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The Acts of the Will of the human Soul of Jesus Christ necessarily holy, yet truly
virtuous, praiseworthy, rewardable, &c.
I Have already considered how Dr. Whitby insists upon it, that a freedom, not only from coaction, but necessity, is requisite either to virtue or vice, praise or dispraise, reward or punishment. He also insists on the same freedom as absolutely requisite to a person's being the subject of a law, of precepts or prohibitions ; in the book before mentioned, (p. 301, 314, 328, 339, 340, 341, 342, 347, 361, 373, 410.) And of promises and threatenings, (p. 298, 301, 305, 311, 339, 340, 363.) And as requisite to a state of trial, (p. 297, &c.)
Now therefore, with an eye to these things, I would inquire into the moral conduct and practice of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he exhibited in his human nature here, in his state of humiliation. And first, I would show, that his holy behavior was necessary; or that it was impossible it should be otherwise, than that he should behave himself holily, and that he should be perfectly holy in each individual act of his life. And secondly, that his holy behavior was properly of the nature of virtue and was worthy of praise ; and that he was the subject of law, precepts or commands, promises and rewards ; and that he was in a state of trial.
1. It was impossible, that the acts of the Will of the human soul of Christ should, in any instance, degree or circumstance, be otherwise than holy, and agreeable to God's nature and will. The following things make this evident. 1. God had promised so effectually to preserve and uphold Him by his Spirit
, under all his temptations, that he could not fail of reaching the end for which he came into the world ; which he would have failed of, had he fallen into sin. We have such a promise, Isa. xlii. 1, 2, 3, 4, “ Behold my Servant, whom I uphold ; mine Elect
, in whom my soul delighteth : I have put my Spirit upon him : He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles : He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. He shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He have
set judgment in the earth ; and the isles shall wait for his law.” This promise of Christ's having God's Spirit put upon Him, and his not crying and lifting up his voice, &c., relates to the time of Christ's appearance on earth; as is manifest from the nature of the promise, and also the application of it in the New Testament, Matthew xii. 18. And the words imply a promise of his being so upheld by God's Spirit
, that he should be preserved from sin ; particularly from pride and vainglory, and from being overcome by any of the temptations he should be under to affect the glory of this world, the pomp of an earthly prince, or the applause and praise of men : and that he should be so upheld, that he should by no means fail of obtaining the end of his coming into the world, of bringing forth judgment unto victory, and establishing his kingdom of grace in the earth. And in the following verses, this promise is confirmed, with the greatest imaginable solemnity. “Thus saith the LORD, HE that created the heavens, and stretched them out: He that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it : He that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein : I the Lord have called Thee in righteousness, and will hold thine 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 Jehovah, that is my name," &c.
Very parallel with these promises is that, Isa. xlix. 7, 8, 9, which also has an apparent respect to the time of Christ's humiliation on earth. “ Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers ; kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship ; because of the Lord that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose Thee. Thus saith the Lord, in an acceptable time have I heard Thee; in a day of salvation have I helped Thee ; and I will preserve Thee, and give Thee for a covenant of the poople, to establish the earth," &c.
And in Isa. l. 5—9, we have the Messiah expressing his assurance, that God would help Him, by so opening his ear, or inclining his heart to God's commandments that He should not be rebellious, but should persevere, and not apostatize, or turn his back; that through God's help, He should be immovable, in a way of obedience, under the great trials of reproach and suffering he should meet with ; setting his face like a flint : so that he knew, he should not be ashamed, or frustrated in his design, and finally should be approved and justified, as having done his work faithfully. “The Lord hath opened mine ear; so that I was not rebellious, neither turned away my back: I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair ; I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore have I set my face as a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifieth me : who will contend with me? Let us stand together. Who is mine adversary ? Let him come near to me. Behold the Lord God will help me ; who is he that shall condemn me ? Lo, they shall all wax old as a garment, the inoth shall eat them up.”
2. The same thing is evident from all the promises which God made to the Messiah, of his future glory, kingdom and success, in his office and character of a Mediator : which glory could not have been obtained, if his holiness had failed, and he had been guilty of sin. God's absolute promise of any thing, makes the things promised necessary, and their failing to take place absolutely impossible : and, in like manner, it makes those things necessary, on which the things promised depend, and without which they cannot take effect. Therefore it appears, that it was utterly impossible that Christ's holiness should fail, from such absolute promises as those, Psal. cx. 4, “ The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a Priest forever, after the order of Melchizedeck.” And from every other promise in that psalm, contained in each verse of it. And Psal. i. 7, 8, "I will declare the decree : the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee : ask of me, and I will give Thee the Heathen for thine inheritance, &c." Psal. xlv. 3, 4, &c., Gird thy sword on thy thigh, 0 most Mighty
, with thy Glory and thy Majesty; and in thy Majesty ride prosperously." And so every thing that is said from thence to the end of the psalm. And those promises, Isa. lii. 13, 14, 15, and liii. 10, 11, 12. And all those promises which God makes to the Messiah, of success, dominion and glory in the character of Redeemer, in Isa. chap. xlix.
