SIXTH LORD'S DAY.
Question 17. Why must he in one person be also very God?
Answer. That he might, by the power of his Godhead, sustain, in his human nature, the burden of God's wrath; and might obtain for and restore to us, righteousness and life.
It was necessary that our Mediator should not only be a man, and one that was truly such, and perfectly righteous; but that he should also be God--the true and mighty God-and not an imaginary Deity, or one that was adorned with excellent gifts, above angels and men, as heretics suppose. The reasons for this are the following:
1. That he might, by the power of his Godhead, sustain, in his human nature, the infinite wrath of God against sin, and endure a punishment, which, although it were temporal as it respects its duration, was nevertheless infinite in greatness, dignity, and value. If our Mediator had been only a man, and had taken upon himself the burden of God's wrath, he would have been crushed under its weight. It was necessary, therefore, that he should be possessed of infinite strength, and for this reason be God, that he might endure an infinite punishment, without sinking into despair, or being crushed under it.
There was a necessity that the punishment of the Mediator should be of infinite value, and equivalent to that which is eternal, that there might be a proportion between sin, and the punishment thereof. For there is not one sin amongst all the sins committed, from the beginning to the end of the world, so small that it does not deserve eternal death. Every sin is so exceedingly sinful, that it cannot be expiated by the eternal destruction of any creature.
It was proper, however, that this punishment should be finite in respect to time, because it was not necessary that the Mediator should for ever remain under death; but it became him to come forth from death, that he might accomplish the benefit of our redemption, that is, that he might perfectly merit, and having merited, might apply and bestow upon us the salvation which he purchased in our behalf. It was also required of our Mediator, both to merit and bestow righteousness, that he might be a perfect Saviour in merit, and efficacy. But these things could not have been accomplished by a mere man, who and of whatever strength he might have been possessed, if he, nevertheless, had not the power to come forth from death. It was necessary, therefore, that he who was to save others from death, should overcome death by his own power, and first throw it off from himself. But this he could not have done had he not been God.
2. It was necessary that the ransom Which the Redeemer paid should be of infinite value, that it might possess a dignity and merit sufficient for the redemption of our souls, and that it might avail in the judgment of God, for the purpose of expiating our sins, and restoring in us that righteousness and life which we had lost. Hence it became the person who would make this satisfaction for us, to be possessed of infinite dignity, that is, to be God; for the dignity of this satisfaction, on account of which it might be acceptable to God and of infinite worth, although temporal, consists in two things--in the dignity of the person, and in the greatness of the punishment.
The dignity of the person who suffered appears in this, that it was God, the Creator himself, who died for the sins of the world; which is infinitely more than the destruction of all creatures, and avails more than the holiness of all the angels and men. Hence it is, that the Apostles, when they speak of the sufferings of Christ, almost always make mention of his Divinity. "God hath purchased the Church with his blood." "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world." Yea, God himself, in Paradise, joined together these two: "The seed of the woman shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." (Acts 20:28. 1 John 1:7. John 1:29. Gen. 3:15.)
The greatness of the punishment which Christ endured appears in this, that he sustained the dreadful torments of hell, and the wrath of God against the sins of the whole world. "The pains of hell got hold upon me." "God is a consuming fire." "The Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all." (Ps. 116:3. Deut. 4:24. Is. 53:10.) From this we may perceive why it was, that Christ manifested such signs of distress in the prospect of death, whilst many of the martyrs met death with the greatest courage and composure.
Obj. The perfect fulfillment of the law by obedience might have been a satisfaction for our sins. But a mere man, had he only been perfectly righteous, might have fulfilled the law by obedience. Therefore, a mere man, being perfectly righteous, might have satisfied for our sins--and hence it was not necessary that our Mediator should be God. Ans. 1. We deny the major proposition, because it has already been shown that when obedience was once impaired, it was not possible that the justice of God could be satisfied for sin, unless by a sufficient punishment on account of the divine threatening, "In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." (Gen. 2:17.) 2. Although we may grant the minor proposition, that a mere man, by his obedience, might fulfil the law perfectly, yet this obedience could not be a satisfaction for the sins of another, because every one is bound to obey the law. It was necessary, therefore, that the Mediator should endure a sufficient punishment for us, and for this reason be armed with divine power; for the devils themselves are not able to sustain the burden of God's wrath against sin--much less could man. If it be objected, that the devils and the wicked do sustain and are compelled to sustain the eternal wrath of God, we answer, that they do, indeed, sustain the wrath of God, but not so as ever to satisfy his justice, and come out of their punishment; for their punishment will endure forever. But it behooved the Mediator to endure the burden of God's wrath, that, having made satisfaction, he might remove it from himself, and also from us.
3. It was necessary that the Mediator should be God, that he might reveal the secret will of God concerning the redemption of mankind, which he could not have done, had he been merely a man. No creature could ever have known, or discovered, the will of God concerning our redemption, had not the Son of God revealed it. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." (John 1:18.)
4. It behooved the Mediator to be God, that he might be able to give the Holy Ghost, gather a church, be present with it, and bestow and preserve the benefits purchased by his death. It did not only become him to be made a sacrifice, to throw off death from himself, and intercede for us with God; but it became him also to give assurance that we would no more offend God by our sins. This, however, on account of our corruption, no one could promise in our behalf, who had not the power of giving the Holy Spirit, and through him, the power of conforming us to the image of God. But to give the Holy Spirit, and through him to regenerate the heart, is peculiar to God alone, whose Spirit he is. "Whom I will send unto you from the Father." (John 15:26.) Only he, who is Lord of nature, can reform it.
5. Finally, it was necessary that the Messiah should be "THE LORD, OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." (Jer. 23:6.)
Obj. The party offended cannot be Mediator. Christ is the Mediator. Therefore, he cannot be the party offended, that is, God. Ans. The major proposition is true only when the party offended is such as admits of no personal distinctions; which, however, is not the case as regards the Godhead. Vide Ursini vol. i. p. 120.
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