the Holy Spirit, communicate spiritual life, as the seed, earnest, and foretaste, of eternal life in heaven. The righteousness of God imputed, is the believer's sure and unalienable right and title to life eternal. Hence the apostle saith, "They which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." (Rom. 5:17) For "whom God justified, them he also glorified." (Rom. 8:30)
The righteousness of the Son of God consists in all that he did and suffered upon earth, all that the law and justice of God required. Hence a distinction is sometimes made, and it is a proper one, between what is termed the active and passive obedience of Christ. These, though inseparable, are to be distinguished. His active righteousness signifies, his perfect obedience to the precepts of the law: his passive righteousness, his suffering the penalty thereof. Both of them being in obedience to his heavenly Father's will and command, constitute that one perfect righteousness, by which every believing sinner, whether Jew or Gentile, is justified in the sight of God. It was the eternal will of Jehovah in covenant, to save an innumerable company of wretched sinners, in a way that should glorify his rich grace and mercy, and also his awful justice; that sin might be damned and sinners saved. Therefore, he appointed the beloved Son of God to be their surety, their substitute. Our blessed apostle saith, "By the obedience of One shall many be made (or constituted) righteous." (Rom. 5:19) It is not faith itself, (which is a grace or fruit of the Holy Spirit,) that is imputed for righteousness; but the glorious Object of faith, who is "THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." (Jer. 23:6; Jer. 33:16) The gospel reveals him as such. Hence the apostle saith, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ--For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11,12) Faith believes the "glad tidings," and seeks the "good things" reported of. When God reveals his Son in, as well as to, the sinner's heart and conscience, then the hungry soul is filled with goodness. Nothing less than "Christ in you the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27) can satisfy a quickened sinner. When this "blessedness comes upon us through Jesus Christ," the pardon of all our sins is sweetly enjoyed, the soul is persuaded that they are all covered from the sight of God as a Judge; and though the believing sinner still "groans being burdened" with the "body of this death," and feels the plague, grief, and sore of his corrupt nature, yet the scripture assures him that sin shall not be imputed to him: "Christ being made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Cor. 5:21) Then the pardoned sinner has free access to God, holy familiarity and sweet communion with him, experiences the light of his countenance, rejoices in his Name, and the dread of wrath to come is sweetly succeeded by a "good hope through grace," of the glory of God. This is "blessedness" indeed; and it "comes upon the Gentiles through Jesus Christ:" that is, by his means: the Lord of Glory having submitted to be made a curse for us, and to hang upon the accursed tree, and consequently to be accursed, that is, as before observed, to be punished in our behalf; the blessing of "justification unto life" comes upon every believing sinner. O what a blessedness is this! Herein is the love of God with us made perfect--consummated in our having boldness in the day of judgment. For "There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus;" (Rom. 8:1) and "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died." (Rom. 8:33,34) In this, his infinite love and mercy, kindness and pity, compassion and condescension, are illustriously displayed; and he is worthy to receive, blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, for ever and ever. These will be eternally ascribed to him, by every redeemed sinner.
"What equal honours shall we bring
To thee, O Lord our God, the Lamb,
When all the notes that angels sing
Are far inferior to thy Name?
"Worthy is he that once was slain,
The Prince of Peace who groan'd and died,
Worthy to rise, and live, and reign
At his Almighty Father's side.
"Power and dominion are his due,
Who stood condemn'd at Pilate's bar:
Wisdom belongs to Jesus too,
Though he was charg'd with madness here.
"All riches are his native right,
Yet he sustain'd amazing loss:
To him ascribe eternal might,
Who left his weakness on the cross.
"Honour immortal must be paid,
Instead of scandal and of scorn:
While glory shines around his head,
And a bright crown without a thorn.
"Blessings for ever on the Lamb,
Who bore the curse for wretched men:
Let angels sound his sacred Name,
And every creature say--Amen."
The other precious fruit and effect of "Christ being made a curse for us" is, the reception of "the promise of the Spirit through faith." It may be worded, "That we may receive the promised Spirit." For sometimes in scripture, the promise signifies the thing promised. Thus it is said of Abraham and others, "These all died in faith, not having received the promise, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them." (Heb. 11:13) Yet in verse 17 it is said, "And he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son." The reconciliation of these apparent contradictions consists in this, that though they received the promises, they did not receive the fulfillment of them: that is, they did not live to see "the only begotten of the Father tabernacling among us."
