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A digression, containing the substance of an occasional conference concerning the satisfaction of Christ.
Much about the time that I was composing that part of the last argument which is taken from the satisfaction of Christ, there came one (whose name, and all things else concerning him, for the respect I bear to his parts and modesty, shall be concealed) to the place where I live, and, in a private exercise about the sufferings of Christ, seemed to those that heard him to enervate, yea overthrow, the satisfaction of Christ: which I apprehending to be of dangerous consequence, to prevent a farther inconvenience, set myself briefly and plainly to oppose; and also, a little after, willingly entertained a conference and debate (desired by the gentleman) about the point in question: which being carried along with that quietness and sobriety of spirit which beseemed lovers of and searchers after truth, I easily perceived not only what was his persuasion in the thing in hand, but also what was the ground and sole cause of his misapprehension; and it was briefly this:— That the eternal, unchangeable love of God to his elect did actually instate them in such a condition as wherein they were in an incapacity of having any satisfaction made for them: the end of that being to remove the wrath due unto them, and to make an atonement for their sins; which, by reason of the former love of God, they stood in no need of, but only wanted a clear manifestation of that love unto their souls, whereby they might be delivered from all that dread, darkness, guilt, and fear, which was in and upon their consciences, by reason of a not-understanding of this love, which came upon them through the fall of Adam. Now, to remove this, Jesus Christ was sent to manifest this love, and declare this eternal good-will of God towards them, so bearing, and taking, away their sins, by removing from their consciences that misapprehension of God and their own condition which, by reason of sin, they had before, and not to make any satisfaction to the justice of God for their sins, he being eternally well-pleased with them. The sum is, election is asserted to the overthrow of redemption. What followed in our conference, with what success by God’s blessing it did obtain, shall, for my part, rest in the minds and judgments of those that heard it, for whose sake alone it was intended. The things themselves being, first, of great weight and importance, of singular concernment to all Christians; secondly, containing in them a mixture of undoubted truth and no less undoubted errors, true propositions and false inferences, assertions of necessary verities to the exclusion of others no less necessary; and, thirdly, directly belonging to the business in hand, — I shall briefly declare and confirm the whole truth in this business, so far as occasion was given by the exercise and debate before mentioned, beginning with the first part of it, concerning, the eternal love of God to his elect, with the state and condition they are placed in thereby: concerning which you may observe, —
First, That which is now by some made to be a new doctrine of free grace is indeed an old objection against it. That a non-necessity of satisfaction by Christ, as a consequent of eternal election, was more than once, for the substance of it, objected to Austin by the old Pelagian heretics, upon his clearing and vindicating, that doctrine, is most apparent. The same objection, renewed by others, is also answered by Calvin, Institut. lib. ii, cap. 16; as also divers schoolmen had before, in their way, proposed it to themselves, as Thom. iii. g. 49, a. 4. Yet, notwithstanding the apparent senselessness of the thing itself, together with the many solid answers whereby it was long before removed, the Arminians, at the Synod of Dort, greedily snatched it up again, and placed it in the very front of their arguments against the effectual redemption of the elect by Jesus Christ. Now, that which was in them only an objection is taken up by some amongst us as a truth, the absurd inconsequent consequence of it owned as just and good, and the conclusion deemed necessary, from the granting of election to the denial of satisfaction.
Secondly, Observe that there is the same reason of election and reprobation (in things so opposed, so it must be): “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated,” Rom. ix. 13. By the one, men are “ordained to eternal life,” Acts xiii. 48; by the other, “before of old ordained unto condemnation,” Jude 4. Now if the elect are justified, and sanctified, and saved, because of God’s decree that so they shall be, whereby they need nothing but the manifestation thereof, then likewise are the reprobates, as soon as they are finally impenitent, damned, burned, and want nothing but a manifestation thereof; which, whether it be true or no, consult the whole dispensation of God towards them.
