The blessed Inheritance purchased by the Oblation of Christ, being the second Effect or Fruit of his Priesthood
by John Flavel
But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Gal. 4: 4-5
This scripture gives us an account of a double fruit of Christ's death, viz. the payment of our debt, and the purchase of our inheritance.
1. The payment of our debt, expressed by our redemption, or buying us out from the obligation and curse of the law, which has been discoursed in the last exercise.
2. The purchase of an inheritance for those redeemed ones, expressed here by their receiving the adoption of sons, which is to be our present subject. Adoption is either civil, or divine. Of the first, the civil law gives this definition: that it is, "A lawful act, an imitation of nature, invented for the comfort of them that have no children of their own. Divine adoption is that special benefit whereby God, for Christ's sake, accepteth us as sons, and makes us heirs of eternal life with him." Betwixt this civil and sacred adoption, there is a twofold agreement, and disagreement. They agree in this, that both flow from the pleasure and good-will of the adoptant; and in this, that both confer a right to privileges, which we have not by nature: but in this they differ, one is an act imitating nature, the other transcends nature; the one was found out for the comfort of them that had no children; the other for the comfort of them that had no father. This divine adoption is, in scripture, either taken properly for that act or sentence of God, by which we are made sons, or for the privileges with which the adopted are invested: and so it is taken Rom. 8: 23, and in this scripture now before us. We lost our inheritance by the fall of Adam; we receive it, as the text speaks, by the death of Christ, which restores it again to us by a new and better title. The doctrine hence, is this,
Doct. That the death of Jesus Christ has not only satisfied for our debts, but over and above purchased a rich inheritance for the children of God.
"For this end, or cause, he is the Mediator of the New Testament; that, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first Testament, they which are called, might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance," Heb. 9: 15.
We will here, First, See what Christ paid. Secondly, What he purchased. Thirdly, For whom.
First, that Christ paid. Our divines comprise the virtue and fruits of the priesthood of Christ in these two things, viz. Solutio debiti, et acquisitio haereditatis, payment and purchase. Answerable, the obedience of Christ has a double relation, relatio legalis justitiae, the relation of a legal righteousness; and adequate and exactly proportioned price. And it has also in it ratio superlegalis meriti, the relation of a merit over and beyond the law.
To object (as some do) "the satisfaction of Christ was more than sufficient", according to our doctrine, "and therefore could not be intended, for the payment of our debt," is a senseless cavil. For surely, if Christ paid more than was owing, he must needs pay all that was owing to Divine Justice. And truly it is but a bad requital of the love of Jesus Christ, who, beside the payment of what he owed, would manifest his bounty by the redundancy of his merit, which he paid to God to purchase a blessed inheritance for us. This over plus of satisfaction (which was the price of that inheritance I am now to open) is not obscurely hinted, but plainly expressed twice in Rom. 5: 15. "But not as the offence, so also is the free gift: for if through the offence of one many be dead, 'pollo mallon', much more the grace of God, and the gift of grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, 'eperisseuse'" has abounded or flowed abundantly unto many." So ver. 17. "For if by one man's offence, death reigned by one, 'pollo mallon', much more they which receive 'ten perisseian', the overflowing, or abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." In both which places Christ and Adam are compared as the two roots or common heads of mankind, both agreeing in this property of communicating their conditions to those that are theirs; yet there is a great deal of difference betwixt them! for in Christ the power is all divine, and therefore infinitely more active and effectual: He communicates abundantly more to his, than they lost in Adam; so that his blood is not only sufficient to redeem all those that are actually redeemed by it, but even the whole world also. And were there so many worlds of men as there are men in the world, it would be sufficient for them also; and yet still there would be an over plus of value: for all those worlds of men would rise but to a finite bulk; but this blood is infinite in its worth and dignity. Since then there is not a whole world, no not half, but the far less part redeemed by the blood of Christ, which was sufficient for so many; great must be the surplusage and redundancy of merit? Here our divines rightly distinguish betwixt the substance and accidents of Christ's death and obedience. Consider Christ's suffering, as to the substance of it, it was no more than what the law required; for, neither the justice, nor love of the Father would permit that Christ should suffer more than what was necessary for him to bear, as our Surety; but, as to the circumstances, the person of the sufferer, the cause and efficacy of his sufferings, &c. it was much more than sufficient: a superlegale meritum, a merit above and beyond what the law required; for, though the law required the death of the sinner, who is but a poor contemptible creature, it did not require that one, perfectly innocent, should die, it did not require that God should shed his blood: it did not require blood of such value and worth as this was. I say, none of this the law required, though