3. It was often promised to the Church of God of old, for their comfort, that God would give them a righteous, sinless Saviour. Jer. xxiii. 5, 6, “ Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I wil} raise up unto David a righteous Branch and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days shall Judah be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely. And this is the name whereby He shall be called, the Lord our Righteousness.” So,
Jer. xxxiii. 15, “ I will cause the Branch of Righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.” Isa. ix 6, 7, “ For unto us a child is born ; upon the throne of David and upon
his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and justice, from henceforth, even forever : the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this." Chap. xi. at the beginning, “ There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots; and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him—the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord :-- with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity :—Righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins." Chap. lii. 13,“ My servant shall deal prudently." Chap. liii
. 9, “ Because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” If it be impossible that these promises should fail, and it be easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one jot or tittle of these promises of God to pass away, then it was impossible that Christ should commit any sin. Christ himself signified, that it was impossible but that the things which were spoken concerning Him, should be fulfilled. Luke xxiv. 44, “That all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Me." “ Matth. xxvi. 54, " But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be ?" Mark. xiv. 49, “ But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” And so the apostle, Acts i. 16, " This Scripture must needs have been fulfilled.”
4. All the promises, which were made to the Church of old, of the Messiah as a future Saviour, from that made to our first parents in paradise, to that which was delivered by the prophet Malachi, show it to be impossible that Christ should not have persevered in perfect holiness. The ancient predictions given to God's church of the Messiah as a Saviour, were of the nature of promises ; as is evident by the predictions themselves, and the manner of delivering them. But they are expressly, and very often called promises in the New Testament ; as in Luke i. 54, 55, 72, 73, Acts xii. 32, 33, Rom. i. 1, 2, 3, and chap. xv. 8, Heb. vi. 13, &c. These promises were often made with great solemnity, and confirmed with an oath ; as in Gen. xxii. 16, 17, 18, “ By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, that in blessing, I will bless thee, and in multiplying, I will multiply thy seed, as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore. --And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed."* Compare Luke i. 72, 73, and Gal. iii. 8, 15, 16. The apostle in Heb. vi. 17, 18, speaking of this promise to Abraham, says, “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show to the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two IMMUTABLE things, in which it was IMPOSSIBLE for God to lie, we might have strong consolation.”-In which words, the necessity of the accomplishment, or (which is the same thing) the impossibility of the contrary, is fully declared. So God confirmed the promise of the great salvation of the Messiah, made to David, by an oath ; Psal. lxxxix. 3, 4, “I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant ; thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations.” There is nothing that is so abundantly set forth in Scripture, as sure and irrefragable, as this promise and oath to David. See Psalm lxxxix. 34, 35, 36, 2 Sam. xxiii. 5, Isa. lv. 3, Acts ii. 29, 30, and xiii. 34. The Scripture expressly speaks of it as utterly impossible that this promise and oath to David, concerning the everlasting dominion of the Messiah of his seed, should fail. Jer. xxxiii. 15, &c., “In those days, and at that time, I will cause the Branch of Righteousness to grow up unto David. For thus saith the Lord, David shall never want a Man to sit upon the throne of the House of Israel.” Ver. 20, 21, “ If you can break my covenant of the day,
and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their
covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne.” So in verse 25, 26.— Thus abundant is the Scripture in representing how impossible it was, that the promises made of old concerning the great salvation and kingdom of the Messiah should fail ; which implies, that it was impossible that this Messiah, the second Adam, the promised seed of Abraham, and of David, should fall from his integrity, as the first Adam did.
5. All the promises that were made to the church of God under the Old Testament, of the great enlargement of the church, and advancement of her glory, in the days of the gospel, after the coming of the Messiah; the increase of her light, liberty, holiness, joy, triumph over her enemies, &c., of which so great a part of the Old Testament consists ; which are repeated so often, are so variously exhibited, so frequently introduced with great pomp and solemnity, and are so abundantly sealed with typical and symbolical representations: I say, all these promises imply, that the Messiah should perfect the work of redemption; and this implies, that he should persevere in the work, which the Father had appointed him, being in all things conformed to his Will. These promises were often confirmed by an oath. (See Isa. liv. 9, with the context; chap. lxii. 8.) And it is represented as utterly impossible that these promises should fail. (Isa. xlix. 15, with the context ; chap. liv. 10, with the context ; chap. li. 4-8; chap. xl. 8, with the context.) And therefore it was impossible that the Messiah should fail, or commit sin.
