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on, and a person to consecrate them. But all this was to be done
in and by Jesus Christ himself. Even the Father is said to conse-
crate him but upon the account of his designing him and appointing
him unto his office; but his immediate actual consecration was his
own work, which he performed when he offered himself through the
eternal Spirit. By his death and sufferings, which he underwent
in the discharge of his office, and as a priest therein offered himself
unto God, he was dedicated and consecrated unto the perfection of
his office. This would require our farther explication in this place,
but that it will again occur unto us more directly.

III. The Lord Christ, being consecrated and perfected through
sufferings, hath consecrated the way of suffering for all that follow
him to pass through unto glory.

IV, All complaints of sufferings, all despondencies under them, all
fear.? of them, are rendered unjust and unequal by the sufferings of
Christ. It is surely righteous that they should be contented with
his lot here who desire to be received into his glory hereafter. Now,
there are sundry things that follow upon this consecration of the way
of suffering bx- Jesus Christ; as, —

(1.) That they are made necessary and unavoidable. Men
may hope and desire other things, and turn themselves several ways
in their contrivances to avoid them, but one way or other sufferings
will be the portion of them that intend to follow this captain of
salvation. The apostle tells believers that they are predestinated to
be conformed to the image of the Son of God, Rom. viii. 29 ; and
lets them know, in the close of that chapter, that no small part of
this conformity consists in their afflictions and sufferings. The head
having passed through them, there is a measure of afflictions be-
longing unto the body, which every member is to bear his share of,
Col, i. 24. And the Lord Jesus himself hath given this law unto
us, that every one who will be his disciple must take up his cross
and follow him. Discipleship and the cross are insep u-ably knit to-
gether, by the unchangeable law and constitution of Christ himself
And the gospel is full of warnings and instructions unto this pur-
pose, that none may complain that they were surprised, or that any
thing did befall them in the course of their profession which they
looked not for. -^ Men may deceive themselves with vain hopes and
expectations, but the gospel deceiveth none. It tells them plainly
beforehand, that " tlirough much tribulation they must enter into
the kingdom of God;" and that they who "will live godly in Christ
Jesus shall suffer persecution." If they like not these terms, they
may let the way of Christ alone; if they will not do so, why do they
yet complain? Christ will be taken with his cross, or not at all
And the folly of our hearts can never be enough bewailed, in thinking


strange of trials and afflictions, when the very first thjng that the
Lord Christ requireth of them that will be made partakers of him
is, that " they deny themselves, and take up their cross.". But we
would be children, and not be chastised; we would he gold, and
not be tried; we would overcome, and yet not be put to fight and
contend; we would be Christians, and not suffer. But all these
things are contrary to the eternal law of our profession. And so
necessary is this way made, that though God deals with his people
in great variety, exercising some with such trials and troubles, that
others sometimes in comparison of them seem utterly to go free, yet
every one, one way or other, shall have his share and measure. And
those exceptions that are made in the .providence of God as to some
individual persons at some seasons, derogate nothing from the ge-
neral necessity of the way towards all that do believe.

(2.) It hath made all sufferings for the gospel honourable. The
sufferings of Christ himself were indeed shameful, and that not only
in the esteem of men, but also in the nature of them and by God's
constitution. They were part of the curse, as it is written, "Cursed
is every one that hangeth on a tree." And as such our Lord Jesus
Christ looked on them, when he wrestled with and conquered the
shame as well as the sharpness. But he hath rendered all the suffer-
ings of his that remain very honourable in themselves, whatever they
are in the reputation of a blind, perishing world. That which is truly
shameful in suffering, is an effect of the curse for sin. This Christ
by his suffering hath utterly separated from the sufferings of his
disciples. Hence the apostles rejoiced that they had the honour to
sufiter shame for his name, Acts v. 41 ; that is, the things which the
world looked on as shameful, but themselves knew to be honourable.
They are so in the sight of God, of the Lord Jesus Christ, of all the
holy angels; which are competent judges in this case, .,God hath a
great cause in the world, and that such a one as wherein his name,
iiis"gooila'?ss, his love, his glory, are concerned; this, in his infinite
wisdom, is to be witnessed, confirmed, testified unto by sufferings.
Now, can there be any greater honour done unto any of the sons of
men, than that God should single them out from among the rest of
mankind and appoint them unto this work ? Men are honoured ac-
cording to their riches and treasures; but when Moses came to make
a right jucJgment concerning this thing, he " esteemed the reproach
of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt," Heb. xi. 2G.
We believe that God gave great honour unto the apostles and mar-
tyrs of old in all their sufferings. Let us labour for "the same spirit
of faith in reference unto ourselves, and it will relieve us under all
our trials. This, then, also hath Christ added unto the way of suffer-
ings, by his consecration of it for us. All the glory and honour of
the world is not to be compared with theirs unto whom " it is given


