God having a great design to declare unto the world both his justice and mercy towards men, he found out this mean most suitable and proportioned unto it, which is here spoken of in the third verse, -- to send his own Son to bear the punishment of sin, that the righteousness of the law might be freely and graciously fulfilled in sinners. And, indeed, it was not imaginable by us, how he could declare both in the salvation of sinners. He could not have found out a way to declare his righteousness and holiness, which would not have obscured his mercy and grace, nor a way to manifest his grace and mercy which would not have reflected upon his holiness and justice, according to the letter of the law that was given out as the rule of life. He that doth them shall live in them, and cursed is every one that doeth them not, &c. What could we expect, if this be fulfilled, as it would appear God's truth and holiness require? Then we are gone, -- no place for mercy, if this be not fulfilled, that the mercy may be showed in pardoning sin. Then the truth and faithfulness of God seem to be impaired. This is the strait that all sinners would have been into, if God had not found such an enlargement as this -- how to show mercy without wronging justice, and how to save sinners without impairing his faithfulness. Truly, we may wonder, what was it that could straiten his majesty so, that he must send his own Son, so beloved of him, and bruise him, and hide his face from him, yea, and torment him, and not let the cup pass from him for any entreaties. Might he not more easily have never added such a commination to the law, -- "thou shalt die," or more easily relaxed and repealed that sentence, and passed by the sinner without any more, than exacted so heavy a punishment from one that was innocent? Was it the satisfaction of his justice that straitened him, and put a necessity of this upon him? But truly it seems it had been no more contrary to righteousness to have passed over the sinner, without satisfaction, than to require and take it of one who was not really guilty. The truth is, it was not simply the indispensable necessity of satisfying justice, that put him upon such a hard and unpleasant work, as the bruising of his own Son, for no doubt, he might have as well dispensed with all satisfaction, as with the personal satisfaction of the sinner. But here the strait lay, and here was the urgency of the case, he had a purpose to declare his justice, and therefore a satisfaction must be had not simply to satisfy righteousness, but rather to declare his righteousness, Rom. iii.25. Now, indeed, to make these two shine together in one work of the salvation of sinners, all the world could not have found out the like of this -- to dispense with personal satisfaction in the sinner, which the rigour of the law required, and so to admit a sweet moderation and relaxation, that the riches of his grace and mercy might be manifested, and yet withal, to exact the same punishment of another willingly coming in the sinner's place, to the end that all sinners may behold his righteousness and justice. And so this work of the redemption of sinners hath these names of God published by himself, (Exod. xxxiv.6, 7.) to Moses, engraven deeply upon it, mercy and goodness spelled out at length in it, -- for love was the rise of all, and love did run alongst in all, yet so, as there is room to speak out his holiness, and righteousness, and justice, not so much to affright sinners, as to make his mercy the more amiable and wonderful.
I know not a more pressing ground of strong consolation, nor a firmer bulwark of our confidence and salvation, than this conjunction of mercy and justice in the business. There might have been always a secret hink(174) of jealousy and suspicion in our minds, when God publisheth mercy and forgiveness to us freely. O how shall the law be satisfied, and the importunity of justice and faithfulness, that hath pronounced a sentence of death upon us, answered! Shall not the righteous law be a loser this way, if I be saved, and it not satisfied by obedience or suffering! How hard would it be to persuade a soul of free pardon, that sees such a severe sentence standing against it! But now there is no place for doubting. All is contrived for the encouragement and happiness of poor sinners, that we may come to him with full persuasion of his readiness and inclinableness to pardon, since Jesus Christ hath taken the law and justice of God off our head, and us off their hand, and since he hath reckoned with them, for what is due by us and paid it without us, -- then we have a clear way, and ready access to pardon, and to believe his readiness to pardon. And this is it which is holden out here, -- Christ condemning sin in the flesh, or punishing sin in his own flesh, giving a visible and sensible representation of the justice and righteousness of God in punishing sin, and that in his own flesh, offering up himself as the condemned sinner, and hanging up to the view of all the world, as an evident testimony of the justice and righteousness of God against sin, and by this means cutting off the very strength of sin, -- the law, by fulfilling it. In Christ's sufferings you may behold, as in a clear mirror, the hatred and displeasure of God against sin, the righteousness of God in punishing sin. Him hath God set forth to the world to be a propitiation, to declare the righteousness of God. Rom. iii.24, 25. In this crucified Lord, you may behold the sensible image and the most lively demonstration of holiness and righteousness. Christ's flesh bare the marks of both, -- holiness in hating sin, righteousness in punishing it, and both in his beloved and only begotten Son's person, -- in his flesh, and all for this purpose, that the law might be no loser by our salvation, "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us," &c.
