The Death of Death in the Death of Christ
Some previous considerations to a more particular inquiry after the proper end and effect of the death of Christ.
The main thing upon which the whole controversy about the death of Christ turneth, and upon which the greatest weight of the business dependeth, comes next to our consideration, being that which we have prepared the way unto by all that hath been already said. It is about the proper end of the death of Christ; which whoso can rightly constitute and make manifest may well be admitted for a day's-man and umpire in the whole contestation: for if it be the end of Christ's death which most of our adversaries assign, we will not deny but that Christ died for all and every one; and if that be the end of it which we maintain so to be, they will not extend it beyond the elect, beyond believers. This, then, must be fully cleared and solidly confirmed by them who hope for any success in their undertakings. The end of the death of Christ we asserted, in the beginning of our discourse, to be our approximation or drawing nigh unto God; that being a general expression for the whole reduction and recovery of sinners from the state of alienation, misery, and wrath, into grace, peace, and eternal communion with him. Now, there being a twofold end in things, one of the worker, the other of the work wrought, we have manifested how that, unless it be either for want of wisdom and certitude of mind in the agent, in choosing and using unsuitable means for the attaining of the end proposed, or for want of skill and power to make use of and rightly to improve well proportioned means to the best advantage, these things are always coincident; the work effecteth what the workman intendeth. In the business in hand, the agent is the blessed Three in One, as was before declared; and the means whereby they collimed and aimed at the end proposed were the oblation and intercession of Jesus Christ, which are united, intending the same object, as was also cleared. Now, unless we will blasphemously ascribe want of wisdom, power, perfection, and sufficiency in working unto the agent, or affirm that the death and intercession of Christ were not suitable and proportioned for the attaining the end proposed by it to be effected, we must grant that the end of these is one and the same. Whatsoever the blessed Trinity intended by them, that was effected; and whatsoever we find in the issue ascribed unto thein, that by them the blessed Trinity intended. So that we shall have no cause to consider these apart, unless it be sometimes to argue from the one to the other; -- as, where we find any thing ascribed to the death of Christ, as the fruit thereof, we may conclude that that God intended to effect by it; and so also on the contrary.
Now, the end of the death of Christ is either supreme and ultimate, or intermediate and subservient to that last end.
1. The first is the glory of God, or the manifestation of his glorious attributes, especially of his justice, and mercy tempered with justice, unto us. The Lord doth necessarily aim at himself in the first place, as the chiefest good, yea, indeed, that alone which is good; that is, absolutely and simply so, and not by virtue of communication from another: and therefore in all his works, especially in this which we have in hand, the chiefest of all, he first intends the manifestation of his own glory; which also he fully accomplisheth in the close, to every point and degree by him intended. He "maketh all things for himself," Prov. xvi. 4; and every thing in the end must "redound to the glory of God," 2 Cor. iv. 15; wherein Christ himself is said to be "God's," 1 Cor. iii. 23, serving to his glory in that whole administration that was committed to him. So, Eph. i. 6, the whole end of all this dispensation, both of choosing us from eternity, redeeming us by Christ, blessing us with all spiritual blessings in him, is affirmed to be "the praise of the glory of his grace;" and, verse 12, "That we should be to the praise of his glory." This is the end of all the benefits we receive by the death of Christ; for "we are filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God," Phil. i. 11; -- which also is fully asserted, chap. ii. 11, "That every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." This the apostle fully clears in the ninth to the Romans, where he so asserts the supreme dominion and independency of God in all his actions, his absolute freedom from taking rise, cause, or occasion to his purposes, from any thing among us sons of men, doing all things for his own sake, and aiming only at his own glory. And this is that which in' the close of all shall be accomplished, when every creature shall say, "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever," Rev. v. 13.
2. There is an end of the death of Christ which is intermediate and subservient to that other, which is the last and most supreme, even the sects which it hath in respect of us, and that is it of which we now treat; which, as we before affirmed, is the bringing of us unto God. Now, this, though in reference to the oblation and intercession of Christ it be one entire end, yet in itself, and in respect of the relation which the several acts therein have one to another, may be considered distinctly in two parts, whereof one is the end and the other the means for the attaining of that end; both the complete end of the mediation of Christ in respect of us. The ground and cause of this is the appointment of the Lord that there should be such a connection and coherence between the things purchased for us by Jesus Christ, that the one should be a means and way of attaining the other,-- the one the condition, and the other the thing promised upon that condition, but hath equally and alike procured for us by Jesus Christ; for if either be omitted in his purchase, the other would be vain and fruitless, as we shall afterward declare. Now, both these consist in a communication of God and his goodness unto us (and our participation of him by virtue thereof); and that either to grace or glory, holiness or blessedness, faith or salvation. In this last way they are usually called, faith being the means of which we speak, and salvation the end; faith the condition, salvation the promised inheritance. Under the name of faith we comprise all saving grace that accompanies it; and under the name of salvation, the whole " glory to be revealed," the liberty of the glory of the children of God, Rom. viii., 18, 21,-- all that blessedness which consisteth in an eternal fruition of the blessed God. With faith go all the effectual means thereof, both external and internal; -- the word and almighty sanctifying Spirit; all advancement of state and condition attending it, as justification, reconciliation, and adoption into the family of God; all fruits flowing from it in sanctification and universal holiness; with all other privileges and enjoyments of believers here, which follow the redemption and reconciliation purchased for them by the oblation of Christ. A real, effectual, and infallible bestowing and applying of all these things,-- as well those that are the means as those that are the end, the condition as the thing conditioned about, faith and grace as salvation and glory,-- unto all and every one for whom he died, do we maintain to be the end proposed and effected by the blood-shedding of Jesus Christ, with those other acts of his mediatorship which we before declared to be therewith inseparably conjoined: so that every one for whom he died and offered up himself hath, by virtue of his death or oblation, a right purchased for him unto all these things, which in due time he shall certainly and infallibly enjoy; or (which is all one), the end of Christ's obtaining grace and glory with his Father was, that they might be certainly bestowed upon all those for whom he died, some of them upon condition that they do believe, but faith itself absolutely upon no condition at all. All which we shall farther illustrate and confirm, after we have removed some false ends assigned.