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Thomas Goodwin :: Section Two :: Chapter Two

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Section Two :: Chapter Two

What in Christ’s death, faith seeking justification, is especially to eye and look at.

(2.) Now then a second direction for faith towards Christ as dying, is, faith is principally and mainly to look unto the end, meaning, and intent of God and Christ in his sufferings, and not simply at the tragic story of his death and sufferings. It is the heart and mind and intent of Christ in suffering, which faith chiefly eyes, and which draws the heart on to rest on Christ crucified. When a believer sees that Christ’s aim in suffering for poor sinners agrees and answers to the aim and desires of his heart, and that that was the end of it, that sinners might have forgiveness, and that Christ’s heart was as full in it, to procure it, as the sinner’s heart can be to desire it; this draws his heart in to Christ, to rest upon him. And without this, the contemplation and meditation of the story of his sufferings, and of the greatness of them, will be altogether unprofitable. And yet all, or the chief use which the papists and many carnal protestants make of Christ’s sufferings, is to meditate upon, and set out to themselves the grievousness of them, so to move their hearts to a relenting, and compassion to him, and indignation against the Jews for their crucifying of him, with an admiring of his noble and heroic love herein; and if they can but get their hearts thus affected, they judge and account this to be grace; when as it is no more than what the like tragic story of some great and noble personage, full of heroic virtues and ingenuity, yet inhumanely and ungratefully used, will work, and uses ordinarily to work in ingenuous spirits, who read or hear of it. Yes, and this often, though if it be but in the way of a fiction which, when it reaches no higher, is so far from being faith, that it is but a carnal and fleshly devotion, springing from fancy, which is pleased with such a story, and the principles of ingenuity stirred towards one who is of a noble spirit, and yet abused. Such stories use to stir up a principle of humanity in men unto a compassionate love; which Christ himself at his suffering found fault with, as being not spiritual, nor raised enough, in those women who went weeping to see the Messiah so handled. “Weep not for me,” Luke 23:28, says he. That is, weep not so much for this, thus to see me unworthily handled by those for whom I die.

And therefore, accordingly as these stirrings are but fruits of the flesh, so human inventions, as crucifixes, and lively representations of the story of Christ’s passion unto the sight of fancy, do exceedingly provoke men to such devotional meditations and affections; but they work a bare historical faith only, a historical remembrance, and a historical love, as I may so call them. And no other than such does the reading of the story of it in the word work in many, who yet are against such crucifixes. But saving, justifying faith chiefly minds, and is most taken up with the main scope and drift of all Christ’s sufferings; for it is that in them which answers to its own aim and purpose, which is, to obtain forgiveness of sins in Christ crucified.

As God looks principally at the meaning of the Spirit in prayer, Romans 8:27, so does faith look principally to the meaning of Christ in his sufferings. As in all other truths a believer is said to have the mind of Christ, 1 Corinthians 2:16, so especially he minds what was the mind and heart of Christ in all his sufferings. And therefore you may observe, that the drift of all the apostles’ epistles, is to show the intent of Christ’s sufferings; how he was therein set forth to be “a propitiation for sin;” to “bear our sins upon the tree;” to “make our peace…he was made sin, that we might be made righteousness of God in him.” As in like manner the scope of the evangelists is to set forth the story of them, for that is necessary to be known also. And thus did that evangelical prophet Isaiah chiefly set forth the intent of Christ’s sufferings for justification, Isaiah 53, throughout the chapter, as David before had done the story of his passion, Psalm 22. And thus to show the use and purpose of his sufferings, was the scope of all the apostles’ sermons, holding forth the intent of Christ’s passion to be the justification and salvation of sinners. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ came into the world to save sinners,” 1 Timothy 1:15; and they still set forth what the plot was, at which God by an ancient design aimed at in the sufferings of Christ, which was an end higher than men or angels thought on, when he was put to death. And thus faith takes it up and looks at it. And upon this does Peter (in his sermon, Acts 2) pitch their faith, where having set forth the heinousness of their sin in murdering “the Lord of life,” then to raise up their hearts again (that so seeing God’s end in it, they might be drawn to believe). He tells them, that “all this was done by the determinate counsel of God,” Acts 2:23, and that for a farther end than they imagined, even for the remission of sins through his name, as in the closure of that sermon he shows. It was not the malice of the Jews, the falseness of Judas, the fearfulness of Pilate, or the iniquity of the times he fell into, that wrought his death, so much as God his father complotting with Christ himself, and aiming at a higher end than they did.

