THOUGHTS ON THE SURETYSHIP

OF CHRIST.

By Job Hupton

 

 

IT has pleased the Holy Ghost, that blessed Spirit of wisdom and revelation, who searches and makes known the deep things of God, in his condescending love to the sons of men, and in tender compassion to their many and great infirmities, to teach their weak arid ignorant minds the true nature and use of spiritual and divine things, by the use of similitudeís, taken from the works of nature and mundane affairs.

 

The immense, amazing thought, of the infinite, uncreated mind, in which the Supreme at once determined to glorify himself and devised all the multifarious and mysterious means by which he would complete his design, is represented to us under the figure of a human counsel: the gracious resolution of the Holy Trinity to save sinners, by means which perfectly accord with the supreme dignity of each divine person and perfection in the Godhead is exhibited under the emblem of a human covenant, in which the parties engaged, or covenantees, assume certain obligations therein specified, for the fulfillment of which they solemnly pledge themselves to each other, by affixing to it their hands and seals; and the part which the second person of the sacred Trinity has undertaken in this vast and astonishing affair, is presented to our view under the similitude of the engagement and acts of a surety. Now, as this similitude was chosen and employed by the Holy Spirit of infinite wisdom and understanding, to convey to our minds just ideas of the undertaking and work of Christ for elect sinners, and the glorious, immense, and eternal advantages to them thence resulting, we are warranted to consider it as well adapted to the benevolent design; and in our inquiries after the truth concerning the above all important things, to take it in our hands, as a clue, by the right use of which we cannot fail of obtaining the object we pursue.

 

A surety is a substitute, sponsor, or bondsman, who legally and voluntarily assumes, either singly or jointly, the obligation of another, which he binds himself; either wholly or in part, to perform. When surety-ship is employed in case of debt, there are three parties concerned; the creditor, the debtor, and the surety: if; in this ease, the surety gives to the creditor a single bond, in which he solely engages to fulfill the whole obligation of the debtor, on condition that the latter is released from the said obligation, and the creditor accepts this bond at the suretyís hand, he, by that very act, at once transfers the debt, from the debtor to the surety, and fully discharges the debtor from the obligation, and, of course, from all liability to pay so much as one mite of the debt. This is the true nature of human surety-ship in cases where the surety gives a single bond; and it is, doubtless, in allusion to this procedure in human affairs, that Jesus is called "the surety of a better testament." Heb.vii.22. By the better testament, it is evident, the holy apostle means the covenant of grace, into which the sacred Three most graciously entered before the foundation of the world was laid, and in which all things relating to the salvation of sinners, and the glory of each divine person and perfection in that stupendous work, were wisely and immutably determined in the infinite, eternal mind; for of the very same testament of which he is the mediator he is the surety, his surety-ship being a part of his Mediatonal office; but it is of the eternal covenant of grace that he is the mediator, Heb. viii. 6; therefore, of that covenant he is the surety. In that ancient and glorious compact, replete with wisdom and love, God the Father was in Christ reconciling the world of his elect unto himself; not imputing their trespasses unto them. Then it was that he laid help upon one that is mighty; "Jesus! Mighty to save!" It must; therefore, be for these that the last-named illustrious personage engaged his gracious word, to become the surety; for, without his surety ship, there could be neither reconciliation to God, nor help in him for any sinner on earth.

 

The sovereign decree to create the human species having passed the all-creating mind, in that decree every individual of human kind stood up, and stood perfect before the eye of Jehovah, known unto whom were all his works at the passing of his decrees, called "the beginning of his ways," before his creating operations, denominated "his works of old." Prov. viii. 22.

 

Upon a definite, but immense, number of the human race, he placed his peculiar and immutable love in his own Son, chose them in him, to be to himself a special treasure, and ordained them to everlasting glory, consisting of the open vision of his effulgent majesty, in the face of Christ, and communion with Himself~, his Son, and Spirit, and the highest possible enjoyment of his own and their infinite perfections and transcendent blessedness: Rom. ix.23; Eph.i.4; II Tim.ii. 19; Rev. xxi. 27; l; Eph. iii. 19; and all this he did merely of his goodwill and sovereign pleasure, he loved because he would love, and chose to glory because he loved.