God was pleased, for the advancement and manifestation of his justice and mercy in the highest, to admit, and order this, by way of commutation, admitting him to be our 'antipsuchos', or ransomer, by dying for us. And, in(teed, it was a most gracious relaxation of the law, that admitted of such a commutation as this; for hereby it comes to pass, that justice is fully satisfied, and yet we live and are saved; which, before, was a thing that could not be imagined. Yea, now we are not only redeemed from wrath, by the adequate compensation made for our sins by Christ's blood and sufferings, substantially considered; but entitled to a most glorious inheritance, purchased by his blood, considered as the blood or an innocent, as the blood of God, and therefore as most excellent and efficacious blood, above what the law demanded. And this is the meaning of Athanasius, when he saith, "That Christ recompensed, or made amends for small things with great:" he means not, that sin, considered absolutely, and in itself, is small, O no, but compared with Christ's blood, and the infinite excellency and worth of it, it is so. And Chrysostom, to the same purpose, "Christ paid much more (saith he) than he owed and so much more, as the immense ocean is more than a small drop." So that it was rightly determined by holy Anselm: "No man (saith he) can pay to God what he owes him; Christ only paid more than he owed him." By this you see, how rich a treasure lies in Christ, to bestow in a purchase for us, above what he paid to redeem us; even as much as his soul and body were more worth than ours, for whom it was sacrificed; which is so great a sum, that all the angels in heaven, and men on earth, can never compute and sum up, so as to show us the total of it. And this was that inexhaustible treasure that Christ expended, to procure and purchase the fairest inheritance for believers. Having seen the treasure that purchased, let us next enquire into the inheritance purchased by it.
Secondly, This inheritance is so large, that it cannot be surveyed by creatures: nor can the boundaries and limits thereof be described, for it comprehends all things; 1 Cor. 3: 22. "All is yours, ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." Rev. 21: 7. "He that overcomes shall inherit all things". And yet I do not think, or say, that Dominium fundatur in gratia, that temporal dominion is founded in grace: no, that is at the cast and disposal of Providence. But Christ, by his death, has restored a right to all things to his people.
But, to be more particular, I shall distribute the saints inheritance, purchased by Christ, into three heads; all temporal good things, all spiritual good things, and all eternal good things are theirs.
1. All temporal good things. 1 Tim. 6: 7. "He hath given us all things richly to enjoy". Not that they have the possession, but the comfort and benefit of all things: others have the sting, gall, wormwood, baits and snares of the creature; saints only have the blessing and comfort of it. So that this little that a righteous man has, is (in this among other respects) better than the treasures of many wicked: which is the true key to open that dark saying of the apostle, 2 Cor. 6: 10. "As having nothing, and yet possessing all things." They only possess, others are possessed by the world. The saints utuntur mundi, et fruuntur Deo, "use the world, and enjoy God" in the use of it. Others are deceived, defiled, and destroyed by the world; but these are refreshed and furthered by it.
2. All spiritual good things are purchased by the blood of Christ for them; as Justification, which comprises remission of sins and acceptance of our persons by God: Rom. 3: 24. "Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ." Sanctification is also purchased for them; yea, both initial and progressive sanctification: for of "God, he is made unto us, not only wisdom and righteousness, but sanctification also," 1 Cor. 1: 30. These two, viz. our justification and sanctification, are two of the most rich and shining robes in the wardrobe of free grace. How glorious and lovely do they render the soul that wears them! These are like the bracelets, and jewels Isaac sent to Rebecca. Adoption into the family of God is purchased for us by his blood; "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ," Gal. 3: 26. Christ, as he is the Son, is haeres natus,, "the heir by nature;" as he is Mediator, he is haeres constitutus, "the heir by appointment," appointed heir of all things, as it is, Heb. 1: 2. By the Sonship of Christ, we being united to him by faith, become sons; and if sons, then heirs. "O what manner of love is this, that we should be called the sons of God", 1 John 3: 1. That a poor beggar should be made an heir, yea, an heir of God, and joint heir with Christ! Yea, that very faith, which is the bond of union, and consequently, the ground of all our communion with Christ, is the purchase of his blood also: 2 Pet. 1: 1. "To them that have "obtained like precious faith with us, through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." This most precious grace is the dear purchase of our Lord Jesus Christ; yea, all that peace, joy, and spiritual comfort, which are sweet fruits of faith, are with it purchased for us by this blood. So speaks the apostle in Rom. 5: 1, 2, 3. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ," &c. Moreover the Spirit himself, who is the author, fountain, and spring of all graces and comforts, is procured for us by his death and resurrection: Gal. 3: 13, 14. "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." That Spirit that first sanctified, and since has so often sealed, comforted, directed, resolved, guided, and quickened your souls, had not come to perform any of these blessed offices upon your hearts, if Christ had not died.
