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Thomas Goodwin :: Section Three :: Chapter Two

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Section Three :: Chapter Two

For the explanation of both these is shown, how Christ sustained a double relation: first, of a surety given, for us; secondly, of a common person in our stead. The difference of these two, and the usefulness of these two considerations, for the explaining all the rest that follows, in this whole discourse.

Now the better to explicate both these, you must consider how that Christ, in almost all that he did for us (as the phrase is here, and is to be annexed to each particular) did stand in a double relation for us unto God.

  • 1. Of a surety, bound to pay the debt for us, and to save our souls.
  • 2. Of a common person, or as an attorney at law in our stead.

And both these, as they have a distinct and differing consideration in themselves, so those several considerations of them will conduce to the understanding of those two things fore-mentioned, as ways and arguments to show how the resurrection of Christ may support our faith, both by way of evidence that the debt is paid, and by way of influence that we are thereby acquitted, and cannot be condemned. The notion of his being risen, who is our surety, clears the first, and that of his rising as a common person, illustrates the other. And I shall here a little to a greater extent insist upon the explication of these two relations, because their consideration will be of use through all the rest that follows, to illustrate thereby the influence that his ascension, and sitting at God’s right hand, have into our justification. And so I shall carry them along throughout this discourse.

  • 1. A surety is one that undertakes and is bound to do a thing for another, as to pay a debt for him, or to bring him safe to such or such a place, or the like; so as when he has discharged what he undertook and was bound for, then the party for whom he undertook is discharged also.
  • 2. A common person with or for another he goes for is one who represents, personates, and acts the part of another, by the allowance and warrant of the law; so as what he does, as such a common person and in the name of the other that other whom he personates is by the law reckoned to do; and in like manner, what is done to him, as being in the other’s stead and room, is reckoned as done to the other. Thus, by our law, an attorney appears for another, and money received by him is reckoned as received by him whom it is due unto. Thus the giving possession of an estate, a re-entry made and possession taken of land, if done by and to a man who is his lawful attorney, it stands as good in law unto a man, as if in his own person it had been done.

So ambassadors for princes represent their masters—what is done to them is reckoned as done to the prince and what they do, according to their commission, is all one as if the prince, whose person they represent had done it himself. In like manner also, the marriages of princes are transacted and solemnized by proxy, as a common person representing his lord, and in his name is married to a princess in her father’s court. And the laws of men authorize it, and the marriage is as good as if both princes themselves had been present, and had performed all the rites of it. And thus to be a common person is more than simply to be a surety for another, it is a farther thing; and therefore these two relations are to be distinctly considered, though they seem to be somewhat of a like nature. Thus an attorney is a different thing from a surety. A surety undertakes to pay a debt for another, or the like; but a common person serves to perform any common act, which by the law is reckoned and virtually imputed to the other, and is to stand as the other’s act, and is as valid as if he had done it. So as the good and benefit which is the consequent of such an act, shall accrue to him whom he personated, and for whom he stood as a common person. Adam was not a surety for all mankind; he undertook not for them in the sense fore-mentioned, but he was a common person representing all mankind; so as what he should do was to be accounted as if they had done it.

Now the better to express and make sure our justification in and by Christ, according to all sorts of laws (the equity of all which God usually draws up into his dispensations), God did ordain Christ both to be a surety for us, and also a common person representing us and in our stead. That as Christ took all other relations for us, as of a Husband, Head, Father, Brother, King, Priest, Captain, that so the fullness of his love might be set forth to us, in that what is defective in any one of these relations, is supplied and expressed by the other. Even thus did God ordain Christ to take and sustain both these relations, of a surety and a common person, in all he did for us, thereby to make our justification by him the more full and legal and justify, as I may so speak, our justification itself or his justifying of us, by all sorts of legal considerations whatever, that hold commonly among men in like case. And that which the one of these relations or considerations might not reach to make good, then the other might supply; what fell short in the one the other might make up; and so we might be most legally and formally justified, and made sure never to be condemned.


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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