This is that which Christ says, "I came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it," Matt. v.17, and which Paul seconds, "Is the law then made void by faith? God forbid, it is rather established," Rom. iii.31. The law and justice come better to their own, by our Cautioner than by us. There is no such way conceivable, to satisfy them fully, as this, whether you look to the commandment or the curse.
The commandment never got such satisfaction in any person, as in Christ's, he hath fulfilled it by obedience. "It becometh us" saith he "to fulfil all righteousness," (Matt. iii.15.) both moral and ceremonial, so that there was no guile found in his mouth, -- he knew no sin, he was holy and harmless. His Father's will was his soul's delight, -- "I delight to do thy will," Ps. xl.8. It was more to him than his necessary food, his meat and drink. There was so absolute a correspondency between his will and God's will, and between his way and his will, that it was not possible that any difference should fall between them. His obedience had more good in it (so to speak) than Adam's disobedience had evil in it, Rom. v.18, 19. Adam's disobedience was but the sin of a finite creature, but Christ's obedience was the work of an infinite person. I think there was more real worth in Christ's obedience to the commands, than in all the united service and obedience of men and angels. All the love, delight, fear, and obedience flowing from these -- take them in one bundle, as they will be extended and multiplied to all eternity, there is something in Christ's that elevates it above all, and puts a higher price upon it. The transcendent dignity of his person, -- his own Son "made under the law," (Gal. iv.4.) -- that is more worth than if all men and angels had been made under it. It had been no humiliation, but rather the exaltation of an angel, to be obedient to God. That subordination to a law, is the highest top of the creature's advancement. But he was such a person, as his obedience was a humbling himself. "He humbled himself, and became obedient, even to the death," Phil. ii.8, and though he was the Son of God yet he stooped to learn obedience, Heb. v.8. Now indeed the commandment comes to it better,(175) by this means, to have such a glorious person under it, than if it had poor naughty us under it, and that is fulfilled by him, when otherwise it would never have been done. I suppose that justice had exacted the punishment of us. As we could never have ended suffering to all eternity, so we would never have begun new obedience to the command to all eternity. Thus, except Christ had taken it off us, and us off its hand, it would never have been fulfilled, since it was first broken. Next, the curse of the law could not get fuller satisfaction than in Christ. I suppose it had fallen upon the sinner. There is not so much worth in the creatures extremest sufferings, as to compensate the infinite wrongs done to the holiness and righteousness of God. Therefore, what was wanting in the intrinsic value of the creature's suffering, behoved to be made up in the infinite extent of it, and eternal continuance of it upon the creature. Thus, there could never be a determined time assigned, in which the curse was fulfilled, and in which justice could say, -- hold, I have enough. It is as if a man were owing an infinite debt, and he could get nothing to defray it but poor petty sums, which being all conjoined, cannot amount to any proportion of it. Therefore, since he cannot get one sum in value equal to it, he must be eternally paying it in smalls, according to his capacity. And so, because the utmost farthing cannot be won at, he can never be released out of prison. But our Lord Jesus hath satisfied it to the full. He was a more substantial debtor, and because of the infinite dignity of his person, there was an intrinsic value upon his sufferings, proportioned unto the infiniteness of man's sin, so that he could pay all the debt in a short time which a sinner could but have done to all eternity. Now, you know, any man would rather choose such a cautioner, that can solidly satisfy him in gross, and pay all the sum at once, than such a principal, that because of his inability, cannot amount, to any considerable satisfaction in many years. And even so it is with the law and justice of God. They hold themselves better contented in Christ than in us, in his being "made a curse, than the falling of the curse on us," Gal. iii.13. And therefore God testifies it to poor sinners, "Deliver them, I have found a ransom," Job xxxiii.24, -- and that is the ransom which Christ gave, -- "his life -- for many," Matt. xx.28.