3. All eternal good things are the purchase of his blood. Heaven, and all the glory thereof is purchased for you that are believers, with this price. Hence that glory, whatever it be, is called "an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you": To the lively hope whereof you are begotten again, "by the resurrection of Christ from the dead," 1 Pet. 1: 3, 4. Not only present mercies are purchased for us, but things to come also, as it is, 1 Cor. 3: 22. Man is a prudent and prospecting creature, and is not satisfied that it is well with him for the present, unless he have some assurance it shall be well with him for time to come. His mind is taken up about what shall be hereafter; and from the good or evil things to come, he raiseth up to himself vast hopes or fears.
Therefore to complete our happiness, and fill up the uttermost capacity of our souls, all the good of eternity is put into the account and inventory of the saints estate and inheritance. This happiness is ineffably; it is usually distinguished into what is essential, and what is accessory to it. The essentials of it, as far as we in our embodied state can conceive, is either the objective, subjective, or formal happiness to be enjoyed in heaven. The objective happiness is God himself, Psal. 73: 25. "Whom have I in heaven but thee?" If it could be supposed (saith one) that God should withdraw from the saints in heaven, and say, Take heaven, and divide it among you; but as for me, I will withdraw from you; the saints would fall a weeping in heaven, and say, Lord, take heaven, and give it to whom thou wilt; it is no heaven to us, except thou be there: Heaven would be very Bochim to the saints without God. In this, our glory in heaven consists, to be ever with the Lord, 1 Thess. 4: 17. God himself is the chief part of a saint's inheritance; in which sense, as some will understand, Rom. 8: 1. they are called heirs of God.
The subjective glory and happiness is the attemperation and suiting of the soul and body to God. This is begun in sanctification, and perfected in glorification. It consists in removing from both all that is indecent, and inconsistent with a state of such complete glory and happiness, and in superinducting and clothing it with all heavenly qualities.
The immunities of the body are its freedom from all nature infirmities; which as they come in, so they go out with sin. Thenceforth there shall be no diseases, deformities, pains, flaws, monstrosities; their good physician death has cured all this, and their vile bodies shall be made like unto Christ's glorious body, Phil. 3: 21. and be made a spiritual body, 1 Cor. 15: 44. For agility, like the chariots of Aminadab; for beauty, as the top of Lebanon; for incorruptibility, as if they were pure spirits. The soul also is discharged and freed from all darkness and ignorance of mind, being now able to discern all truths in God, that crystal ocean of truth. The leaks of the memory stopt for ever; the roving of the fancy perfectly cured; the stubbornness and reluctance of the will for ever subdued, and retained in due and full subjection to God. So that the saints in glory shall be free from all that now troubles them; they shall never sin more nor be once tempted so to do, for no serpent hisses in that paradise; they shall never grieve nor groan more, for God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. They shall never be troubled more, for God will then recompense tribulation to their troublers, and to them that are troubled, rest; they shall never doubt more, for fruition excludes doubting.
