The Death of Death in the Death of Christ
The means used by the fore-recounted agents in this work.
OUR next employment, following the order of execution, not intention, will be the discovery or laying down of the means in this work; which are, indeed, no other but the several actions before recounted, but now to be considered under another respect,--as they are a means ordained for the obtaining of a proposed end; of which afterward. Now, because the several actions of Father and Spirit were all exercised towards Christ, and terminated in him, as God and man, he only and his performances are to be considered as the means in this work, the several concurrences of both the other persons before mentioned being presupposed as necessarily antecedent or concomitant.
The means, then, used or ordained by these agents for the end proposed is that whole economy or dispensation carried along to the end, from whence our Saviour Jesus Christ is called a Mediator; which may be, and are usually, as I mentioned before,, distinguished into two parts:-First, his oblation; secondly, his intercession.
By his oblation we do not design only the particular offering of himself upon the cross an offering to his Father, as the Lamb of God without spot or blemish, when he bare our sins or carried them up with him in his own body on the tree, which was the sum and complement of his oblation and that wherein it did chiefly consist; but also his whole humiliation, or state of emptying himself, whether by yielding voluntary obedience unto the law, as being made under it, that he might be the end thereof to them that believe, Rom. 10:4, or by his subjection to the curse of the law, in the antecedent misery and suffering of life, as well as by submitting to death, the death of the cross: for no action of his as mediator is to be excluded from a concurrence to make up the whole means in this work. Neither by his intercession do I understand only that heavenly appearance of his in the most holy place for the applying unto us all good things purchased and procured by his oblation; but also every act of his exaltation conducing thereunto, from his resurrection to his "sitting down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, angels, and principalities, and powers, being made subject unto him." Of all which his resurrection, being the basis, as it were, and the foundation of the rest ("for if he is not risen, then is our faith in vain," I Cor. 15:13, 14; and then are we "yet in our sins," verse 17; "of all men most miserable," verse 19), is especially to be considered, as that to which a great part of the effect is often ascribed; for "he was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification," Rom. 4:25;--where, and in such other places, by his resurrection the whole following dispensation and the perpetual intercession of Christ for us in heaven is intended; for "God raised up his son Jesus to bless us, in turning every one of us from our iniquities," Acts 3:26.
Now, this whole dispensation, with especial regard to the death and blood-shedding of Christ, is the means we speak of, agreeably to what was said before of such in general; for it is not a thing in itself desirable for its own sake. The death of Christ had nothing in it (we speak of his sufferings distinguished from his obedience) that was good, but only as it conduced to a farther end, even the end proposed for the manifestation of God's glorious grace. What good was it, that Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and people of Israel, should, with such horrid villany and cruelty, gather themselves together against God's holy child, whom he bad anointed? Acts 4:27: or what good was it, that the Son of God should be made sin and a curse, to be bruised, afflicted, and to undergo such wrath as the whole frame of nature, as it were, trembled to behold? What good, what beauty and form is in all this, that it should be desired in itself and for itself? Doubtless none at all. It must, then, be looked upon as a means conducing to such an end; the glory and lustre thereof must quite take away all the darkness and confusion that was about the thing itself. And even so it was intended by the blessed agents in it, by "whose determinate counsel and foreknowledge he was delivered and slain," Acts 2:23; there being done unto him "whatsoever his hand and counsel had determined," chap. 4:28: which what it was must be afterward declared. Now, concerning the whole some things are to be observed:--
That though the oblation and intercession of Jesus Christ are distinct acts in themselves and have distinct immediate products and issues assigned oft times unto them (which I should now have laid down, but that I must take up this in another place), yet they are not in any respect or regard to be divided or separated, as that the one should have any respect to any persons or any thing which the other also doth not in its kind equally respect. But there is this manifold union between them:--
First, In that they are both alike intended for the obtaining and accomplishing the same entire and complete end proposed,--to wit, the effectual bringing of many sons to glory, for the praise of God's grace; of which afterward.
Secondly, That what persons soever the one respecteth, in the good things it obtaineth, the same, all, and none else, doth the other respect, in applying the good things so obtained; for "he was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justiflcation," Rom,. 4:25. That is, in brief, the object of the one is of no larger extent than the object of the other; or, for whom Christ offered himself, for all those, and only those, doth he intercede, according to his own word, "For their sake I sanctify myself" (to be an oblation), "that they also might be sanctified through the truth," John 17:19.
Thirdly, That the oblation of Christ is, as it were, the foundation of his intercession, inasmuch as by the oblation was procured every thing that, by virtue of his intercession, is bestowed; and that because the sole end why Christ procured any thing by his death was that it might be applied to them for whom it was so procured. The sum is, that the oblation and intercession of Jesus Christ are one entire means for the producing of the same effect, the very end of the oblation being that all those things which are bestowed by the intercession of Christ, and without whose application it should certainly fail of the end proposed in it, be effected accordingly; so that it cannot be affirmed that the death or offering of Christ concerned any one person or thing more, in respect of procuring any good, than his intercession doth for the collating of it: for, interceding there for all good purchased, and prevailing in all his intercessions (for the Father always hears his Son), it is evident that every one for whom Christ died must actually have applied unto him all the good things purchased by his death; which, because it is evidently destructive to the adverse cause, we must a little stay to confirm it, only telling you the main proof of it lies in our following proposal of assigning the proper end intended and effected by the death of Christ, so that the chief proof must be deferred until then. I shall now only propose those reasons which may be handled apart, not merely depending upon that.