« PreviousContinue »
· And since the work of redemption has been completed, all those who are, or shall be brought to glory, have, in themselves, a convincing proof of God's being well pleased with Christ, as substituted in their room and stead, to pay the debt that was due from them to his justice, as the foundation of their justification. From hence it plainly appears, that Christ was substituted as a surety in our room and stead, to do that for us which was necessary for our justification ; and we have sufficient ground to conclude, that he was so from scripture, from whence alone it can be proved, it being a matter of pure revelation. Thus he is said, in express terms, to have been made a surety of a better testament, Heb. vii. 22. and that as our surety, he has paid that debt of sufferings which was due from us, is evident, in that he is said to offer himself a sacrifice for our sins, ver. 27. and to have been once offered to bear the sins of many, chap. ix. 28. and from his being holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, the apostle argues, that he had no occasion to offer a sacrifice for himself, or that he had no sin of his own to be charged with, therefore, herein he bore or answered for our sins : thus the apostle Peter says, He bare our sins in his own body, on the tree, by whose stripes we are healed, 1 Pet. ii. 24. And elsewhere, we read of his being made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, 2 Cor. v. 21. that is, he, who had no guilt of his own to answer for, submitted to be charged with our guilt, to stand in our room and stead, and accordingly to be made a sacrifice for sin ; all this implies as much as his being made a surety for us. But this having been particularly insisted on elsewhere in speaking concerning Christ's satisfaction, which could not be explained without taking occasion to mention his being substituted in the room and stead of those for whom he paid a price of redemption; and having also considered the meaning of those scriptures that speak of his bearing our sins, we shall proceed to consider *.
3. What Christ did, pursuant to this character, namely, as our surety, as he paid all that debt which the justice of God demanded from us, which consisted in active and passive obedience. There was a debt of active obedience demanded from man as a creature; and upon his failure of paying it, when he sinned, it became an out-standing debt, due from us; but such as could never be paid by us. God determines not to justify any, unless this out-standing debt be paid; Christ, as our surety, engages to take the payment of it on himself: and, whereas this defect of obedience, together with all actual transgressions, which proceeded from the corruption of our nature, render us guilty or liable to the stroke of vindictive justice, Christ, as our surety, undertakes to bear that also : this we generally call the imputation of our sin to Christ, the placing our debt to his account, and the transferring the debt of punishment, which was due from us to him, upon which account he is said to yield obedience, and suffer in our room and stead, or to perform active and passive obedience for us; which two ideas the apostle joins in one expression, when he says, that he became obedient unto death, Phil. ii. 8. But this having been been insisted on elsewhere, under the head of Christ's satisfaction *, where we shewed, not only that Christ performed active as well as passive obedisence for us, but endeavoured to answer the objections that are generally brought against Christ's active obedience, being part of that debt which he engaged to pay for us; we shall pass it by at present.
* See Vol. II. page 288.
But that which inay farther be added, to prove that our sin and guilt were imputed to him, may be argued from his being said to be made a curse for us, in order to his redeeming us from the curse of the law, Gal. iii. 13. and also from his being made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, 2 Cor. v. 21. And also from other scriptures, that speak of him as suffering, though innocent; punished for sin, though he was at the same time the Lamb of God, with out spot or blemish; dealt with as guilty, though he had never contracted any guilt, and being made a sacrifice for sin, though sinless, which could not have been done consistently with the justice of God, had not our sins been placed to his account, or imputed to him.
