9 Of The Part Which The Son Takes In The Covenant
A Body Of Doctrinal Divinity, John Gill
The part which the Son of God takes, and the place and office he has in the covenant of grace, are next to be considered. Christ has so great a concern in the covenant, that he is said to be the Covenant itself; “I will give thee for a Covenant of the people”, (Isa. 42:6, 49:8) his work, that which was proposed to him, and he agreed to do, is, as has been observed, the grand condition of the covenant, and he himself is the great blessing of it; he is the Alpha and the Omega, as of the scriptures, so of the covenant of grace; he is the first and the last in it, the sum and substance of it; he is everything, ALL in ALL in it; all the blessings of it are the sure mercies of him, who is David, and David’s Son; he is prevented with all the blessings of goodness, and the covenant people are blessed with all spiritual blessings in him, as their covenant head; all the promises are made to him, and are all yea and amen in him; he sustains various characters and offices in the covenant. He is the representative Head of his people in it; he is the Mediator, Surety, Testator, and Messenger of it; of all which, more particularly and distinctly hereafter. At present I shall only observe Christ’s assent to his Father’s proposals, his acceptance of them, and open declaration of his readiness and willingness to act according to them, which formally constitute the covenant and compact between them; his consent thereunto is fully expressed in Psalm 40:6-8. “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering, and sin offering, hast thou not required. Then said I Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me: I delight to do thy will, O my God! yea, thy law is within my heart”. Which words, though spoken and written by David, yet as representing the Messiah, as is certain from the application of them to him by the apostle, in (Heb. 10:5-10) according to whom, the time when these words were spoken, was when “he cometh into the world”, that is, at his incarnation, when he came from heaven to earth, by the assumption of human nature, to do the will and work of his Father, which he proposed unto him; then he said all the above in fact, what he had before said in word, in promise; “Lo, I come to do thy will”; for that this was said before is plain, since it was known to David, in his time, and written by him, as the penman of the Holy Ghost, and as representing Christ, and was repeated and confirmed by Christ at his coming into the world: and when could it be said before, but in the covenant of grace? Likewise it appears, that this was said on the account of the insufficiency of legal sacrifices to atone for sin; in proof of which the apostle quotes the words, “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin”; wherefore—he saith, “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not”, &c. that is, though they were the institutions and appointment of God, yet he would not have them continued any longer than the coming of Christ, because of the weakness and unprofitableness of them to take away sin, and because they were to have, and had, their accomplishment in him; in the foreviews of which this was said in David’s time, and earlier by Christ, in the covenant of grace; in which, knowing his Father’s will concerning sacrifices, and their continuance, as well as the insufficiency of them, freely declared that he was ready to come, in the fulness of time, and give himself an offering for sin; as his Father had proposed to him he should (Isa. 53:10). This assent and consent of his is first more obscurely and figuratively expressed; “Mine ears hast thou opened”, digged or bored; expressive of his great attention, hearkening and listening with great diligence, to what his Father proposed to him; see (Isa. 50:4, 5) and of his ready and cheerful obedience to his Father’s will, signified thereby: the phrase seems to be used in allusion to the boring the servant’s ear, who cared not to quit his master’s house, but was willing to serve him for ever, (Ex. 21:5, 6) the Septuagint, and so the apostle render the words, “A body hast thou prepared me”; a part being put for the whole; and which is supposed; for the ear could not be opened, unless a body was prepared; by which is meant, not a part, but the whole of the human nature, soul and body; prepared, not only in the purposes and decrees of God, but in the covenant of grace, where it had a covenant subsistence, by the joint agreement of the divine Persons; for as the Father proposed it to the Son, that he should have such a nature, he agreed to assume it, and therefore takes up these words, to show his ready assent to it; “A body hast thou prepared me”; as it is thy pleasure I should have one, I am ready to take it, at a proper time; that I might have something to offer, an offering of more avail, and more acceptable, than the legal ones. This acceptance of his Father’s proposals is more clearly and fully expressed; “Lo, I come to do thy will”; that is, to assume human nature, to lay down his life in it, to suffer death, make atonement for the sins of his people, and obtain their redemption and