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THE JUSTICE OF GOD IN REDEMPTION.
Having premised these things, I shall now prove that the divine justice is really declared and glorified in the obedient sufferings of Christ.
For the opening of this point, it is necessary to consider the account the scripture gives of his death ; which is threefold—it is represented under the relation of a punishment inflicted on him for sin, and the effect of it is satisfaction to the law-as a price to redeem us from hell—under the notion of a sacrifice to reconcile God to sinners.
1. As a punishment inflicted on him for sin. This will appear by considering that man by his rebellion against God was capitally guilty: he stood sentenced by the law to death. Christ, with the allowance of the supreme Judge, interposed as our Surety, and that in relation was made liable to punishment. Sins are by resemblance called debts. As a debt obliges the debtor to payment, so sin doth the sinner to punishment. And as the creditor hath a right to exact the payment froin the debtor, so God hath a right to inflict punishment on the guilty; but with this differencethe creditor by the mere signification of his will may discharge the debtor, for he hath an absolute power over his estate; whereas public justice is concerned in the punishment of the guilty. This is evident by many instances; for it is not sufficient that a criminal satisfy his adversary, unless the prince, who is the guardian of the laws, give him pardon.The interest of a private person who hath received an injury, is so distinct from that of the state, that sometimes the injured party solicits the pardon of the offender without success: which shows, that it is not principally to satisfy the particular person, that the crime is punished, but to satisfy the law, and prevent future disorders.
Now our debt was not pecuniary, but penal: and as in civil cases, where one becomes surety for another, he is obliged to pay the debt, for in the estimate of the law they are but one person; so the Lord Jesus Christ entering into this relation, he sustained the persons of sinners, and became judicially one with them, and according to the order of justice, was liable to their punishment. The displeasure of God was primarily and directly against the sinner, but the effects of it fell upon Christ, who undertook for him. The apostle tells us, that " when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law,” Gal. iv. 4, 5. He took our nature and condition: he was made under the law moral and ceremonial. The directive part of the moral law he fulfilled by the innocency of his life; the penalty he satisfied as our Surety, being under an obligation to save us.
And he appeared as a sinner in his subjection to the law of Moses.That “hand-writing was against us;" he therefore entered into the bond that we had forfeited. In his circumcision he signed it with those drops of blood, which were an earnest of his shedding the rest on the cross; for whosoever was circumcised, became a debtor to the whole law, Gal. v. 3. And we may observe, it is said, that as Moses lifted up the brazen serpent, so the law, of which Moses was a type and minister, lifted up the Messiah on the cross.
The scripture is very clear and express in setting down the part that God had in the sufferings of Christ as supreme Judge, the impulsive cause that moved him, their proportion to the punishment of the law, and the effect of them for our deliverance. He was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,” Acts ii. 23. All the various and vicious actions of men were overruled by his providence; the falseness of Judas, the fearfulness of Pilate, and the malice of the Jews were subservient to God's eternal design. And as he wills not the death of a sinner, much less of his Son, but for most weighty reasons, these are declared by the prophet; “ All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;" our errors were different, but the issue was the same, that is, eternal death: “and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all;" that is, the punishment of our iniquities, Isa. liii. 6. His sufferings had such a respect to sin, as included the imputation of it. It was an act of sovereignty in God to appoint Christ as man to be our Surety, but an act of justice to inflict the punishment, when Christ had undertaken for us. It is said, “he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." The expressions are comprehensive of all the miseries of his life, especially his last sufferings. The Hebrew words signify such a taking away, as is by laying upon one who bears it from us. And thus it is interpreted by St. Peter; “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree," 1 Pet. iii. 24. This necessarily implies the derivation of our guilt to him, and the consequent of it, the transferring of our punishment. Those words are full and pregnant to the same purpose; “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed," Isa. liii. 5; where the meritorious cause of his sufferings is set down, as appears by the connexion of the words wiih the former. The Jews thought "him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted;" that is, justly punished for blasphemy and usurping divine honour. In opposition to this conceit, it is added, “but he was wounded for our transgressions.” This the apostle expressly telleth us, when he declares that “Christ died for our sins.”
