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DANGER OF MISCONCEIVING THE TERMS
any part of the Divine conduct. If, indeed, the righteousness of Christ became really and literally, and not merely legally, the believer's, the case would be different. Dr. Crisp, and his school, are the only consistent men on this point. The second opinion in regard to imputation, viz., that it is the legal counting of the Saviour's righteousness to the believer, as a step distinct from, and previous to, the treating of them as righteous, so far from explaining and justifying the Divine procedure, only serves, as I can not but think at least, to involve a plain matter in obscurity and mystery.
The reception of this simple and, it is conceived, scriptural view of imputation, has been partially prevented by forgetfulness of the important sentiment, that though Divine and human justification bear a strong analogy to each other, they are not identical; and by inattention to the precise import of the terms, surety, legal representative, in their application to Christ. Here truth, as it was formerly observed, has been pushed into error. Mr. Bennet, indeed, while contending that “Christ is to be regarded in the light of a voluntary victim, as having undertaken a legal responsibility on behalf of sinners, submitted to the judicial effects of their sins against God, and brought in everlasting righteousness, in a public capacity," denies that he is to be regarded, strictly and literally speaking, in the light of a legal representative, substitute, or surrogate; i. e., "one," he says, "who in law sustains the person, and acts in the name and place of others; so that his acts are to be legally construed and received as theirs." He represents it as Antinomian doctrine to contend "for such a federal and legal union between Christ and the elect, as to render them one person with him, in all his covenant engagements, and mediatorial performances, in virtue of which all the blessings of salvation are so theirs in him, that they have a righteous claim upon God for them. When it is said that Christ was made a sin-offering for us, and that he has entered for us into the heavenly sanctuary, the words do not mean," he says, "that he sustained the character of our legal representative, and that we in him either were made a sin-offering, or entered within the veil; but that, in both cases, he acted
SURETY, LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE.
in a public character, and sustained official capacities, the beneficial effects of which were to terminate in the salvation of all believers."*
Mr. Bennet maintains, that the terms referred to, viz., legal representative, surrogate, surety, &c., are never applied to Christ in the Scriptures; "nor is any such meaning," he adds, "adopted in the sacred writings with respect to the mediatorial engagements and work of Christ." The propriety of the use of the terms obviously depends, in a very considerable degree, upon the sense attached to them. I see no reason for rejecting them, which would not lead to the abandonment of the term "justification,” as expressive of the acceptance of a sinner with God. I cannot join Mr. Bennet in his wish to see them discontinued. They constitute the most appropriate phraseology that can be employed, though it is absolutely necessary to remember that they must be analogically, and not literally understood: since the relation which Christ sustains to believers, is by no means identical with that which a true and literal representative, in a human court of judicatory, sustains to the person represented by him. It is here, as in the case of Divine and human justification, where, as we have seen, the analogy existing between them, is to be seen in the consequences of the act, rather than in the act itself. The elect enjoy the benefit which results from the work of Christ, as if he were literally their legal representative, (on the principle described, and therefore he is very correctly denominated their surety,) as the justified man participates in the consequences of justification, as if justification were the act of pronouncing him righteous, or were literally making him so. The consequences of not making this distinction, are baneful in the extreme. There is a degree of approximation, which we cannot but deplore, towards the wild and shocking system of Antinomianism, in the case of certain excellent men and writers; and this is to be mainly ascribed, if we are not greatly mistaken, to the fact of their having too completely identified the relation in which the Saviour stands to his people, with that of a human legal representative. And, when this identi
* Vide Gospel Constitution, pp. 117, 118.