 

Having purposed in himself to create all mankind, elect and non-elect, in one man, as their common root or head, in perfect moral holiness, to give them a law in him, perfectly congenial with their nature and his own infinite perfections, and to leave the first man to his own mutable will, to act as he should please for himself and his posterity, whom he should represent; he foresaw that he would fall by transgressing that law, and forfeit all that depended upon his obedience; namely, the life and happiness promised in the law, not those promised in the gospel, and plunge himself and them down deep into the abyss of guilt, condemnation, and ruin. Foreseeing his elect, still the objects of his infinite delight, sunk down in the general lapse, and deeply immersed in the common ruin, the God of all grace devised means to prevent their expulsion from him, and to raise them to their designated honour and happiness. It was utterly impossible that he, who is of one mind, and without variation or the shadow of a change, should either relinquish his design to beatify his people with himself or nullify his law, and give up the claims of his holiness and justice: the sovereign decree of his love must have its proper accomplishment, and all the elect must be glorified: the law must take its course without interruption, and the rights of divine holiness and justice must be maintained inviolate, the righteousness of the law must be fulfilled for the honour of the former attribute, and every sin must be punished with the utmost rigor for the satisfaction of the latter perfection of Deity.

In order to reconcile their jarring interests, and to satisfy these opposite claims, God the Father, in the counsel and covenant of peace, before any creature existed, otherwise than in his decree called his co-equal son, who lay in his bosom, and was the object of his infinite delight, to the stupendous work of salvation. This is, I think, clearly evinced in the following scriptures: "For I have said mercy shall be built up for ever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens: I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant: thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations: then thou spakest in vision to thy Holy One, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thy hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house. I am the Lord; that is my name, and my glory will I not give to another." Psi. lxxxix. 2, 3, 4, 19; Is. xlii. 6, 7,8.

As, in the above inspired language, the Son is represented as being inferior to the Father prior to his incarnation; yea, even in those eternal counsels in which the Father treated with him upon the momentous subject of our salvation, it may not be superfluous to observe, that the Father, in his eternal call and appointment of him to the high important office of Saviour, had particular regard to that first of all creatures in sublimity of rank and dignity, though not first in real existence, and the first begotten of his own sovereign, eternal, decretive thoughts, though not the first-born of his all creating power, the human nature, which was to be created, in the fullness of time, by the immediate agency of the Holy Ghost, of the real substance of the Virgin Mary, in union with the person of the Son, and in that union to be honoured with everlasting pre-eminence in all things; which nature he had, in the unalterable resolution of the divine mind, then assumed, so as really to sustain in the divine account, the personage and character of God-man, in all those eternal secret transactions of Deity, in which the grand mysterious plan of salvation was laid, and all the amazing means needful for its execution were devised, arranged, and determined.

Might I here, without giving offence, more fully express these thoughts, which I have long indulged upon this deep, mysterious subject, I would say, that although the humanity which God the Son assumed was not really created until some thousands of years of time had elapsed; yet God the Father having in eternity absolutely resolved to create it, and positively decreed that the Son should assume it; and the Son having then: really engaged to clothe himself with it, and become God-man, he must have stood in that character, both in his own and his Fatherís account, before time began, as much so as the elect, in consequence of Jehovahís decree to create them, and his choice of them to be his people, were eternally considered by him as his people. In eternity, prior to his first creating act, he determined that they should exist, and that they should exist as his people. Isaiah xliii. 21. Thus he gave them an eternal decretive existence in his own mind, and in that existence, long before they had any other, he viewed them, with infinite complacency and delight, as his people; nor are they more truly his people, nor more eminently the objects of his delight, as such, subsequent to their creation and regeneration, than they were before the birth of time, when they had no existence, but in his decree: this must be obvious to every enlightened and experienced mind that will take the trouble to consider, that it was not as brought into real existence by creating power, but as standing before him in his decree only, that he fixed them in Christ, as their head, by freely and immutably choosing them in him, entered into covenant with them, gave them all grace, and the promise of eternal life, and blessed them with all spiritual blessings in him before the foundation of the world was laid. In like manner he decreed, that the Son should array himself in human nature and exist as God-man, and by that means gave him an eternal decretive existence as such, and in that existence viewed him as God-man, as truly as he did when he was baptized in Jordan, or when he expired on the cross: it was as he stood in that peculiar character in the divine decree, that the Father appointed him to be head of the church, the Saviour of the body, and the grand repository of all the treasures of grace and glory, for the churchís aggrandizement and felicity; made with him the covenant of grace; invested him with all his offices; made him heir of all things; gave him that peculiar glory, for the possession and enjoyment of which he prayed just before his death; put all things into his hands; committed all judgment unto him, and gave him all power and dominion in heaven and in earth. These eternal acts of the divine will had all respect to him, considered as God-man complete: not God and a mere human spirit united; but God in personal union with man, consisting of both soul and body. His flesh, as well as his spirit, is a constituent part of his person; without it he would not be truly God and man, nor could he fill the Mediatonal office. In constituting him the Mediator, the Father must have had special respect to his whole human nature: all the divine counsels relating to human redemption have equal regard to his flesh and his spirit; and these two integral parts of his humanity are equally interested in the Mediatorial covenant, and alike concerned in the performance of each of its conditions. He is given by God the Father for a covenant of the people as God-man entire; and, as such, he sustains every federal relation to his father and his people, and performs every federal act: his obedience to the law; his sufferings for sin; his resurrection from the dead; his ascension into heaven; his intercession there, and his government of the church, must all be regarded as the joint acts of his body and soul, in personal union with his divine nature. Now, if, as some say, the real existence of the human soul of our Lord was necessary at the making of the covenant of grace, because it had to take a part in the fulfillment of his covenant engagements; for the very same reason it was requisite that his body too should then exist, as the latter was federary with the former in the fulfillment of the whole sacred stipulation.