The formal happiness is the fulness of satisfaction resulting from the blessed sight and enjoyment of God, by a soul so attempered to him, Psal. 17: 15. "When I awake I shall be satisfied with thy likeness." This sight of God, in glory, called the beatifical vision, must needs yield ineffable satisfaction to the beholding soul, inasmuch as it will be an intuitive vision. The intellectual or mental eye shall see God, 1 John 3: 2. The corporeal glorified eye shall see Christ, Job 19: 26, 27. What a ravishing vision will this be! and how much will it exceed all reports and apprehensions we had here of it! Surely one half was not told us. It will be a transformative vision, it will change the beholder into its own image and likeness. "We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is," 1 John 3: 2. As iron put into the fire, becomes all fiery; so the soul, by conversing with God, is changed into his very similitude. It will be an appropriative vision; "Whom I shall see for myself," Job 19: 26, 27. In heaven interest is clear and undoubted, fear is cast out: no need of marks and signs there; for what a man sees and enjoys, how can he doubt of? It will be a ravishing vision; these we have by faith are so, how much more those in glory? How was Paul transported, when he was in a visional way wrapt up into the third heaven, and heard the unutterable things, though he was not admitted into the blessed society, but was with them, as the angels are in our assemblies, a stander by, a looker-on. If a spark do so inflame, what is it to lie down like a Phoenix in her bed of spices! Like a Salamander to live and move in the fire of love! It will also be an eternal vision; vacabimus et videbimus, (as Augustinus said) we shall then be at leisure for this employment, and have no diversions from it for ever. No evening is mentioned to the seventh day's sabbath; no night in the new Jerusalem. And therefore,
Lastly, It will be a fully satisfying vision: God will then be all in all, Etiam ipsa curiositas satietur, "Curiosity itself will be satisfied." The blessed soul will feel itself blessed, filled, satisfied in every part. Ah, what a happiness is here! to look and love, is drink and sing, and drink again at the fountain head of the highest glory! And if at any time its eye be turned from a direct to a reflex sight upon what it once was, how it was wrought on, how fitted for his glory, how wonderfully distinguished by special grace from them that are howling in flames, whilst himself is shouting aloud upon his bed of everlasting rest; and this will enhance the glory.
And so also will the accessories of this blessedness be; The place where God is enjoyed, the empyrean heaven, the city of God, whither Christ ascended, where the great assembly are met. Paradise and Canaan were but the types of it; more excelling and transcending the royal palaces or earthly princes, than they do a pigeon-hole. The company also with whom he is enjoyed, adds to the glory. A blissful society indeed! store of good neighbours in that city. There we shall have familiar converse with angels, whose appearances now are insupportable by poor mortals. There will be sweet and full closings also betwixt the saints; Luther and Zwinglius are there agreed. Here they could not fully close with one another, and no wonder, for they could not fully close with themselves. But there is perfect harmony and unity; all meeting and closing in God, as lines in the centre. This is a blessed glimpse of your inheritance. Thirdly, All this is purchased for believers: hence it is called, "the inheritance of the saints in light," Col. 1: 12. "All is yours, for ye are Christ's," that is the tenure, 1 Cor. 3: 23. So Rom. 8: 30. "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified." Only those that are sons, are heirs, Rom. 8: 17. The unrighteous shall not inherit, 1 Cor. 6: 9. "It is the Father's good pleasure, to give the kingdom to the little flock," Luke 12: 32.
Inf. 1. Has Christ not only redeemed you from wrath, but purchased such an eternal inheritance also by the overplus of his merit for you? O how well content should believers then be with their lot of providence in this life, be it what it will! Content did I say? I speak too low; overcome, ravished, filled with praises and thanksgivings; how low, how poor, how afflicted soever for the present they are. O let not such things as grumbling, repining, fretting at providence, be found, or once named among the expectants of this inheritance! Suppose you had taken a beggar from your door, and adopted him to be your son, and made him heir of a large inheritance, and after this he should contest and quarrel with you for a trifle; could you bear it? How to work the spirit of a saint into contentment with a low condition here, I have laid down several rules in another discourse, to which, for the present I refer the reader.