Thirdly, Consider what is the eternal love of God. Is it an affection in his eternal nature, as love is in ours? It were no less than blasphemy once so to conceive. His pure and holy nature, wherein there is neither change nor shadow of turning, is not subject to any such passion; it must be, then, an eternal act of his will, and that alone. In the Scripture it is called, his “good pleasure,” Matt. xi. 26; his “purpose according to election,” Rom. ix. 11; the “foundation of God,” 2 Tim. ii. 19. Now, every eternal act of God’s will is immanent in himself, not really distinguished from himself; whatever is so in God is God. Hence, it puts nothing into the creature concerning whom it is, nor alteration of its condition at all; producing, indeed, no effect until some external act of God’s power do make it out. For instance: God decreed from eternity that he would make the world, yet we know the world was not made until about five thousand five hundred years ago. But ye will say, “It was made in God’s purpose.” That is, say I, he purposed to make it. So he purposeth there shall be a day of judgment; is there therefore actually a universal day of judgment already? God purposeth that he will, in and through Christ, justify and save such and such certain persons; are they therefore justified because God purposeth it? It is true, they shall be so, because he hath purposed it; but that they are so is denied. The consequence is good from the divine purpose to the futurition of any thing, and the certainty of its event, not to its actual existence. As when the Lord, in the beginning, went actually to make the world, there was no world; so when he comes to bestow faith and actually to justify a man, until he hath so done he is not justified. The sum is, —
First, The eternal love of God towards his elect is nothing but his purpose, good pleasure, a pure act of his will, whereby he determines to do such and such things for them in his own time and way. Secondly, No purpose of God, no immanent eternal act of his will, doth produce any outward effect, or change any thing in nature and condition of that thing concerning which his purpose is; but only makes the event and success necessary in respect of that purpose. Thirdly, The wrath and anger of God that sinners lie under is not any passion in God, but only the outward effects of anger, as guilt, bondage, etc. Fourthly, An act of God’s eternal love, which is immanent in himself, doth not exempt the creature from the condition wherein he is under anger and wrath, until some temporal act of free grace do really change its state and condition. For example: God holding the lump of mankind in his own power, as the clay in the hand of the potter, determining to make some vessels unto honour, for the praise of his glorious grace, and others to dishonour, for the manifestation of his revenging justice, and to this end suffer them all to fall into sin and the guilt of condemnation, whereby they became all liable to his wrath and curse; his purpose to save some of these doth not at all exempt or free them from the common condition of the rest, in respect of themselves and the truth of their estate, until some actual thing be accomplished for the bringing of them nigh unto himself: so that notwithstanding his eternal purpose, his wrath, in respect of the effects, abideth on them until that eternal purpose do make out itself in some distinguishing act of free grace; which may receive farther manifestation by these ensuing arguments:—
1. If the sinner want nothing to acceptation and peace but a manifestation of God’s eternal love, then evangelical justification is nothing but an apprehension of God’s eternal decree and purpose. But this cannot be made out from the Scripture, — namely, that God’s justifying of a person is his making known unto him his decree of election; or [that] man’s justification [is] an apprehension of that decree, purpose, or love. Where is any such thing in the book of God? It is true, there is a discovery thereof made to justified believers, and therefore it is attainable by the saints, “God shedding abroad his love in their hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto them,” Rom. v. 5; but it is after they are “justified by faith,” and have “peace with God,” verse 1. Believers are to give “all diligence to make their calling and election sure;” but that justification should consist herein is a strange notion. Justification, in the Scripture, is an act of God, pronouncing an ungodly person, upon his believing, to be absolved from the guilt of sin, and interested in the all-sufficient righteousness of Christ: so God “justifieth the ungodly,” Rom. iv. 5, “by the righteousness of God which is by the faith of Jesus Christ unto them,” chap. iii. 22; making Christ to become righteousness to them who were in themselves sin. But of this manifestation of eternal love there is not the least foundation, as to be the form of justification; which yet is not without sense and perception of the love of God, in the improvement thereof.
2. The Scripture is exceeding clear in making all men, before actual reconciliation, to be in the like state and condition, without any real difference at all, the Lord reserving to himself his distinguishing purpose of the alteration he will afterward by his free grace effect: “There is none that doeth good, no, not one,” Rom. iii. 12; for “we have proved both Jews and Gentiles that they are all under sin,” verse 9. All mankind are in the same condition, in respect of themselves and their own real state: which truth is not at all prejudiced by the relation they are in to the eternal decrees; for “every mouth is stopped, and all the world is become guilty before God,” Rom. iii. 19, — ὑπόδικος, obnoxious to his judgment. “Who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?” 1 Cor. iv. 7. All distinguishment, in respect of state and condition, is by God’s actual grace; for even believers are “by nature children of wrath, even as others,” Eph. ii. 3. The condition, then, of all men, during their unregeneracy, is one and the same, the purpose of God concerning the difference that shall be being referred to himself. Now, I ask whether reprobates in that condition lie under the effects of God’s wrath, or no? If ye say “No,” who will believe you? If so, why not the elect also? The same condition hath the same qualifications; an actual distinguishment we have proved there is not. Produce some difference that hath a real existence, or the cause is lost.