6. It was impossible that the Messiah should fail of persevering in integrity and holiness, as the first Adam did, because this would have been inconsistent with the promises, which God made to the blessed Virgin, his mother, and to her husband ; iinplying, that He should save his people from their sins, that God would
give him the throne of his Father David, that He should reign over the house of Jacob forever ; and that of his kingdom there should be no end. These promises were sure, and it was impossible they should fail.–And therefore the Virgin Mary, in trusting fully to them, acted reasonably, having an immovable foundation of her faith; as Elizabeth observes, Luke i. 45, “And blessed is she that believeth ; for there shall be a performance of those things, which were told her from the Lord.”
7. That it should have been possible that Christ should sin, and so fail in the work of our redemption, does not consist with the eternal purpose and decree of God, revealed in the Scriptures, that He would provide salvation for fallen man in and by Jesus Christ, and that salvation should be offered to sinners through the preaching of the gospel
. Such an absolute decree as this, Arminians do not deny.--Thus much at least (out of all controversy) is implied in such Scriptures, as I Cor. ii. 7, Eph. i. 4, 5, and chap. iii
. 9, 10, 11, 1 Pet. i. 19, 20. - Such an absolute decree as this, Arminians allow to be signified in these texts. And the Arminians' election of nations and societies, and general election of the Christian Church, and conditional election of particular persons, imply this God could not decree before the foundation of the world, to save all that should believe in, and obey Christ, unless he had absolutely decreed, that salvation should be provided, and effectually wrought out by Christ. And since (as the Arminians themselves strenuously maintain) a decree of God infers necessity ; hence it becarne necessary, that Christ should persevere, and actually work out salvation for us, and that he should not fail by the commission of sin.
8. That it should have been possible for Christ's holiness to fail, is not consistent with what God promised to his Son, before all ages. For, that salvation Vol II
should be offered to men through Christ, and bestowed on all his faithful followers, is what is at least implied in that certain and infallible promise spoken of by the apostle, Tit. i. 2, “ In hope of eternal life; which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” This does not seem to be controverted by Arminians.*
9. That it should be possible for Christ to fail of doing his Father's Will, is inconsistent with the promise made to the Father by the Son, by the Logos that was with the Father from the beginning, before he took the human nature: as may be seen in Psal. xl. 6, 7, 8 (compared with the Apostle's interpretation, Heb. X. 5—9), “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened (or bored \; burnt-offering and sin-offering thou hast not required. Then said 1, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy Will, O my God, and thy law is within my heart.” Where is a manifest allusion to the covenant, which the willing servant, who loved his master's service, made with his master, to be his servant forever, on the day wherein he had his ear bored; which covenant was probably inserted in the public records, called the Volume of the Book, by the judges, who were called to take cognizance of the transaction ; Exod. xxi. If the Logos, who was with the Father, before the world, and who made the world, thus engaged in covenant to do the Will of the Father in the human nature, and the promise was as it were recorded, that it might be made sure, doubtless it was impossible that it should fail; and so it was impossible that Christ should fail of doing the Will of the Father in the human nature.
10. If it was possible for Christ to have failed of doing the Will of his Father, and so to have failed of effectually working out redemption for sinners
, then the salvation of all the saints, who were saved from the beginning of the world, to the death of Christ, was not built on a firm foundation. The Messiah, and the redemption which he was to work out by his obedience unto death, was the foundation of the salvation of all the posterity of fallen man, that ever were saved. Therefore, if when the Old Testament saints had the pardon of their sins, and the favor of God promised them, and salvation bestowed upon them, still it was possible that the Messiah, when he came, might commit sin, then all this was on a foundation that was not firm and stable, but liable to fail; something which it was possible might never be. God did as it were trust to what his Son had engaged and promised to do in future time; and depended so much upon it, that He proceeded actually to save men on the account of it, as though it had been already done. But this trust and dependence of God, on the supposition of Christ's being liable to fail of doing his Will, was leaning on a staff that was weak, and might possibly break.-The saints of old trusted in the promises of a future redemption to be wrought out and completed by the Messiah, and built their comfort upon it: Abraham saw Christ's day and rejoiced; and he and the other Patriarchs died in the faith of the promise of it.--(Heb. xi. 13.) But on this supposition, their faith and their comfort
, and their salvation, was built on a movable, fallible foundation ; Christ was not to them a tried stone, a sure foundation: as in Isa. xxviii. 16. David entirely rested on the covenant of God with him, concerning the future glorious dominion and salvation of the Messiah, of his seed; and says it was all his salvation, and all his desire: and comforts himself that this covenant was an “ everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure,” 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. But if Christ's virtue might fail, he was mistaken: His great comfort was not built so sure as he thought it was, being founded entirely on the determinations of
* See Dr. Whitby on the Five Points, p. 48, 49, 50.