So, in regard to the receiving of the promise of the Spirit. A sinner may by faith receive the promise of the Spirit, though he may not, for a time, receive the Spirit promised, in the way which my text means. Hence the words of our Saviour "But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified." (John 7:39) But the disciples had several precious promises of the Spirit. One, among many others, I shall mention, "And, behold, I will send the promise of my Father upon you." (Compare Luke 24:49, with Acts 2:33) "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:1,4) There is, if I may so express myself, a two-fold reception of the Spirit. In the first, we are entirely passive. It is a sovereign gift of the God of all grace to his elect, when they are dead in trespasses and sins. The Holy Spirit is to us, in our fallen nature state, unknown, undesired, unexpected. The sweet Psalmist of Israel, prophesying of gospel days, and of gospel privileges and blessings, saith, "Thou hast ascended on high: thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." (Ps. 68:18) And the apostle John saith, "Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit." (1 John 4:13) When the Spirit first enters the heart of a blind, dead sinner, it is to enlighten him with "the light of the living," that he may see and feel the sinful, awful, dangerous, state he is in. Hence the Saviour saith, "When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment." (John 16:8) That blessed Spirit, by his grace implanted, conquers our enmity, subdues our rebellion, and makes us "willing in the day of his power" (Ps. 110:3) to become loyal subjects of the King of Zion. Secondly, when he enables us by precious faith, to receive Christ into our hearts as "the propitiation for our sins," then he enters as a Comforter. And for him, as such, the quickened sinner prays: that is, longs for, desires, and, at least, inwardly entreats. It may appear a paradox, but it is a real truth, that none can pray for the Holy Spirit, but those who are partakers of the Spirit. They may repeat words, which many do, who even deny his gracious operation upon the heart and conscience, but pray for him they cannot. Such who are favored with a spiritual discernment of his gracious work in testifying of Christ to a burdened sinner's conscience, and who believe him able to produce faith to receive the Saviour, will with the heart pray that he would operate as a Comforter to them. When the Spirit thus comes, he conveys to the heart and conscience, the pardon of all sins, peace with God that passeth all understanding, sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts, witnesses our adoption, causes us, with sweet humility, love, and gratitude, to cry Abba, Father: helps us to free access to God, and holy communion with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ: is the earnest of the future inheritance, filling us with light, life, love, and with all joy and peace in believing--the same blessedness which those above enjoy, differing only in measure: he is also a seal to assure us thereof, and secure us thereto. Hence the apostle Paul saith, "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." (Eph. 4:30) Now the reception of the promised Spirit, in both senses of the word, is the fruit and effect of the travail of the soul of Christ. Hence the Lord saith, "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." (16:7) This precious truth the apostle Peter witnesseth, speaking of the risen and glorified Jesus, he saith, "Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear." (Acts 2:33) And this Comforter is to abide for ever with every blood-bought recipient of him. (John 14:16) I would just observe that when it is said, "That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith," faith sometimes regards the "things to be believed:" the object which faith embraces; and sometimes it signifies the grace, or habit of faith, by which we believe. In the first sense, we receive the promise of the Spirit, by means of the gospel, which reveals "the things to be believed." The apostle asks the Church in Galatia, this question, "This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Gal. 3:2) Again, he saith, "He, therefore, that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Gal. 3:5) Hence the gospel is called, "The ministration of the Spirit." (2 Cor. 3:8) Both because he enables his ministers to preach it, and because he is communicated to sinners by it.
When the ears of wretched miserable sinners are circumcised by the Holy Spirit to hear "the joyful sound," the "good news from a far country," (Prov. 25:25) and their "hearts are opened to attend to the things spoken to them by the Lord," (Acts 16:14) then, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom. 10:17) This precious faith receives the Holy Spirit as a Comforter, who fills the believing soul with "all joy and peace," (Rom. 15:13) in the acting of that faith which is of HIS operation. Thus, both the "promise of the Spirit," and "the promised Spirit," are given through the merits and intercession of the ever blessed Mediator, who was made a curse for us, that we might possess and enjoy this blessedness. The grand condition of the covenant, "Make thy soul an offering for sin," (Isa. 53:10) being performed by Christ, it makes "the promise sure to all the seed:" (Rom. 4:16) so saith the apostle: "For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us." (2 Cor. 1:20)
Blessed be God for Jesus Christ; and blessed be our Lord and Saviour for his infinite love and condescension. May the Holy Spirit accompany what has been advanced, as far as it is consistent with his truth; and I add no more.
I feel constrained to make a few remarks which, though not expressly mentioned in my sermons, may, by the blessing of God, be profitable to my readers. It is the sovereign and everlasting LOVE of Jehovah in covenant, that is the FOUNTAIN HEAD of the pure river of life, from whence the precious streams of a glorious salvation flow. Hence the Saviour saith, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) This may be truly called, "MARVELOUS LOVINGKINDNESS." The apostle speaks of the love of Christ, "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." (Eph. 5:25,27) This is "THE LOVE OF CHRIST, WHICH PASSETH KNOWLEDGE." And "the love of the Spirit" is manifested, by the revelation of these glorious truths, by the holy prophets and apostles; for the prophets foretold "the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow;" and the apostles testified of "Christ crucified--the power of God and the wisdom of God." And the love of the Spirit is made known to "all the elect people of God," by "building them upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;" (Eph. 2:20) and by the application of them to the hearts and consciences of "all the elect people of God." It is by the operations of the Holy Spirit, that the poor and needy, the weary and sorrowful, the laboring and heavy laden, the parched and thirsty sinner, is led to the soul-cleansing, refreshing, fructifying, and gladdening streams which flow from the free favor of HIM, who said unto Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." (Rom. 9:15)
"A debtor to mercy alone,
Of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on,
My person and offering to bring.
The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do;
My Savior's obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view.
"The work which His goodness began,
The arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is yea and amen,
And never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now,
Not all things below nor above
Can make Him His purpose forego,
Or sever my soul from His love.
"My name from the palms of His hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains
In marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in heaven."