Infer. 2. With what weaned affections should the people of God walk up and down this world, content to live, and willing to die? For things present are theirs if they live, and things to come are theirs if they die. Paul expresses himself in a frame of holy indifference, Phil. 1: 23 "Which to chose I know not." Many of them that are now in fruition of their inheritance above, had vitam in patientia, mortem in desiderio, "Life in patience, and death in desire," while they tabernacled with us. "O (cried one) what would I give to have a bed made to my wearied soul in Christ's bosom? " - I cannot tell you what sweet pain and delightful torments are in his love; I often challenge time for holding us asunder; I profess to you, I have no rest till I be over head and ears in love's ocean. If Christ's love (that fountain of delights) were laid open to me as I would wish, O how overcome would this my soul be! I half call his absence cruel; and the mask and vail on his face a cruel covering, that hideth such a fair, fair face from a sick soul. I dare not challenge himself, but his absence is a mountain of iron upon my heavy heart. O when shall we meet! How long is the dawning of the marriage-day! O sweet Lord Jesus, take wide steps! O my Lord, come over mountains at one stride! O my beloved, flee like a roe, or young hart upon the mountains of separation! O if he would fold the heavens together like an old cloak, and shovel time and days out of the way, and make really in haste the Lamb's wife for her husband! Since he looked upon me, my heart is not mine own." Who can be blamed for desiring to see that fair inheritance which is purchased for him! But, truly, should God hold up the soul by the power of faith, from day to day, to such sights as these, who would be content to live a day more on earth! How should we be ready to pull down the prison walls, and not have patience to wait till God open the door! As the Heathen said, "Victurosque dii celant, ut vivere durent." And truly the wisdom of God is in this specially remarkable, in giving the new creature such an admirable crisis, and even temper, as that scripture, 2 Thess. 3: 5. expresses, "The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and patient waiting for Christ." Love inflames with desire, patience allays that fervour. So that fervent desires (as one happily expresses it) are allayed with meek submission; mighty love with strong patience. And had not God twisted together these two principles in the Christian's constitution, he had framed a creature to be a torment to itself, to live upon a very rack.
Inf. 3. Hence we infer the impossibility of their salvation that know not Christ, nor have interest in his blood. Neither Athens, nor merely nominal Christians, can inherit heaven. I know some are very indulgent to the Heathen, and many formal Christians are too much so to themselves: but union by faith with Jesus Christ, is the only way revealed in scripture, by which we hope to come to the heavenly inheritance. I know it seems hard, that such brave men, as some of the Heathens were, should be damned: but the scripture knows no other way to glory, but Christ put on, and applied by faith. And it is the common suffrage of modern sound divines, that no man, by the sole conduct of nature, without the knowledge of Christ, can be saved. There is but one way to glory for all the world, John 14: 6. "No man cometh to the Father but by me." Gal. 3: 14. "The blessing of Abraham comes upon the Gentiles through faith." Scripture asserts the impossibility of being or doing, any thing that is truly evangelically good, out of Christ, John 15: 5. "Without me ye can do nothing." And Heb. 11: 6. "Without faith it is impossible to please God."
Scripture every where connects and chains salvation with vocation, Rom. 8: 30. and vocation with the gospel, Rom. 10: 14. To those that plead for the salvation of Heathens, and profane Christians. we may apply that tart rebuke of Bernard, that while some labour to make Plato a Christian, he feared they therein did prove themselves to be Heathens.
Inf. 4. How greatly are we all concerned to clear up our title to the heavenly inheritance! It is horrible to see how industrious many are for an inheritance on earth, and how careless for heaven. By which we may plainly see how vilely the noble soul is depressed by sin, and sunk down into flesh, minding only the concernments of the flesh. Hear me, ye that labour for the world, as if heaven were in it; what will ye do when at death you shall look back over your shoulder, and see what you have spent your time and strength for, shrinking and vanishing away from you? When you shall look forward, and see vast eternity opening its mouth to swallow you up; O then what would you give for a well-grounded assurance of an eternal inheritance!
O, therefore if you have any concernment for your poor souls; if it be not indifferent to you what becomes of them, whether they be saved, or whether they be damned, "give all diligence to make your calling and election sure," 2 Pet. 1: 10. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his own good pleasure," Phil. 2: 12. Remember it is salvation you work for, and that is no trifle. Remember, it is your own salvation, and not another's. It is for thy own poor soul that thou art striving; and what hast thou more? Remember, now God offers you his helping hand; now the Spirit waits upon you in the means, but of the continuance thereof you have no assurance; for it is of his own good pleasure, and not at yours. To your work, souls, to your work. Ah, strive as men that know what an inheritance in heaven is worth.
And, as for you that have solid evidence that it is yours; O, that with hands and eyes lifted up to heaven, you would adore that free grace, that has entitled a child of wrath to a heavenly inheritance! Walk as becomes heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. Be often looking heavenward when wants pinch here. O look to that fair estate you have reserved in heaven for you, and say, I am hastening home; and when I come thither, all my grants shall be supplied. Consider what it cost Christ to purchase it for thee; and with a deep sense of what he has laid out for thee, let thy soul say,
Blessed be God for Jesus Christ.
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