salvation: his willingness to do all this freely, and without compulsion; he himself, and not another, and immediately, as soon as ever it should be necessary; he declares, with a note of admiration, attention, and asseveration; and his heartiness in it is still more fully signified, by saying, “I delight to do thy will”; it was with the utmost pleasure and complacency that be complied with it, and it would be his meat and drink, as it was, to do it: and it is added; “Yea, thy law is within my heart”; it is in my heart to fulfil it; I am ready to yield a cordial and cheerful obedience to it. Now all this was “written” concerning him “in the volume of the book”; not of the scriptures in general only, nor of the Pentateuch in particular, the only volume extant in David’s time, εν κεφαλιδι, at the head and beginning of which is a declaration of the grace, will, and work of Christ, (Gen. 3:15) nor only of the book of God’s purposes, (Ps. 139:16) but of the covenant; alluding to the writing, signing, and sealing of covenants; the covenant at Sinai is called, the book of the covenant (Ex. 24:8). Now in this volume, or book, as the Father’s proposal is there written and contained, so is the Son’s assent unto it, and acceptance of it. Add to all this, that the Character in which Christ here addresses his divine Father, “My God”, is a phrase expressive of covenant relation, and is frequently so used both with regard to Christ and his people. But, to observe no more, nothing more fully proves Christ’s free and full assent and consent to do the will of his Father, proposed in covenant, than his actual performance of it. Was it his will that he should take the care and charge of all his elect, and lose none? he has done it (John 17:12). Was it his will that he should assume human nature? the Word has been made flesh, and dwelt among men (John 1:14). Was it his will that he should obey the law? he is become the end of the law for righteousness (Rom. 10:4). Was it his will that he should suffer death, the penalty of it? he has suffered, the just for the unjust, to bring them to God (1 Peter 3:18). Was it his will that he should make himself an offering for sin? he has given himself to God, an Offering and a Sacrifice, of a sweet smelling savour (Eph. 5:2). In a word, Was it his will that he should redeem his people from all their iniquities? Yes, he has obtained an eternal redemption of them (Heb. 9:12).
John Gill (1697-1771) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher and theologian. He was appointed the Pastor of Goat Yard Chapel, Horsleydown, Southwark, serving this position for fifty-one years. He was the first Baptist to write an exhaustive systematic theology, setting forth High-Calvinistic views and a clear Baptist polity which became the backbone for the churches subscribing to them. John Hazelton wrote of him:
”[Augustus] Toplady held in high regard Dr. John Gill (1697-1771), and applied to him and to his controversial writings what was said of the first Duke of Marlborough—that he never besieged a town that he did not take, nor fought a battle that he did not win. Gill's book on the Canticles is a beautiful and experimental exposition of Solomon's Song; his "Cause of God and Truth" is most admirable and suggestive; and his "Body of Divinity" one of the best of its kind. His commentary upon the Old and New Testament is a wonderful monument of sanctified learning, though it has been so used as to rob many a ministry of living power. It is the fashion now to sneer at Gill, and this unworthy attitude is adopted mostly by those who have forsaken the truths he so powerfully defended, and who are destitute of a tithe of the massive scholarship of one of the noblest ministers of the Particular and Strict Baptist denomination. The late Dr. Doudney rendered inestimable service by his republication, in 1852, of Gill's Commentary, printed at Bonmahon, Waterford, Ireland, by Irish boys. Gill was born at Kettering, and passed away at his residence at Camberwell, his last words being: "O, my Father! my Father!" For fifty-one years, to the time of his death, he was pastor of the Baptist Church, Fair Street, Horselydown, and was buried in Bunhill Fields. His Hebrew learning was equal to that of any scholar of his day, and his Rabbinical knowledge has never been equalled outside Judaism. His "Dissertation Concerning the Eternal Sonship of Christ" is most valuable, and this foundation truth is shown by him to have been a part of the faith of all Trinitarians for about 1,700 years from the birth of our Lord. In His Divine nature our blessed Lord was the co-equal and co-eternal Son of God, and as such He became the Word of God. The Scriptures nowhere intimate that Christ is the Son of God by office, or that His Sonship is founded on His human nature. This is not a strife about words, but is for our life, our peace, our hope. Dr. Gill's pastoral labours were much blest; to the utmost fidelity he united real tenderness, and at the Lord's Supper he was always at his best.
"He set before their eyes their dying Lord—
How soft, how sweet, how solemn every word!
How were their hearts affected, and his own!
And how his sparkling eyes with glory shone!"