This will appear more fully, by considering what the desert of sin iş. By our rebellion we made the forfeiture of soul and body to divine justice: death, both the first and the second, was the sentence of the law. Now the sufferings of Christ were answerable to his punishment. The death which the law threatened for sin, was to be accompanied with dishonour and pain. And he suffered the death of the cross, in which the equal extremities of ignominy and torment were joined. A special curse was annexed to it, not only in respect of the judgment of men, before whom a crucified person was made a spectacle of public vengeance for his crimes, but-in respect of God's declaration concerning it. The Jews were commanded, that none should lang on a tree longer than the evening, lest the holy land should be profaned by that which was an express mark of God's curse. Now the legal curse was a typical signification of the real, that should be suffered by our Redeemer. Besides, his death was attended with exquisite pains : ḥe 'suffered variety of torments by the scourges, the thorns, the nails that pierced his hands and feet, the least vital, but most sensible parts. He refused the wine mixed with myrrh, that was given to stupify the senses; for the design of his passion required, that he should have the quickest sense of his sufferings, which were the punishment of sin. And his inward sorrows were equivalent to the pains of loss and sense that are due to sinners. It is true, there are circumstances in the sufferings of the damned, as blasphemy, rage, impotent fierceness of mind, which are not appointed by the law, but are accidental, arising from the perverseness of their spirits ; for the punishment of the law is a physical evil, but these are moral; and that punishment is inflicted by the Judge, but these are only from the guilly sufferers: now to these he was not possibly liable. Besides, the death that the sinner ought to suffer is eternal, attended with despair and intolerable anguish of conscience. Now our Redeemer having no real guilt, was not liable to the worm of conscience, and his temporary sufferings were equivalent to the eternal upon the account of his divine person; so that he was not capable of despair. But he endured the unknown terrors of the second death, so far as was consistent with the perfection of his nature. The anguish of his soul was not merely from sympathy with his body, but immediately from divine displeasure. “It pleased the Lord to bruise him;" this principally respects the impressions of wrath made upon his inward man. Had the cup he feared been only death, with the bitter ingredients of dishonour and pain, many have drunk it with more appearing resolution. The martyrs have endured more cruel torments without complaint; nay, in their sharpest conflicts have expressed a triumphant joy. Whereas our Bedeemer was under all the innocent degrees of fear and sorrow at the approach of his sufferings. From whence was the difference ? Had Christ less courage ? He was the fountain of their fortitude. The difference was not in the disposition of the patients, but in the nature of the suffering. He endured that which is infinitely more terrible than all outward torments. The light of joy that always shined in his soul, a sweet image of heaven, was then totally eclipsed. God, the fountain of compassion, restrained himself; his Father appeared a severe inexorable Judge, and dealt with him not as his Son, but our Surety. Under all the cruelties exercised by men, the Lamb of God opened not his mouth; but when the “Father of mercies and the God of all consolation” forsook him, then he broke forth into a mournful complaint.
Now by this account of Christ's sufferings from scripture, it is evident, they were truly penal; for they were inflicted for sin by the supreme judge, and were equivalent to the sentence of the law. And the benefit we receive upon their account, proves that they are a satisfaction to divine justice, for we are exempted from punishment by his submission to
it. He freed us " from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us,” Gal. iii. 13. “The chastisement of our peace was upon him," by whose “stripes we are healed,” Isa. liii. 5. So that his death being the meritorious cause of freeing the guilty, is properly satisfaction.
Before I proceed to the second consideration of Christ's death, I will briefly answer the objection of the Socinians, viz. that it is a violation of justice to transfer the punishment from one to another; so that the righteous God could not punish his innocent Son for our sins.
Now to show the invalidity of this pretence, we must consider,--that justice is not an irregular appetite for vengeance, arising from hatred that cannot be satisfied but with the destruction of the guilty. It preserves right with pure affections, and is content when the injury is repaired, from whomsoever satisfaction comes. Though an innocent person cannot suffer as innocent without injustice, yet he may voluntarily contract an obligation, which will expose him to deserved sufferings. The wisdom and justice of all nations agree in punishing one for another's fault, where consent is preceding, as in the case of hostages. And although it is essential to the nature of punishment to be inflicted for sin, yet not on the person of the sinner; for “in conspectu fori," the sinner and surety are one.—That exchange is not allowed in criminal causes where the guilty ought to suffer in person, is not from any injustice in the nature of the thing, for then it would not be allowed in civil; but there are special reasons why an innocent person is not ordinarily admitted to suffer for an offender. No man hath absolute power over his own life. It is a “depositum" consigned to him for a time, and must be preserved till God, or the public good, calls for it. The public too would suffer prejudice by the loss of a good subject. Therefore the rule of the law is just, “Non auditur perire volens.” The desire of one that devotes himself to ruin, is not to be heard. And the guilty person who is spared might grow worse by impunity, and cause great disorders by his evil example. But these considerations are of no force in the case of our Saviour; for he had full power to dispose of his life; “ I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again : this commandment have I received of my Father,” John x. 18. He declares his power as God, that his life entirely depended on his will, to preserve it or part with it; and his subjection as Mediator to the order of his