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whereof must needs have been blasphemous; namely, Whether God could have been unjust? Nay, more, it makes the sending of Christ into the world, together with his obedience to the death, even that accursed death of the cross, to be a matter of no necessary importance; to be only a great compliment, whereby God shews unto mankind, that though he could easily have remitted their sins without any satisfaction (for whatsoever is possible to God, is easy) notwithstanding, that they should see, he would strain himself even farther for them, was very requisite; and withal, to shew his abomination of sin, he was content, that all this ado, all these pompous, tragical businesses should be performed.
16. But what saith the Scripture? "If there had been a law, which could have given life," Christ should have died without cause. And thereupon our apostle (Rom. iii. 25.) saith, that "God hath set forth his Son to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God: to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just." That is, lest by the forbearance of God, who since the foundation of the world had shewed no sufficient example of his hatred and indignation unto sin; as also to shew there was a reason sufficient to move him to remit the sins of many his chosen servants before Christ; he hath now at last evidently expressed unto the world his righteousness; to wit, his ikdiknow, and ávraπodooíav, by condemning sin, and revenging himself upon it, in the person of his beloved, innocent Son.
17. And, lest this stir should seem to have been
kept only to give her satisfaction, and to create in us a great opinion and conceit of his righteousness; the apostle clearly saith, he did all this to "declare at this time his righteousness, that he might be just," which otherwise it seems he could not have been. But I am resolved to quit myself abruptly, and even sullenly, of those questions, and betake myself more closely to the matter in hand.
18. What therefore is the effect and fruit, which accrues even to the elect of God, by virtue of Christ's satisfaction, humiliation, and death, precisely considered, and excluding the power and virtue of his resurrection and glorious life? Why, reconciliation to God, justification or remission of sins, and finally salvation both of body and soul. But is there any remission of sins without faith? Shall we not only exclude words from justification, but faith also? God forbid: for so we should not only contradict the grounds of God's holy word, but also raze and destroy the very foundations of the second covenant.
19. For answer; we must consider our reconciliation under a two-fold state (according to the distinction of the reverend and learned Dr. Davenant, bishop of Salisbury). 1. Either as it is applicabilis, not yet actually conferred; or, 2. As applicata, particularly sealed and confirmed to us by a lively faith. For the understanding of which, we must know, that in Christ's death there was not only an abolishing of the old covenant of works, the hand-writing which was against us, which Christ nailed unto his cross; (as St. Paul saith, Col. i.) delivering us from the curse and obligation thereof; but also there was a new gracious.
covenant, or (which is a word expressing greater comfort to us) a new will or testament made, wherein Christ hath bequeathed unto us many glorious legacies, which we shall undoubtedly receive, when we shall have performed the conditions, when we shall be found qualified so as he requires of us.
20. Till which conditions be performed, by the power of God's Spirit assisting us, all that we obtain by the death of Christ is this: That, first, whereas God, by reason of sin, was implacably angry with us, would by no means accept of any reconciliation with us, would hearken to no conditions; now, by virtue of Christ's death and satisfaction, he is graciously pleased to admit of composition; the former aversion and inexorableness is taken away; or, to speak more significantly, in St. Paul's language. (Ephes. ii. 16.) (Ephes. ii. 16.) "The enmity is slain." Secondly, That whereas before we were liable to be tried before the throne of his exact, severe, rigorous justice, and bound to the performance of conditions, by reason of our own contracted weakness become intolerable, nay, impossible unto us; we are released of that obligation, and though not utterly freed from all manner of conditions, yet tied to such as are not only possible, but by the help of his Spirit which inwardly disposeth and co-operateth with us, with ease and pleasure to be performed. Besides which, we have a throne of equity and grace to appear before. Mercy is exalted above, even against justice; it rejoiceth against judgment; it is become the higher court, and hath the privileges of a superior court, that appeals may be made from the inferior court of justice to that of mercy and
favour. Nay, more; whereas before we were justly delivered into the power of Satan, now being reconciled to God, by the blood of Christ, we are (as it is in Col. i. 13.) delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son.
21. All this, and more (if it were the business of this time to be punctual in discovering all) hath Christ wrought for us, being aliens and strangers, yea, enemies afar off, without God in the world. Yet for all this that Christ hath merited thus much for us, and more; notwithstanding, take away the power of Christ's resurrection and life; take away. the influence of his Holy Spirit, whereby we are regenerated and made new creatures, and we are yet in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity. For though (as it is, Heb. x. 19.) we have rapρnoiav, i. e. liberty, and free leave to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus; though there be a way made open, yet walk we cannot; we are not able to set forwards into it, as long as we are bound and fettered with our sins; though there be an access to the throne of grace, yet it is only for them which are sanctified.
22. And, therefore, what dangerous consequences do attend that doctrine, which teacheth, That, immediately upon the death of Christ, all our sins are actually forgiven us, and we effectually reconciled. But because another employment is required by this time, I will, out of many, make use of two reasons only to destroy that doctrine; whereof the one is taken from the nature of the second covenant, the other from the necessity of Christ's resurrection.
23. For the First: If we, that is, the elect of
God (for I am resolved to have to do with none else at this time) be effectually reconciled to God, by virtue of Christ's death, having obtained a full perfect remission of all our sins, why are we frighted, or, to say truly, injured, with new covenants? why are we, seeing our debts are paid to the utmost farthing, the creditor's demands exactly satisfied, the obligation cancelled; why then are we made believe, that we are not quite out of danger; nay, that unless we ourselves, out of our own stock, pay some charges and duties extraordinarily, and, by the bye, enforced upon us; all the former payments, how valuable soever, shall become fruitless, and we to remain accountable for the whole debt?
24. But it may be (and that seems most likely) there is no such thing indeed as a new covenant. Promises and threatenings are only a pretty kind of rhetorical device, which God is pleased to use, sometimes to allure us, and win our hearts to do that which shall please him; at other times to startle and affright us, when we are about something contrary to his command. And, to say the truth, this must of necessity be the issue of the former doctrine for how is it possible to make these things hold together! We are already perfectly reconciled to God by the death of his Son, without any consideration had to our personal faith and repentance; and yet, unless we do earnestly repent us of our sins, and with a lively faith adhere to God's promises, we shall never be reconciled unto God: or these? All our sins are already remitted, and that only for the virtue of Christ's satisfaction; and yet, unless we believe, our sins shall never be forgiven us.