Some of my readers, may, perhaps, be disposed to treat the above with lightness and contempt, as if it were fanciful and trivial; but let it be remembered, that the immense Being with whom we have to do is of infinite understanding; that with him there is neither beginning, succession, nor end; neither past nor future, but an eternal now; that with him there is neither new nor old; that he sees the end from the beginning, and calls those things which are not as though they were; and, therefore that all the operations of his power in the worlds of nature and of grace, are designed only to bring forward and display before his intelligent creatures, angels, and men, to his own eternal praise and their ineffable delight, the amazing conceptions of his boundless mind, in which every creature and every work was eternally present and eternally perfect; for if any thing could possibly be found which was either not present or not perfect in his eternal thought, his knowledge would not be perfect, his mind would not be infinite: nor could it, with truth, be said, that he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.

Let us now contemplate the person of Christ, God-man, as constituted, and, consequently, truly existing in the divine eternal decree. It is, doubtless, with reference to his complex character, decretively brought forth in the infinite mind, that the following inspired language is inserted in the sacred page, for his glory and our instruction. "We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory." "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth: when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled; before the hills was I brought forth: while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth; then I was by him, as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth, and my delights were with the sons of men." I Cor. ii. 7; Prov. viii. 22-31. That I have not misapplied this elevated language will appear to my readers, if they consider, that it is not a mere name nor power of Deity, but a real person bearing the title of Wisdom, that speaks in this lofty strain; that Wisdom is one of the names by which the incarnate God is made known by the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures of truth; that as God, abstractly considered, and without regard to his incarnation, he could neither be brought forth nor set up: because, as such, he possesses underived existence, and was eternally the Most High; that he was not incarnate from everlasting in any other sense than decretively, because his human nature was not created till a certain period of time specified in the divine page. Luke i. 1, 26.

This leads us to view him, whose goings forth were of old, from everlasting; God the Son, decretively incarnate, in his immense love to his Father, and his chosen people, engaging his heart to draw nigh unto the former in favour of the latter, to give up himself to him, to become their surety, to assume their characters, stand in their place, and answer for them, in all things essential to his honour, and their full emancipation, and immortal happiness. "Lo! I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me: I delight to do thy will, o my God! yea, thy law is within my heart," was his language when he came into the world, and clothed himself with our nature; and, it was no less his language, in those eternal transactions between him and the Father, relating to his future incarnation, obedience, and sufferings, for the glory of themselves and the: Holy Spirit, and for the salvation of the church; for all that he said and did in time was nothing but the counterpart of the councils of eternity; and, therefore, was, prior to his appearance upon earth, yea, from all eternity, to him who calls those things which are not as though they were, as if it had been really done: Christ is, therefore, called, "the Lamb slain, from the foundation of the world."

The covenant in which Christ engaged, and. was accepted of the Father, as the surety of his people, being ratified by the divine oath, he stood before the Father as the whole body of the elect, representing them in their characters as debtors, bound by the law, as creatures, to perform, as a condition of life and happiness, obedience to its precepts absolutely perfect; and, as transgressors, to suffer condign punishment for sin. In consequence of his voluntary engagement for them, their obligation to perform perfect obedience to the law, as a condition of life, and to suffer for non-performance, devolved entirely on him; and he stood bound to fulfill it in its full extent: indeed, it appears to me that he was no less bound to yield consummate obedience to all its precepts, on their account, than he would have been on his own, had be been a mere human creature; and, that he was as much liable to suffer the full weight of divine indignation due to their numerous and complicated crimes, as he could have been if he had perpetrated them all himself; just as the human surety, who has bound himself to discharge the debt of another, is as much liable to pay it, or suffer an arrest for it, as he could be, if he had really contracted it himself.

od the Father, as lawgiver and creditor, even from the early date of the covenant of his love, which is ordered in all things and sure, and is all our salvation and all our desire, really considered his Son as the fulfiller of his holy law, and the end of it for righteousness to all his people; as charged with every crime, which they commit, and truly responsible for all their guilt: the eyes of divine holiness and justice were always upon him, as the only person from whom they were to receive their due honour, resulting from the perfect fulfillment of the law and the punishment of sin.