It is indeed a very difficult thing to convince some persons, how Christ could be charged with sin, or have sin imputed to him, in consistency with the sinless purity of his nature, which some think to be no better than a contradiction, though it be agreeable to the scripture mode of speaking, viz. He was made sin for us, and yet knew no sin, 2 Cor. v. 21. However, when we speak of sin's being imputed to him, we are far from insinuating, that he committed any acts of sin; or, that his human nature was, in the least, inclined to, or defiled thereby ; we choose therefore to use the scripture phrase, in which he is said to have borne our sins, rather than to say, that he was a sinner; much less would I give countenance to that expression which some make use of, that he was the greatest sinner in the world; since I do not desire to apply a word to him, which is often taken in a sense not in the least applicable to the holy Jesus. We cannot be too cautious in our expressions, lest the most common sense in which we understand the greatest sinner, when applied to men, should give any one a wrong idea of him, as though he had committed, or were defiled with
* See Yol. II. page 280–293.
sin. All that we assert is, that he was charged with our sins, when he suffered for them, not with having committed them; but with the guilt of them, which, by his own consent, was imputed to him; otherwise his sufferings could not have been a punishment for sin ; and if they had not been so, our sin could not have been expiated, nor would his sufferings have been the ground of our justification. This leads us to consider,
4. The reference that Christ's suretyship-righteousness has to our justification. This is generally styled its being imputed; which is a word very much used by those who plead for the scripture-sense of the doctrine of justifica ion, and as much opposed by them that deny it; and we are obliged to defend the use of it; otherwise Christ's righteousness, how glorious soever it be in itself, would not avail for our justification. Here it is necessary for us to explain what we mean by the imputation of Christ's righteousness.
There are some who oppose this doctrine, by calling it a putative righteousness, the shadow or appearance of that which has in it no reality, or our being accounted what we are not, whereby a wrong judgment is passed on persons and things. However, we are not to deny it because it is thus misrepresented, and thereby unfairly opposed : it is certain, that there are such words used in scripture, and often applied to this doctrine, which, without any ambiguity or strain on the sense thereof, may be translated, to reckon, to account, or to place a thing done by another to our account; or, as we express it, to impute.* And that, either respects what is done by us; or something done by another for us. The former of these senses our adversaries do not oppose ; as when it is said, that Phinehas executed judgment, and it was counted unto him for righteousness, Psal. cvi. 31. that is, it was approved by God as a righteous action; which expression seems to obviate an objection that some might make against it; supposing, that Phinehas herein did that which more properly belonged to the ci vil magistrate ; or, that this judicial act in him, was done with, out a formal trial, and, it may be, too hastily; but God owns the action, and, in a way of approbation, places it to his account for righteousness, that it should be reckoned a righteous action throughout all generations.
Again, sometimes that which is done by a person, is imputed to him, or charged upon him, so that he must answer for it, or suffer the punishment due to it: thus Shimei says to Dayid, Let not my Lord impute iniquity unto me, 2 Sam. xix. 19. that is, do not charge that sin, which I committed, upon me, so as to put me to death for it, which thou mightest justly do. And Stephen prays, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge, Acts
)•(•.ג חשב *
vii. 60. impute it not to them, or inflict not the punishment on thein that it deserves. No one can deny that what is done by a person himself, may be placed to his own account; so that he may be rewarded or punished for it; or it may be approved or disapproved: but this is not the sense in which we understand it when speaking concerning the imputation of Christ's righteousness to us; for this supposes that which is done by another, to be placed to our account. This is the main thing which is denied by those who have other sentiments of the doctrine we are maintaining; and, they pretend, that for God to account Christ's righteousness ours, is to take a wrong estimate of things, to reckon that done by us which was not; which is contrary to the wisdom of God, who can, bịy no means, entertain any false ideas of things; and if the action be reckoned ours, then the character of the person performing it, must also be applied to us; which is to make us sharers in Christ's Mediatorial office and glory.
But this is the most perverse sense which can be put on words, or a setting this doctrine in such a light as no one takes it in, who pleads for it: we do not suppose, that God looks upon man with his all-seeing eye, as having done that which Christ did, or to sustain the character which belongs to him in doing it; we are always reckoned, by him, as offenders, or contracting guilt, and unable to do any thing that can make an atonem for it. Therefore, what interest soever we have in what Christ did, it is not reputed our action; but God's imputing Christ's righteousness to us, is to be taken in a forensic sense, which is agreeable to the idea of a debt being paid by a surety : it is not supposed that the debtor paid the debt whích the surety paid ; but yet it is placed to his account, or imputed to him as really as though he had paid it himself. Thus what Christ did and suffered in our room and stead, is as much placed to our account, as though we had done and suffered it ourselves; so that by virtue hereof we are discharged from condemnation. (a)
(a) “I am not without painful apprehension, said Peter to Jolin, that the views of our friend James on some of the doctrines of the gospel, are unhappily diverted from the truth. I suspect he does not believe in the proper imputation of sin to Christ, or of Christ's righteousness to us; nor in his being our substitute, or representative.