There was a farther matter in it; it was the execution of an ancient contrivement and agreement, whereby God made Christ “sin,” and laid our sins upon him. God “was in Christ, not imputing our sins to us, but making him sin,” 2 Corinthians 5:19. Which covenant Christ came, at his time, into the world to fulfill. “Sacrifice and burnt offering thou wouldst not have,” Hebrews 10:5. “Lo, I come to do your will,” and that will was “to take away sins,” Hebrews 10:4, 10, 12, 14-16. These words Christ spoke when he took our nature and when he came into the world, clothed with infirmities like unto us sinners. “God sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh,” Romans 8:3. Mark that phrase “for sin,” περἰ is there put for propter, as John 10:33, οὐ περἰ καλοῦ ἔργου, “not for a good work.” That is, not because of a good work, or for a good work’s sake. So here, for sin, that is, because of sin. Sin was the occasion of his taking the likeness of sinful flesh. What, to increase it? No, but to condemn it, as it follows; that is, to cast and overthrow it in its power and plea against us, that instead of sin’s condemning us, he might condemn sin, and that we might have “the righteousness of the law,” Romans 8:4. This phrase “for sin” is like unto that in Romans 6:10, “he died unto sin,” that is, for sin’s cause; for so the opposition that follows evinces, “In that he lives, he lives unto God,” that is, for God and his glory. So he died merely for sin, that sin might have its course in justice, and for its sake suffered death, so putting to silence the clamour of it.

The death of Christ was the greatest and strangest design that ever God undertook and acted, and therefore surely had an end proportionable unto it. God, that “wills not the death of a sinner,” would not for any inferior end will the death of his Son, whom he loved more than all creatures besides. It must necessarily be some great matter for which God should contrive the death of his Son, so holy, so innocent, and separate from sinners. Neither could it be any other matter, than to destroy that which he most hated, and that was sin and to set forth that which he most delighted in, and that was mercy. So Romans 3:25-26. And accordingly (Christ demeaned himself in it, not at all looking at the Jews, or their malice, but at his Father’s command and intent in it. And therefore when he was to arise to go unto that place where he should be taken, and carried to slaughter, “As the father gave me commandment,” says he, “So do I; arise, let us go hence,” John 14:31. And when Judas went out at Christ’s own provocation of him, “What thou do, do quickly,” says he, “the Son of man goes as it was determined;” he looked to his Father’s purpose in it. When he went out to be taken, it is said, “Jesus knowing all things that should befall him, went forth,” John 18:4. And when he was in his agony in the garden, whom does he deal with but his Father? “Father,” he says, “if it be possible, let this cup pass;” and God made his passion of so great necessity, that it was even impossible that that cup should pass. Indeed, had Christ stood in his own stead, it had been an easy request, yes, justice to grant it; and so he tells Peter, that he could command millions of angels to his rescue; but he merely submits unto his Father, “Not my will, but your will be done,” for God had laid upon him the iniquities of us all, Isaiah 53.

Let our faith therefore look mainly to this design and plot of God, and of Christ in his suffering to satisfy for our sins, and to justify us sinners. When we consider him as born flesh and blood, and laid in a manger, think we further that his meaning was to “condemn sin in our flesh,” Romans 8:4.

So when we read of him fulfilling all, or any part of righteousness, take we his mind in addition to be, that the “law might be fulfilled in us,” as it follows there, who were then represented in him, and so the fulfilling of it is accounted ours. Behold we him in his lifetime, as John the Baptist did, even as “the Lamb of God, bearing and taking away the sins of the world;” and when upon the cross, let our faith behold the iniquities of us all met in him. “Surely he has borne our sorrows, bearing our sins in his body on the tree, and thereby once offered to bear the sins of many,” Hebrews 9:28. This intent of Christ in all that he did and suffered, is that welcome news, and the very spirit of the gospel, which faith preys and seizes on.

Section Two :: Chapter One ← Prior Section
Section Two :: Chapter Three Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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