Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | June 1, 2008

Lord’s Day Quote: John Owen

Fourthly, that cannot be assigned as the complete end of the death of Christ, which being accomplished it had not only been possible that not one soul might be saved, but also impossible that by virtue of it any sinful soul should be saved; for sure the Scripture is exceedingly full in declaring that through Christ we have remission of sins, grace, and glory (as afterward).  But now, notwithstanding this, that Christ is said to have procured and purchased by his death such a right and liberty to his Father, that he might bestow eternal life upon all upon what conditions he would, it might very well stand that not one of those should enjoy eternal life: for suppose the Father would not bestow it, as he is by no engagement, according to this persuasion, bound to do (he had a right to do it, it is true, but that which is any one’s right he may use or not use at his pleasure); again, suppose he had prescribed a condition of works which it had been impossible for them to fulfill; – the death of Christ might have had its full end, yet not one been saved.  Was this his coming to save sinners, to “save that which was lost?”; or could he, upon such an accomplishment as this, pray as he did “Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory” (John 17:24).  Divers other reasons might be used to evert this fancy, that would make the purchase of Christ, in respect to us, not be the remission of sins, but a possibility of it; not salvation, but a savability; not reconciliation and peace with God, but the opening of a door towards it; – but I shall use them in assinging the right end of the death of Christ…

…But to us it seemeth that Christ himself, with his death and passion, is the chief promise of the new covenant itself, as Gen 3:15; and so the covenant cannot be said to be procured by his death.  Besides, the nature of the covenant overthrows this proposal, that they that are covenanted withal shall have such and such good things if they fulfill that obedience itself, and the whole condition of it, is a promise of the covenant, (Jer 31:33), which is confirmed and sealed by the blood of Christ.  We deny not but that the death of Christ hath a proper end in respect of God, – to wit, the manifestation of his glory; whence he calls him “his servant, whom he will be glorified,” Isa 59:3.  And the bringing of many sons to glory, wherewith he has betrusted, was to the manifestation and praise of his glorious grace; that so his love to his elect might gloriously appear, his salvation being borne out by Christ to the utmost parts of the earth.  And this full declaration of his glory, by the way of mercy tempered with justice (For “he set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus,” Rom 3:25-26), is all that which accrued to the Lord by the death of his Son, and not any right and liberty of doing that which before he would have done, but could not for his justice.  In respect of us, the end of the oblation and blood-shedding of Jesus Christ was, not that God might if he would, but that he should, by virtue of that compact and covenant which was the foundation of the merit of Christ, bestow upon us all the good things which Christ aimed at and intended to purchase and procure by his offering of himself for us unto God; which is in the next place to be declared. 

John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ

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