You see then, how this conclusion follows, "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us," he having fulfilled it, and satisfied it so fully, both by obedience to the commandment, and submission to the curse. It is all one in God's account, as if we had done it, because Christ was surety in our stead, and a common person representing us, and therefore his paying of the debt acquits us at the hand of justice, and whatsoever he did to fulfil all righteousness, that is accounted ours, because we were represented in him, and judicially one with him. And therefore, we were condemned when he was condemned, we were dead when he died, -- and so the righteousness of the law, in exacting a due punishment for sin, was fulfilled for us in him, and it is all one as if it had been personally in us. And this is laid down as the foundation of that blessed embassy or message of reconciliation to sinners, as that upon which God is in Christ reconciling and beseeching us to be reconciled, (2 Cor. v.19-21.) -- Him who knew no sin, hath he made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. You see the blessed exchange that he hath made with us, -- he hath laid our sins on sinless Christ, and laid Christ's righteousness on sinful us. Christ took our sins on him, that he might give us his righteousness, and by virtue of this transaction and communication, as it was righteous with God to condemn sin in Christ's flesh, because our sin was upon him, so it is as just with him to impute righteousness to us, because we were in him. And as the law made him a curse, and exacted the punishment of him, it is as righteous with the Lord to give us life and salvation, and to forgive sin, as John speaks, 1st Epistle i.9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins."
Now consider this my beloved, for it is propounded unto you as the greatest persuasive to move you to come to Jesus Christ, -- there is such a clear and plain way in him to salvation. If this do not move your hearts, I know not what will. I do not expect that your troubles in this world, -- the frequent lashes of judgment, the impoverishing and exhausting of you, the plucking away of those things you loved, the disquieting your peace so often, that any of those things that have the image of wrath upon them, can drive you to him, and make you forsake your way, when such a motive as this doth not prevail with you. O what heart could stand against the power of this persuasion, if it were but rightly apprehended! Who would not willingly fly into this city of refuge, if they did but know aright the avenger of blood that pursues them, and what safety is within? You are always imagining vain satisfactions to the law of God. How great weight doth your fancy impose upon your tears, your confessions, your reformations! If you can attain any thing of this kind, that is it which you give to satisfy justice, it is that wherewith you pretend to fulfil the law. But if it could be so, wherefore should God have sent his Son to condemn sin, and purchase righteousness by him? I beseech you, once know and consider your estate, that you may open your hearts to this Redeemer, that you may be willing to be stripped naked of all your imaginary righteousness, to put on this which will satisfy the law fully. Will you die in your sins, because you will not come to him to have life? Will you rather be condemned with sin, than saved with Christ's righteousness? And truly, there is no other altar that will preserve you but this. Now, if any, apprehending their own misery, be hardly pursued in their consciences by the law of God, I beseech you come hither and behold it satisfied and fulfilled. I beseech you in Christ's stead to be reconciled unto God, -- to lay down all hostile affections, and come to him, because God is in Christ reconciling the world, and not imputing their sins, because he hath imputed them already to Christ, "him who knew no sin," &c, and he is in Christ, imputing his righteousness to sinners.