3. Consider what it is to lie under the effects of God’s wrath, according to the declaration of the Scripture, and then see how the elect are delivered therefrom, before their actual calling. Now, this consists in divers things; as, — (1.) To be in such a state of alienation from God as that none of their services are acceptable to him: “The prayer of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,” Prov. xxviii. 9. (2.) To have no outward enjoyment sanctified, but to have all things unclean unto them, Tit. i. 15. (3.) To be under the power of Satan, who rules at his pleasure in the children of disobedience, Eph. ii. 2. (4.) To be in bondage unto death, Heb. ii. 15. (5.) To be under the curse and condemning power of the law, Gal. iii. 13. (6.) To be obnoxious to the judgment of God, and to be guilty of eternal death and damnation, Rom. iii. 19. (7.) To be under the power and dominion of sin, reigning in them, Rom. vi. 19. These and such like are those which we call the effects of God’s anger.
Let now any one tell me what the reprobates, in this life, lie under more? And do not all the elect, until their actual reconciliation, in and by Christ, lie under the very same? for, — (1.) Are not their prayers an abomination to the Lord? can they without faith please God? Heb. xi. 6. And faith we suppose them not to have; for if they have, they are actually reconciled. (2.) Are their enjoyments sanctified unto them? hath any thing a sanctified relation without faith? See 1 Cor. vii. 14. (3.) Are they not under the power of Satan? If not, how comes Christ, in and for them, to destroy the works of the devil? Did not he not come to deliver his from him that had the power of death, that is, the devil? Heb. ii. 14; Eph. ii. 2. (4.) Are they not under bondage unto death? The apostle affirms plainly that they are so all their lives, until they are actually freed by Jesus Christ, Heb. ii. 14, 15. (5.) Are they not under the curse of the law? How are they freed from it? By Christ being made a curse for them, Gal. iii. 13. (6.) Are they not obnoxious unto judgment, and guilty of eternal death? How is it, then, that Paul says that there is no difference, but that all are subject to the judgment of God, and are guilty before him? Rom. iii. 9; and that Christ saves them from this wrath, which, in respect of merit, was to come upon them? Rom. v. 9; 1 Thess. i. 10. (7.) Are they not under the dominion of sin? “God be thanked,” says Paul, “that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed,” etc., Rom. vi. 17. In brief, the Scripture is in nothing more plentiful than in laying and charging all the misery and wrath of and due to an unreconciled condition upon the elect of God, until they actually partake in the deliverance by Christ.
But now some men think to wipe away all that hath been said in a word, and tell us that all this is so but only in their own apprehension; not that those things are so indeed and in themselves. But if these things be so to them only in their apprehension, why are they otherwise to the rest of the whole world? The Scripture gives its no difference nor distinction between them. And if it be so with all, then let all get this apprehension as fast as they can, and all shall be well with the whole world, now miserably captived under a misapprehension of their own condition; that is, let them say the Scripture is a fable, and the terror of the Almighty a scarecrow to fright children; that sin is only in conceit; and so square their conversation to their blasphemous fancies. Some men’s words eat as a canker.
4. Of particular places of Scripture, which might abundantly be produced to our purpose, I shall content myself to name only one: John iii. 36, “He that believeth not the Son, the wrath of God abideth on him.” It abideth: there it was, and there it shall remain, if unbelief be continued; but upon believing it is removed. “But is not God’s love unchangeable, by which we shall be freed from his wrath?” Who denies it? But is an apprentice free because he shall be so at the end of seven years? Because God hath purposed to free his in his own time, and will do it, are they therefore free before he doth it? “But are we not in Christ from all eternity?” Yes, chosen in him we are; therefore, in some sense, in him. But how? Even as we are. Actually, a man cannot be in Christ until he be. Now, how are we from eternity? are we eternal? No; only God from eternity hath purposed that we shall be. Doth this give us an eternal being? Alas! we are of yesterday; our being in Christ respecteth only the like purpose, and therefore from thence can be made only the like inference.
This, then, being cleared, it is, I hope, apparent to all how miserable a strained consequence it is, to argue from God’s decree of election to the overthrow of Christ’s merit and satisfaction; the redemption wrought by Jesus Christ being, indeed, the chief means of carrying along that purpose unto execution, the pleasure of the Lord prospering in his hand. Yea, the argument may be retorted, κατὰ τὸ βίαιον, and will hold undeniable on the other side, the consequence being evident, from the purpose of God to save sinners, to the satisfaction of Christ for those sinners. The same act of God’s will which sets us apart from eternity for the enjoyment of all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, sets also apart Jesus Christ to be the purchaser and procurer of all those spiritual blessings, as also to make satisfaction for all their sins; which that he did (being the main thing opposed) we prove by these ensuing arguments.
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