DANGER OF MISCONCEIVIVG THE TERMS
fication is completely made, it is difficult to see how it is possible to escape the conclusions which Antinomians draw from it. For, if there were a real commutation of persons in the case of the elect and Christ, if he endured the curse of the law as their literal representative, and if they are to be regarded as having legally borne it in him; how could they with justice be called to suffer it? How could their deliverance be an act of grace? Might they not demand their discharge? And, further, if Christ obeyed the law, as their literal representative,-if they are to be regarded as having legally rendered obedience in him, how can they be required to yield personal obedience? Surely, if, as a literal legal representative, Christ has performed the service which, in the eye of the law, we owed to the moral Governor, the debt is absolutely discharged; so that the latter can no more, having agreed to accept of the substitute, require it a second time of us, than he could inflict a second time the sentence of the law.
On the other hand, if the terms of which we have been speaking are to be understood analogically; if Christ is the surety of his people, because they participate in the benefits and blessings of his work, as if he legally represented them; if his righteousness does not literally pass over to them, and is not legally counted to them in any sense which is to be distinguished from treating them as if they possessed it; if all that really passes over to them is the result of that work; and, finally, if this result passes over to them, not on the Antinomian principle of a legal commutation of persons, but on the principle illustrated by Mr. Bennet, viz., that the mediatorial engagements and work of Christ, constitute a moral basis for the extension of holy benevolence to such as were in themselves both worthless and wretched, then salvation, in all its parts, is of grace; deliverance from condemnation is altogether a merciful deliverance; no transgressors, not the elect, even if they know themselves to be such, can claim it. They cannot talk, as some have done, of having a price in their hands to purchase it; but of a glorious work to plead, which has so fully satisfied the justice of God, and sustained the
SURETY, LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE.
efficiency of his law, as to permit their salvation, but not to require it; and they will, consequently, receive the blessings they implore, with those transports of gratitude, blended with profound humility, which cannot fail to be inspired by the self-abasing consciousness, that the blessings of eternal life have been conferred on those who deserve eternal death.*
In concluding this part of the subject, I would only add, that the views which have been presented in the preceding pages, seem essential to the production of that humility of character, without which all professions of religion are but as "sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal." It is manifest, that the Antinomian scheme of doctrine does not produce this state of mind. We cannot associate much with its adherents, without feeling that the spirit of the sect is the very reverse of that of the publican. I do not, I confess, wonder at this. The fact cannot well be otherwise. If a person believes that the elect are so completely one with Christ, and have been so from eternity, that they cannot be considered apart from him, -that in law they are literally regarded as having done and suffered all that was done and suffered by Christ, I do not wonder that, taking, in his approaches to the throne of the heavenly grace, the important fact, that he is one of the elect, for granted; or, believing it on insufficient evidence, he should assume the tone of one who regards salvation as his due. If an approximation towards the system could lead the excellent Bishop Hopkins to utter such language as the following, what must be the full effect of the entire system upon the indiscriminating mass who profess it in the present day? "They,” i. e. believers, "can plead, Lord, here is a full price, the pre
I must particularly request the reader to remember-for I feel that, in reference to this point, I am in danger of being misconceived, and possibly misrepresented—that my objection is not against the terms "surety, legal representative," &c., but against the undue extension of their meaning; against “moulding and squaring gospel truths and doctrines, by human measures and models.” Divine justification, and suretyship, are analogous to human justification, and human suretyship, but are not identical with them. "There is a resemblance,” to adopt the language of Howe, “but not an exact and entire correspondency.” The blessings which result from them are the same; but the process and the relation are only analogous.
cious blood of thine own Son. It was thy own free grace that bestowed him upon us, who is such a boundless treasure. But, being installed in that, we no longer desire to deal with thee upon terms of grace; but upon most severe, rigorous, and strict justice. What mercies we have had, were purchased for us by this price; what sins we have committed, were satisfied for, for us, by this expiation; and, therefore, we stand acquitted in law. Thus may those who have part in this heavenly treasure, make up their accounts with a great deal of confidence, when others, that have nothing to discharge their debts withal, shall be cast into prison, whence they shall never return."*
How different, radically different, the language of David! "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions." Thus David desired to deal with God upon terms of grace; Bishop Hopkins on terms of strict justice! Which was right, the psalmist, or the prelate?
* Pratt's edition, vol. iii. p. 101.