John. Those are serious things; but what are the grounds, brother Peter, on which your suspicions rest?
Peter. Partly what he has published, which I cannot reconcile with those doctrines; and partly what he has said in my hearing, which I consider as an avowal of what I have stated.
John. What say you to this, brother James ?
James. I cannot tell whether what I have written or spoken accords with brother Peter's ideas on these subjects: indeed I suspect it does not : but I never thought of calling either of the doctrines in question. Were I to relinquish tize This is the sense in which we understand the imputation of Christ's righteousness to us; and it is agreeable to the account we have thereof in scripture: thus we are said to be made the
one or the other, I should be at a loss for ground on which to rest my salvation. What he says of my avowing my disbelief of them in his hearing must be a mis. understanding. I did say, I suspected that his views of imputation and substitution were unscriptural; but had no intention of disowning the doctrines themselves.
Peter. Brother James, I have no desire to assume any dominion over your faith; but should be glad to know what are your ideas on these important subjects. Do you hold that sin was properly imputed to Christ, or that Christ's righteousness is properly imputed to us, or not?
James. You are quite at liberty, brother Peter, to ask me any questions ou these subjects; and if you will hear me patiently, I will answer you as explicitly as I am able.
John. Do so, brother James; and we shall hear you not only patiently, but, I trust, with pleasure.
James. To impute,* signifies in general, to charge, reckon, or place to account, according to the different objects to which it is applied. This word, like many others, has a proper, and an improper or figurative meaning.
First: It is applied to the charging, reckoning, or placing to the account of persons and things, THAT WHICH PROPERLY BELONGS TO THEM. This I consider as its proper meaning. In this sense the word is used in the following passages. “Eli thought she, (Hannah,) had been drunken-Hanan and Mattaniah, the treasurers were counted faithful-Let a man so account of us as the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God-Let such an one think this, that such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also indeed when we are present-I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us." | Reckoning or accounting, in the above instances, is no other than judging of persons and things according to what they are, or appear to be. To impute sin in this sense is to charge guilt upon the guilty in a judicial way, or with a view to punishment. Thus Shimei besought David that his iniquity might not be imputed to him; thus the man is pronounced blessed to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity: and thus Paul prayed that the sin of those who deserted him might not be laid to their charge.
In this sense the term is ordinarily used in common life. To impute treason or any other crime to a man, is the same thing as charging him with having com. mitted it, and with a view to his being punished.
Secondly: It is applied to the charging, reckoning, or placing to the account of persons and things, THAT WHICH DOES NOT PROPERLY BELONG TO TUEM, AS THOUGH IT DID. This I consider as its improper or figurative meaning. In this sense the word is used in the following passage: --" And this your heave-offering shall be reckoned unto you as though it were the corn of the threshing-floor and as the ful. ness of the wine-press-Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy-If the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision-If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee aught, put that on mine account.”g
It is in this latter sense that I understand the term when applied to justification. “ Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousnessTo him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." The counting, or reckoning, in these instan, ces, is not a judging of things as they are ; but as they are not, as though they were. I do not think that faith bere means the righteousness of the Messiah: for it is expressly called " believing." It means believing, however, not as a virtu
un; Azizouse. + 1 Sam. i. 13. Neh. xiii. 13. 1 Cor. iv. 1. 2 Cor. x. 11. Rom. viii. 18. 1 2 Sam. xix. 19. Ps. xxxii. 2. 2 Tim. iv. 16.
Num, xviii. 37-30. Job xii. 24. Rom. ii. 28. Philean. 18.