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So his laying down his life had the nature of satisfaction to God's offended justice, considered as his bearing punishment in our stead: but considered as an act of obedience to God, who had given him this command, that he should lay down his life for sinners, it was a part of his righteousness and purchase, and as much the principal part of his righteousness as it was the principal part of his satisfaction. And to instance in his circumcision, what he suffered in it, had the nature of satisfaction: the blood that was shed therein was propitiatory blood; but as it was a conformity to the law of Moses, it was part of his meritorious righteousness. Though it was not properly the act of his human nature, he being an infant; yet the human nature being the subject of it, and being the act of his
person, accepted as an act of his obedience, as our Mediator. And even his being born in such a low condition, has the nature of satisfaction by reason of the humiliation that was in it; and of righteousness, as it was the act of his person in obedience to the Father, what the will of the human nature did acquiesce in, though there was no act of the will of the human nature prior to it.
III. Those things in particular by which the Purchase was made-Christ's Obedience and Righteous
I now proceed to consider the things that passed during the time of Christ's humiliation, and first, with respect to his obedience and righteousness And this is subject to a threefold distribution. I shall therefore consider his obedience with respect to the laws which he obeyed—the different stages of his life in which he performed it--and the virtues he exercised in his obedience.
I. The first distribution of the acts of Christ's righteousness is with respect to the laws he obeyed. But here it must be observed in general, that all the precepts which Christ obeyed may be reduced to one law, which the apostle calls the law of works. Rom. 3 : 27. Every command that Christ obeyed may be reduced to that great and everlasting law of God contained in the covenant of works, that eternal rule of right which God had established between himself and mankind. Christ came into the world to fulfill and answer the covenant of works, that is, the covenant that is to stand for ever as a rule of judgment. The covenant that we had broken, was the covenant that must be fulfilled.
This law of works indeed includes all the laws of God that ever have been given to mankind; for it is a general rule of the law of works, and indeed of the law of nature, that God is to be obeyed, and that he must be submitted to in whatever positive precept he is pleased to give. It is a rule of the law of works, that men should obey their earthly parents : and it is certainly as much a rule of the same law, that we should obey our heavenly Father; and so the law of works requires obedience to all the positive commands of God. It required Adam's obedience to that positive command, not to eat of the forbidden fruit; and it required obedience of the Jews to all the positive commands of their institution. When God commanded Jonah to arise and go to Nineveh, the law of works required him to obey; and so it required Christ's obedience to all the positive commands which God gave him.
But, more particularly, the commands of God which Christ obeyed, were of three kinds; they were such as he was subject to, either merely as man, or as he was a Jew, or purely as Mediator.
1. He obeyed those commands to which he was subject merely as man. These were the commands of the moral law, which was the same with that given at Mount Sinai, written in two tables of stone, which are obligatory on mankind of all nations and all ages of the world.
2. He obeyed all those laws to which he was subject as a Jew. Thus he was subject to the ceremonial law, and was conformed to it. He was conformed to it in his being circumcised the eighth day; and he strictly obeyed it in going up to Jerusalem to the temple three times a year: at least after he was come to the
which seems to have been the age when the males began to go up to the temple. And so Christ constantly attended the service of the temple, and of the synagogues.
To this head of his obedience may be reduced his submission to John's baptism. For it was a special command to the Jews, to go forth to John ihe Baptist, and be baptized of him; and therefore, when Christ came to be baptized of John, and John object-ed that he had more need to come to him to be baptized of him, he gives this reason for it, that it was needful that he should do it, that he might " fulfill all righteousness.” Matt. 3: 13-15.
3. Christ was subject to the mediatorial law ; or that which related purely to his mediatorial office. Such were the commands which the Father gave him to teach such doctrines, to preach the Gospel, to work such miracles, to call such disciples, to
appoint such ordinances, and finally to lay down his life: for he did all these things in obedience to the commands he had received of the Father, as he often tells us. John, 10:18; 14:31. These commands he was not subject to merely as man; for they did not belong to other men: nor yet was he subject to them as a Jew; for they were no part of the Mosaic law: but they were commands he had received of the Father, that purely respected his mediatorial office.
Christ's righteousness, by which he merited heaven for himself, and all who believe in him, consists principally in his obedience to this mediatorial law; for in fulfilling this law consisted his chief work and business in the world. The history of the evangelists is chiefly taken up in giving an account of his obedience to this law. This part of his obedience was attended with the greatest difficulty; and therefore his obedience in it was most meritorious. What Christ had to do in the world as Mediator, was infinitely more difficult than what he had to do merely as a man or as a Jew. To his obedience to this mediatorial law belongs his going through his last sufferings, beginning with his agony in the garden, and ending with his resurrection.
As the obedience of the first Adam, wherein his righteousness would have consisted, if he had stood, would have mainly consisted in his obedience to that special law to which he was subject as moral head and surety of mankind, even the command of abstaining from the tree of knowledge of good and evil; so the obedience of the second Adam, wherein his righteousness consists, lies mainly in his obedience to that special law to which he
was subject as Mediator and surety for man.
Before I proceed to the next distribution of Christ's righteousness, I would observe three things concerning his obedience to these laws.
1. His obedience to them was in every respect perfect. It was perfect with respect to the work commanded, and the principle from which he obeyed. It was perfect with respect to the ends he acted for; he never had any by-ends, but aimed perfectly at such as the law of God required. It was perfect with respect to the manner of performance; every circumstance of each act was perfectly conformed to the command. It was perfect with respect to the degree of the performance: he acted wholly up to the rule. It was perfect with respect to the constancy of obedience, without any interruption; and with respect to perseverance. He held out in perfect obedience to the very end, in all the changes he passed through, and all the trials that were before him.
The meritoriousness of Christ's obedience depends on the perfection of it. If it had failed in any instance, it could not have been meritorious; for imperfect obedience is not accepted as any obedience at all in the sight of the law of works, to which Christ was subject. That is not accepted as obedience to a law which does not fully answer it.
2. Christ's obedience was performed through the greatest trials and temptations. His obedience was attended with the greatest difficulties, and most extreme abasement; which was another thing that rendered it more meritorious and thank-worthy. To obey another when his commands are easy, is not so worthy, as to obey when it cannot be done without great difficulty.