in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer
for Ms sake," Pliil. i. 29, 1 Pet. iv. 14-16.

(o.) He hath thereby made them useful and profitable. Troubles
and afflictions in themselves and their own nature have no gooil
in them, nor do they tend unto any good end; they grow put ol,
the first sentence against sin, and are in their own nature penal,
tending unto death, and nothing else; nor are they, in those who
have no interest in Christ, any thing but effects, of.jthe; wrath of God.
But the Lord Christ, by his consecrating of them to be the.Wqiy.of
our following him, hath quite altered their nature and tendency ; he
hath ihade them good, useful, and profitable. I shall not here show
the usefulness of afflictions and sufferings, the whole Scripture abun-
dantly testifieth unto it, and the experience of believers in all ages
and seasons confirms it. I onl}' show whence it is that they become
so ; and that is, because the Lord Christ hath consecrated, dedicated,
and sanctified them unto that end. He hath thereby cut them off
from their old stock of wrath and the curse, and planted them on
that of love and good-will. He hath taken them off from the cove-
nant of works, and translated them into that of grace. He hath
turned their course from death towards life and immortality. Mix-
ing: his o'race, love, and wisdom with these bitter waters, he haih
made them sweet and wholesome. And if we would have benefit
by them, we must always have regard unto this consecration of

(4) He hath made them safe. They are in their own nature a
wilderness, wherein men may endlessly wander and quickly lose
themselves. But he hath made them a ivay, a safe way, that
wayfaring men, though fools, may not err therein. Never did a
believer perish by afflictions or persecutions; — never was good gold
or silver consumed or lost in the furnace. Hypocrites, indeed, and
false professors, the fearful, and unbelievers, are discovered by them,
and discarded from their hopes: but they that are disciples indeed are
never safer than in this way; and that because it is consecrated for
them. Sometimes, it may be, through their unbelief, and want of
heeding the Cciptain of their salvation, they are wounded and cast
down by them for a season; but they are still in the way, they are
never turned quite out of the way. And this, tlirough the grace of
Christ, doth turn also unto their advantage. Nay, it is not only ab-
solutely a safe way, but comparatively more safe than the way of
prosperity. And this the Scripture, with the experience of all saints,
bears plentiful -witness unto. And many other blessed ends are
wrought by the consecration of this way for the disciples of Christ,
not now to be insisted on.

5 There remains yet to be considered, in the words of the apostie,
the reason why the captain of our salvation was to be consecraLed


by sufferings; and this he declares in the beginning of the verse, — it
*' liecanie God" so to deal with him ; which he amplifies by that de-
scription of him, " For whom are all things, and by whom are all
things." Having such a design as he had, to "bring many sons unto
glory," and being he for whom are all things, and by whom are all
things, it became him so to deal with the captain of their salvation.
AVliat is the rb a^iffof here intended, and what is the importance of
the word, was declared before. This becomingness, whatever it be,
ariseth from hence, that God is he for whom are all things, and
by wliom are all things. It became him not only who is so, l)Ut as
he is so, and because he is so. There is no reason for the addition
of that consideration of God in this matter, but that the cause is in
it contained and expressed why it became him to do that which
is here ascribed unto him. We are, then, to inquire what it is tlnit
is principally regarded in God in this attribution, and thence we
shall learn how it became him to bring the Lord Christ into suffer-
ing. Now, the description of God in these words is plainly of him
as the first cause and last end of all things. Neither is it absolutely
his power in making all of nothing, and his sovereign, eternal will,
requiring that all things tend unto his glory, that are intended in the
words; but that he is the governor, ruler, and judge, of all things
made by him and for him, with respect unto that order and law of
their creation which they were to observe. This rule and govern-
ment of all things, taking care that as they are of God so tliey
should be for him, is that which the apostle respects. This, then,
is that which he asserts, namely, that it became God, as the governor,
ruler, and judge of all, to consecrate Christ by sufferings: which
must be further explained.

Man being made an intellectual creature, had a rule of moral
obedience given unto him. This was he to observe to the glory of
his Creator and Lawgiver, and as the condition of his coming unto
him and enjoyment of him. This is here supposed by the apostle;
and he discourseth how man, having broken the law of his creation,
and therein come short of the glory of God, might by his grace be
again made partaker of it. With respect unto this state of things,
God can be no otherwise considered but as the supreme governor
and judge of them. Now, that property of God which he exerteth
principally as the ruler and governor of all, is his justice, " justitia
regiminis," the righteousness of government. Hereof tliere are two
branches; for it is either remunerative or vindictive. And this
righteousness of God, as the supreme ruler and judge of all, is that
upon the account whereof it was meet for him, or became him, to
bring the sons to glory by the sufferings of the captain of their sal-
vation. It was hence just and equal, and therefore indispensably ne-
cessary that so he should do. Supposing that man was created in the

VOL. XII.— 26


image of God, capable of yielding obedience unto bim, according to
the law concreated with him and written in his heart, which obedi-
ence was his moral being for God, as he was from or of him ; sup-
posing that he by sin had broken this law, and so was no longer for
God, according to the primitive order and law of his creation ; sup-
posing also, notwithstanding all this, that God in his infinite grace
and love intended to bring some men unto the enjoyment of him-
self, by a new way, law, and appointment, by which they should be
brought to be for him again; — supposing, I say, these things, which
are all here supposed by our apostle and were granted by the Jews,
it became the justice of God, that is, it was so just, right, meet,
and equal, that the judge of all the world, who doth right, could
no otherwise do, than cause him who was to be the way,,
means, and author of this recovery of men into a new condition of
beinji for God, to suffer in their stead. For whereas the vindictive
justice of God, which is the respect of the universal rectitude of his
holy nature unto the deviation of his rational creatures from the law
of their creation, required that that deviation should be revenged,
and themselves brought into a new way of being for God, or of glo-
rifying him by their sufferings, when they had refused to do so by
obedience, it was necessary, on the account thereof, that if they were
to be delivered from that condition, the author of their deliver-
ance should sutler for them. And this excellently suits the design
of tlie apostle, which is to prove the necessity of the suffering of the
Messiah, which the Jews so stumbled at. Yox if the justice of God
required that so it should be, how could it be dispensed withal?
Would they have God unjust? Shall he forego the glory of his
righteousness and holiness to please them in their presumption and
prejudices? It is true, indeed, if God had intended no salvation for
his sons but one that was temporal, like that granted unto the people
of old under the conduct of Joshua, there had been no need at all of
the sufferings of the captain of their salvation. But they being
such as in themselves had sinned and come short of the glory of
God, and the salvation intended them being spiritual, consisting in
a new ordering of them for God, and the bringing of them unto the
eternal enjoyment of liim in glory, there was no way to maintain
the honour of the justice of God but by his suffering. And as here
lay the great mistake of the Jews, so the denial of this condecency
of God's justice, as to the sufferings of the Messiah, is the vpojroy
•^/eDoos of the Socinians. Schlichtingius on this place would have no
more intended but that the way of bringing Christ to suffer was
answerable unto that design which God had laid to glorify himself
in the salvation of man. But the apostle says not that it became or
was suitable unto an arbitrary free decree of God, but that it became
himself as the supreme ruler and judge of all He speaks not of


what was meet unto the execution of a free decree, but of what waa
meet, on the account of God's hoUness and righteousness, to the con-
stitution of it, as the description of him annexed doth plainly show.
And herein have we with our apostle discovered the great, indispens-
able, and fun<lamental cause of the sufferings of Christ. And we
may hence observe, that, —

V. Such is the desert of sin, and such is the immutability of the
justice of God, that there was no way possible to bring sinners unto
glory but by the death and suff'erings of the Son of God, who under-
took to be the captain of their salvation.

It would have been unbecoming God, the supreme governor of
all the world, to have passed by the desert of sin without this satis-
faction. And this being a truth of great importance, and the foun-
dation of most of the apostle's ensuing discourses, must be a while
insisted on.

In these verses, that foregoing this, and some of those follow-
ing, the apostle directly treats of the causes of the sufferings and
death of Christ; — a matter as of great importance in itself, com-
prising no small part of the mystery of the gospel, so indispensably
necessary to be explained and confirmed unto the Hebrews, who
had entertained many prejudices against it. In the foregoing verse
he declared the cause Tporiyou/zhriv, the inducing, leading, moving
cause ; which was "the grace of God,'' — by the grace of God he was to
taste death for men. This grace he further explains in this verse,
showing that it consisted in the design of God to " bring many sons
unto glory." All had sinned and come short of his glory. He had,
according to the exigence of his justice, denounced and declared
death and judgment to he brought upon all that sinned, without
exception. Yet such was his infinite love and grace, that he deter-
mined or purposed in himself to deliver some of them, to make
them sons, and to bring them unto glory. Unto this end he re-
solved to send or give his Son to be a captain of salvation unto
them. And this love or grace of God is everywhere set forth in the
gospel. How the sutferings of this captain of f^alvation became use-
ful unto the sons, upon the account of the manifold union that was
between them, he declares in the following verses, further explain-
ing the reasons and causes why the benefit of his sufferings should
redovmd unto them. In this verse he expresseth the cause, t^cxc:-
rapxrixriv, the procuring cause, of the death and suff'erings of Christ;
which is the justice of God, upon supposition of sin and his purpose
to save sinners. And this, upon examination, we shall find to be the
great cause of the death of Christ.

That the Son of God, who did no sin, in whom his soul was always
well pleased on the account of his obedience, should suffer and die,
and that a death under the sentence and curse of the law, is a great


and astonisliable mystery. All the saints of God admire at it, the
angels desire to look into it. What should be the cause and reason
hereof", why God should thus "bruise him and put him to grief ?" This
is worth our inquiry; and various are the conceptions of men about
it. The Socinians deny that his sufferings were penal, or that he
died to make satisfaction for sin ; but only that he did so to confirm
the doctrine that he had taught, and to set us an example to suffer
for the truth. But his doctrine carried its own evidence with it
that it was from God, and was besides uncontrollably confirmed by
the miracles that he wrought. So that his sufferings on that account
might have been dispensed withal. And surely this great and stupen-
dous matter, of the dying of the Son of God, is not to be resolved into
a reason and cause that might so easily be dispensed with. God would
never have given up his Son to die, but only for such causes and
ends as could no otherwise have been satisfied or accomplished. The
like also may be said of the other cause assigned by them, namely,
to set us an example. It is true, in his death he did so, and of great
and singular use unto us it is that so he did ; but yet neither was
this, from any precedent law or constitution, nor from the nature
of the thing itself, nor from any property of God, indispensably neces-
sary. God could by his grace have carried us through sufferings,
although he had not set before us the example of his Son : so he
doth through other things no less difficult, wherein the Lord Christ
could not in his own person go before us ; as in our conversion unto
God, and mortification of indwelling sin, neither of which the Lord
Christ was capable of. We shall leave them, then, as those who,
acknowledging the death of Christ, do not yet acknowledge or own
any sufficient cause or reason why he should dia

Christians generally allow that the sufferings of Christ were penal,
and his death satisfactory for the sins of men ; but as to the cause
and reason of his so suffering they differ. Some, following Austin,
refer the death of Christ solely unto the wisdom and sovereignty^F
God. God would have it so, and therein are we to acquiesce. Other
ways of saving the elect were possible, but this God chose, because
so it seemed good unto him. Hence arose that saying, " That one
drop of the blood of Christ was sufficient to redeem the whole world ;"
only it pleased God that he should suffer unto the utmost. And
herein are we to rest, that he hath suffered for us, and that God hath
revealed. But this seems not to me any way to answer that which
is here affirmed by the apostle, namely, that it became God, as the
supreme governor of all the world, so to cause Christ to suffer; nor
do I see what demonstration of the glory of justice can arise from
the punishing of an innocent person who might have been spared,
and yet all the ends of his being so punished have been brought
about. And to say that one drop of Christ's blood was sufficient


to rerlrf^m the world, is derogatory uuto the goodness, wisdom, and
ri^diteousness of God, in causing not only the whole to be shed, but
also " his soul to be made an oftering for sin ;" which was altogether
needless if that were true. But how far this whole opinion is from
truth, which leaves no necessary cause of the death of Christ, will
afterwards appear.

Others say, that on supposition that God had appointed the curse
of the law, and death to be the penalty of sin, his faithfulness and
veracity were engaged so far that no sinner should go free, or be
made partaker of glory, but by the intervention of satisfaction. And
therefore, on the supposition that God would make some men his
sons, and bring them to glory, it was necessary, with respect unto
the engagement of the truth of God, that he should suffer, die, and
make satisfaction for them. Biitall_iliis-they^ refer originaJiy unto
a free constitution, which might have been otherwise. ' God might
have ordered things so, without any derogation unto the glory of
his justice or holiness in the government of all things, as that sin-
ners might have been saved without the death of Christ ; for if he
had not engaged his word, and declared that death should be the
penalty of sin, he might have freely remitted it without the inter-
vention of any satisfaction.' And thus all this whole work of death
being the punishment of sin, and of the sufferings of Christ for sin-
ners, is resolved into a free purpose and decree of God's will, and
not into the exigence of any essential property of his nature; sa
that it might have been otherwise in all the parts of it, and yet the
glory of God preserved every way entire. Whether this be so or
no, we shall immediately inquire.

Others grant many free acts of the mind and will of God in this
matter; as, first, the creation of man in such a condition as that he
should have a moral dependence on God in reference unto his ut-
most end was an effect of the sovereign pleasure, will, and wisdom
of God. But on supposition of this decide j,nd constitution, they
say, the nature, authority, and hoTiness of God required indispens-
ably that man should yield unto him that obedience which he was
directed unto and guided in by the law of his creation; so that
God could not suffer him to do otherwise, and remain in his first
state, and come unto the end first designed unto him, without the
loss of his authority and wrong of his justice. Again, they say that
God did freely, by an act of his sovereign will and pleasure, decree
to permit man to sin and fall, which might have been otherwise;
but on supposition that so he should do and would do, and thereby
infringe the order of his dependence on God in reference unto his
utmost end, that the justice of God, as the supreme governor of all
things, did indispensably require that he should receive " a meet re-
corapence of reward," or be punished auswerably unto his crimes: so


that God could not have dealt otherwise with him without a high
derogation from his own righteousness. Again, tliey say that God,
by a mere free act of his love and grace, designed the Lord Jesus
Christ to be the way and means for the saving of sinners, which
might have been otherwise. He might, without the least impeach-
ment of the glory of any of his essential properties, have suffered
all mankind to have perished under that penalty which they had
justly incurred; but of his own mere love, free grace, and good
pleasure, he gave and sent him to redeem them. But on the sup-
position thereof, they say, the justice of God required that he should

Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 49 of 70)