Now, let the above be admitted as fact, and who that believes the immutability of the divine mind will dispute it, the natural and easy inference is, that God never, neither in time nor eternity, imputed t~ his people their sins; but always imputed to them the righteousness of Jesus, that with the eyes of his holiness and justice he never viewed them as guilty and unrighteous, but always considered them as innocent and righteous, and, therefore, that they never were in any sense liable to penal punishment for their iniquities.

It is, indeed, freely confessed that they all deserve the vengeance of eternal fire, as truly, and as much, as any who suffer it, the devils themselves not excepted; but then, to say that there ever was any thing like a possibility of their suffering it, which there must have been if ever they were liable to, or in danger of it, is, in my humble opinion, to deny the eternity of Christís surety-ship: or admitting the eternity of it, to call in question its validity and efficacy prior to his death; to make void the covenant and counsel of the Most High, as much as it is possible for words to make them void; to make it impossible to account for the salvation of any of those who died before he suffered; and to draw over some sublime portions of scripture a thick cloud of obscurity. For,

1. If there is a just analogy between human surety-ship, and the surety-ship of our Saviour, and who will say there is not, since the Holy Ghost, infinite in wisdom, has made use of the former as a true figure of the latter, the fact is as above stated: that when the Son, as the surety of his people, presented unto the Father his bond, in which he freely surrendered himself to suffer in their stead the full desert of their sins, and the Father accepted it at his hand, in that very instant their obligation, and with their obligation their liability to suffer for them, became entirely his; and, of course, they, by the gift and acceptance of the above bond, must have been completely exempted from both. It follows, therefore, that if the elect were ever liable to suffer the wrath of God for their sins, that at what time soever they were liable to suffer it, at that time Jesus could not have engaged as their surety to suffer it for them; and, consequently, if they were liable to suffer it until he suffered for them, as they must have been, if according to the sentiment of some, they were delivered from their liability to it by his death, it unavoidably follows, that he did not engage to be their surety till the time of his agonies; and so every just idea of the eternity of his suretyship vanishes. But is the eternity of it verbally acknowledged? Then

2. Where are the validity and efficacy of it prior to his death? And how did any of those transgressors who died before that event took place escape the damnation of hell? Were none of all the millions, who departed out of this world, during the 4000 years which elapsed anterior to his crucifixion saved? Surely thousands of thousands entered heaven. And on what ground did they enter it? It was not in consequence of their own works; for then, as now, by the deeds of the law no flesh living could be justified; not by the actual sufferings of Christ, for they had not then taken place; but by his eternal covenant engagement, as their surety, to suffer for them in the fullness of time: on this ground, and on this only they rose to immortal glory.

Now, if such of the elect as died antecedent to the death of the mediator, had, by means of his gracious undertaking, so complete an exemption from all liability to suffer the divine displeasure for their guilt, as to be exalted to heaven, and actually placed in the bosom of eternal love, can any solid reason be assigned, why the whole of that highly favored body should not, on the very same ground, have the very same exemption? Did not they all stand alike related to him as their surety? Did he not engage at once and alike for them all? How then can any man soberly think, that his engagement, simply considered, produced more and greater effects in favor of a part than of the whole of the elect? And how could one of them be in any sense liable to wrath, one moment after he became their surety? Or how does the removal of the liability of the elect to suffer the wrath of God by the death of Christ, accord with the efficacy of his surety-ship and the salvation of sinners prior to his death? As it militates with these, so

3. It is unfriendly to the covenant of grace, of which the Scriptures affirm, that it is ordered in all things and sure; and that it is all our salvation. Now, if it was ordered in all things, it most certainly includes in its nature and constitution, the non-imputation of sin to the elect, the imputation of it unto Christ, and the transference of all liability to suffer for it from them to him; and these all being immanent acts of the divine will, they must have been as complete at the instant they passed the eternal mind as ever they were or could be afterward, the natural consequence of which is, sin was never imputed to Godís people, but was always imputed to Christ; and, therefore, he was the only person liable to suffer for it. If in all the things in which it was ordered it was made sure, and if it contains all salvation, all the elect must have been eternally secured by it from all liability to wrath, when it was ratified by the joint oath of the Holy Trinity before time, as much so, as they were when Christ, in pursuance of his federal engagement, had suffered for them in the fullness of time. The sentiment objected to,

4. Obscures some glorious passages of Scripture. We read in the divine records, that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them;" "that Christ was made the surety of a better testament;" "that God hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel."