Some think that, somehow, the Lord Jesus must have suffered infinitely, and that, by consequence, there must be an infinite merit arising from his sufferings, but on what grounds does not seem very clear. Some say he suffered infinity at a stroke, and eternity in a moment. Perhaps the rhetoric of this saying is felt to be so very fine that its logic may be taken for granted. On the other hand, there are others who, with no little philosophic lore and with much plausibleness, have laboured to show that there was no measure in the sufferings of Christ having a direct relation to a definite cause of those sufferings, and to a definite design to be brought to pass by them; and they have taken occasion to speak with no little contempt of any such measure as an arithmetical calculation, and of the arithmetical calculation as a pitiful trifling. About an infiniteness in the sufferings of Christ in the discharge of his responsibility, and an infinite merit arising therefrom, it will be unnecessary to say anything. If we tell those who contend so warmly for these infinitenesses that the term infinite represents a positive, inherent, essential, and intransferable quality, it will, it may be feared, set nothing right in their minds. We must leave them amidst their infinities. Such things are too wonderful for us. But about the measure of the sufferings of Christ for a definite cause and a definite end, it will be proper, speaking, as we are, of the discharge of his responsibility, to say a word.

We that say the suffering obedience of Christ was a measured obedience in discharge of a measured responsibility undertaken for the accomplishment of a measured purpose. We say that the purpose was measured by Divine sovereignty, and that the suffering obedience requisite to accomplish the purpose was measured by Divine justice; and we say this in the clear view of the unsearchably mysterious conclusions legitimately following the doctrine taught. If these conclusions create difficulties which utterly baffle human thought, they are not a whit more baffling than are a multitude of facts in this world which are patent to all, and which wholly refuse satisfactorily to accommodate themselves in the human mind to any apologetic principle yet discovered by human ingenuity. What, however, we know not now, we shall know hereafter. Where it is so wholly necessary to live by faith on so many other matters, blessed be God for faith enough to live by on this momentous matter!

That measure is to be predicated of the suffering obedience of Christ must appear to every sane mind. Ought anything justly urged that is true of the sufferings of Christ to be contemptuously spoken of as pitiful trifling? We repeat the question, Did chance, or sovereignty, or justice, preside over the measure of the sufferings of Christ? Is it imaginable that the measure of those sufferings bore no reference and no relation in righteousness to the discharge of a definite responsibility which that illustrious Sufferer had undertaken? It has been very sillily urged that some of the sufferings of Christ came from the hand of man, and that these sufferings of the great Substitute were merely incidental things which simply exhibited the barbarous cruelty of man. Some of his sufferings did, indeed, come from the hand of man, and herein the cruelty of man was manifested; and some, too, of his sufferings came from the hand of the devil, and herein was the malignity of the devil manifested: but was not the hand of God over the hand of man and the hand of the devil in the whole? Were not wicked men and devils Jehovah’s sword in Jehovah’s hand which Jehovah himself bade awake against his Shepherd, the Man his fellow to smite him? Was not Jesus led of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil? If Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel gathered together against the Lord’s Anointed, was not all this to do whatsoever God’s hand and counsel determined before to be done? Was he not delivered to them by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God?

But it may be urged that many of the sufferings of Christ, and the peculiar forms in which they fell upon him, were endured for merely economical ends; that he suffered many things for the economical purpose of fulfilling “all things which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms concerning him,” that thereby the important truth that the Christ of history is the Messiah of prophecy might be unmistakably established. All this is true and very important withal. But it is equally true and equally important that the economical purpose of the Saviour’s sufferings was subordinate to the judicial purpose, and that the judicial purpose wholly comprehended the economical purpose. The fulfillment of all those things which were written concerning Christ, wherein any suffering was involved, had a judicial cause anterior, and a judicial end ulterior, to the proof of his Messiahship. For, be it held in remembrance, that whatever he suffered, he suffered all in an assumed relation according to the counsel of God. He was under no obligation from a natural accountability to suffer anything. If, then, he suffered a single loss, or privation, or grief, or pain, or any such thing, which did not diminish the obligation arising from his responsibility in his assumed relation, he suffered to that extent from a cruel injustice, according to—abhorred thought!—the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. Can anything more revolting be imagined? Merciful Teacher, preserve men from speaking unadvisedly on the awful sufferings of the Son of God through the stupidity of ignorance or the rashness of folly!

The suffering obedience of Christ had a beginning, a progression, and an end. In the beginning, the accomplishment of a Divine design was commenced, in the progression that design was pursued, and in the end the design was finished. Jesus must needs do and suffer all that he did and suffered to fulfill that design. His obedience was itself perfectible, and was perfective of him. His responsibility was diminishable. His merit was cumulative. When his obedience was ended, his responsibility was discharged, and his meritorious acquirement was completed. Nothing can be plainer than the testimony of the Scripture on these points.

Foretelling his death to his disciples by a little while, the Lord Jesus said to them, “All things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished,” or ended. When yet nearer to his death he said to them, “The things concerning me have an end.” And when he gave up the ghost in death he uttered that thrillingly wondrous and never-to-be-forgotten word, “It is finished,” or ended. The end of all things which were written in the law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms concerning him was coincident with the end of his atoning responsibility. He himself said, “It is finished,” or ended, as “knowing that all things were now accomplished,” or ended. If any man will affirm that all this was ended for the fulfillment of the predictions of the Scripture otherwise than as that fulfillment, whatever other valuable purposes it might serve, and whatever other ends may have been accomplished thereby, was subordinate to the discharge of the atoning obligations of the Lord Jesus, the power of God only can cure that man of his blindness or perverseness.

Further, when all was ended, Jesus bowed his head and gave up the ghost. In the dazzling glory of the fulfillment of that Scripture, “A bone of him shall not be broken,” another glory seems to escape the observation of many observers. The death of Jesus needed not to be hastened by that barbarous or humane practice, whichever it was, commonly resorted to in order to hasten the death of crucified persons. When the soldiers came to break his legs that he might die the sooner, he was dead already. At this Pilate marveled. It was unusual, and as mysterious as unusual. How could this be? From the merely human view of the matter, was Jesus so exceptionally weak that he died thus unusually early in the crucified condition from exhaustion of vital power through the bodily hurt? That could not be. Nay, nay, the suffering obedience was ended, the atoning obligation was discharged, and, all being ended, he voluntarily bowed his head, laid down his life, and gave up the ghost. Oh, blessed consummation! This procures, this pleads, this claims my peace with God!

Again, the truth we are stating is illustrated and confirmed by the teaching of the apostle. In Hebrews 2:10, we read, “It became him for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” We have one presentment of this truth we are stating in the title given to our Lord, and another in the testimony concerning him. But to make this clear, as it respects the title, we shall require that rendering of the apostle’s word, here translated “captain,” which it receives in the margin of chap. 12:2, namely, “beginner;” and which, with submission, we deem by very far the best. The “Beginner” of the salvation of the sons was made perfect through sufferings. In its relation to make perfect, the word so rendered is beautifully appropriate and clear; and so it is in relation to bringing many sons to glory; but the relation of the word “captain” to the connection here seems exceedingly misty. The leader of an army is not usually made perfect in any sense by his death in the field, nor is an army usually led to glory by the loss of its captain. Contrariwise, as must be apparent to all, a captain is made perfect as he is a conqueror, and more than a conqueror; that is, by a complete conquest, and by his life being spared to enjoy its fruits. And so far from an army being usually led to glory through the death of its captain, this event has mostly been a great calamity to it, often an irreparable loss, and sometimes has resulted in its rout and ruin by the enemy. But it was necessary to the Beginner of salvation to suffer, and through sufferings to be made perfect. By his suffering obedience the Lord Jesus became the Beginner and the Perfecter of the doctrine of faith. This is, as we take it, the meaning of Hebrews 12:2. By his suffering obedience also he became the Beginner and the Perfecter of the atonement, the substantive matter on which the doctrine of faith is, founded, promulgated, and believed; and at the end of his suffering obedience the Beginner of salvation was himself made perfect through his sufferings. A surety charged with the obligations of his suretyship is not made perfect; a surety discharged from his obligations is. A redeemer who has not paid the ransoming price of redemption is not made perfect; but a redeemer who has paid the required ransom, so far as the ransom is concerned in the redemption, is made perfect. By the discharge of his obligations our Surety was made perfect, and by the payment of the ransom was our Redeemer made perfect.

We are taught by the testimony of the apostle here that Jesus was made perfect through sufferings. The Lord Jesus suffered many things. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; he suffered, being tempted; he was reproached; he hungered and thirsted; he had not where to lay his head; he was straitened in view of a baptism into which he had to be baptized; he suffered an exceeding sorrow and agony in Gethsemane; his sweat there in his agony was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground; and afterwards, his sufferings accumulated more and more, until, at the end of the agonies of the cross, he gave up the ghost—he died. These things cannot escape even the slightest observation; but what of positive suffering, physical, mental, and moral, underlay and wrought beneath the outward and visible signs of the agonies of the Man of sorrows, comes within the view of no creature, man or angel.

We have seen that all the sufferings of Christ were penal. If he suffered one undeserved agony—we speak of his deserving agony solely in his representative capacity—he suffered that agony unjustly, or, if he suffered one unnecessary pang, he suffered that pang unwisely, and that, too, according to the determinate counsel, under the government, and by the hand, of God himself. For what, then, was his suffering prolonged? Why were his agonies so multiplied? It is more than conceded that his death was necessary to make an atonement; but if the Divine nature of the great Sufferer gives an infinite legal meritoriousness to the whole of his sufferings, why should not an infinite legal meritoriousness on this ground arise from far fewer and far lighter agonies? Why this piling of agonies from hands that were visible, and from the hand of the awful Invisible One himself? Meritoriousness in the sufferings of Christ, and an atoning sufficiency co-extensively accumulating therewith, are ideas which harmonize with each other, and they are in full harmony with the prolongation of the atoning sufferings of the great Substitute. But can anything be more demonstrative of the foolishness of the supposition of an infinite meritoriousness, in the legal sense, and of an infinite atoning sufficiency, in any sense, in the sufferings of’ Christ, than is the prolongation of his suffering and the multiplication of his agonies? There is but one answer to the question of the prolongation of the suffering of Christ and the multiplication of his awful agonies, and that answer is supplied here by the apostle; he was thereby made perfect. Men may contemptuously denounce all this, if they will, as pitiful trifling; but, against all contradiction, it is the testimony of the Holy Ghost that Jesus suffered many things, and that he was made perfect through suffering. It is a daring thing to speak with contempt of the testimony of God.

In chap. 5:9 of this Epistle, this truth concerning the Surety’s responsibility and its discharge is further illustrated and confirmed by another testimony of similar import, but which has a peculiarity all its own. “And being made perfect he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” Being made perfect here relates to a responsibility undertaken for the same persons as those mentioned in chap. 2:10. There they are designated sons from their adoption in Christ. Here they are designated from a particular manifestation of their having received the adoption of sons—namely, their obedience to Christ. Because they were sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts to lead them into a state of obedience to Christ. Humble souls afflicted with doubt about a personal interest in Christ may, by comparing these testimonies, learn from their obedience to Christ their adoption in him, and their certain salvation by him.

How Jesus was made perfect for them we have already learned. Here we are taught that, being made perfect, he became the author of their eternal salvation. He became the rightful Saviour on the selfsame grounds, by the selfsame rule, and to the selfsame extent that he became the perfected Surety. As he discharged his responsibility as the Surety he acquired his right as the Saviour. It would be well if it could be more generally known among those that show to others “the way of salvation,” that the word “author” in this place represents a very different word from that which is rendered author in chap. 12:2, and captain in chap. 2:10. The word represented by “author” here points unmistakably to the exact accusation, or cause, alleged by divine justice against the Surety, and the reason in equity of his sufferings; and it proclaims, with a clearness which leaves nothing to be desired, that the perfected Surety became in equity the MERITORIOUS CAUSE of salvation to all that obey him. Made perfect through sufferings, the Surety was discharged from his obligations. Made perfect through sufferings, the Saviour was invested with the merited right of salvation, and was exalted to give repentance and remission of sins, and every ether blessing of salvation accordingly.

Note:

Paul, writing to Timothy, spoke of some as “desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.” Incisively biting as these words are, they were, no doubt, demanded; and we think that they are still demanded. A proof of this conviction is served by the licentious and interchangeable use of the words accountability and responsibility respecting the relation of sinners to Christ. Sometimes we are told that sinners are accountable, and sometimes that they are responsible to believe that Jesus Christ has saved, or will save them; and it is generally added that a failure to discharge the obligation of the accountability or the responsibility, whichever it may happen to be, for the terms are commonly interchanged, will be attended with the penal consequence of a deeper damnation. It may be doubted whether a rebuke given to this wild license and wretched ignorance may have any curative effect; but however sincere and energetic they may be that so speak, it is certain that they lay themselves open to be regarded as “understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.”

If a sinner is accountable to believe Jesus Christ will save him, his obligation will arise from natural law. Is this so? If a sinner is responsible to believe Jesus Christ will save him, his obligation will arise from a covenant to which he himself is the restipulating party. Is this so? The damnation of a sinner, it is presumed, will be the just penalty of crime. But just penalties are the sanctions of a moral law, and all moral law has its necessary foundation. By what law is it, and on what necessary foundations does it stand, that damnation is awarded to a sinner for not believing Jesus Christ will save him, when he, the sinner, has no personal evidence of the fact? Can that law be holy, just, and good, which, on pain of the damnation of hell, requires an intelligent being to believe anything to be true of which he has no personal evidence? Has a sinner any personal evidence of what he is said to be obliged to believe before he believes what he is said to be obliged to believe? Besides, if these things were so, would not damnation for not believing be the exact antithesis of salvation for believing? And if so, is this a principle of the gospel of the grace of God? Do believers regard themselves as having discharged the obligations of an accountability by believing, and thus to have become entitled to a vindication? Or as having discharged the obligations of a responsibility and time to have acquired a right? Do they not rather regard their faith as “the gift of God,” and themselves as having “believed through grace?”



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