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Home arrow Griffin's History arrow Justification and Kindred Subjects: Chapter 15
Justification and Kindred Subjects: Chapter 15 PDF Print E-mail
Written by J.H. Oliphant   

That an important relation exists between the Lord Jesus Christ and his elect people, is a point of doctrine that has ever been faithfully maintained by all Primitive Baptists. This relation is held to be necessary in order that the sins of his people may be imputed to him, and the virtue of his sufferings and death as a sacrifice for sin may righteously be applied to them. But while the principle of relation is contended for as essential to atonement, opinions differ as to the nature of that relation. There are those who urge that it must be vital and eternal, or no atonement for sin could properly be made. My reply has been that this is an extreme and discordant view, and by no means necessary to establish the great doctrine of atonement.

The Scriptures certainly reveal an agreement, or council, in the divine mind, between the Father and the Son in our creation in the expression, "Let us make man," and also in regard to his redemption before the world was made. The Lord says, "Behold the man whose name is the Branch; He shall build the temple of the Lord; He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both." (Zech. vi. 13). I think that at least the Father and the Son are referred to in this text, and that the subject matter of it is the work of salvation. That there was a covenant, or council, between at least the Father and the Son, is shown in II. Tim. i. 9: "Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began; but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ." Grace was given or treasured in Christ for his people before the world began, according to his purpose, and that grace and purpose are "now made manifest" by the coming and work of the Redeemer, and consists in their being saved and called. The eternity and personality of Christ are proven by his and other scriptures. Read Prov. viii: "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way," etc., closing with this fine description: "Then I was by him as one brought up with him, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delight was with the sons of men." We are to remember that this was when there were no depths, nor fountains abounding with water; the mountains were not settled, nor the hills brought forth; when as yet the fields were not made, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. Even then the blest Redeemer rejoiced in the habitable part of an unmade earth, and his delights were with a people not yet brought forth. We see in this anticipated view the strength and certainty and utility of the Divine foreknowledge. In eternity---in the past---the Lord Jesus saw with prescient eye the future earth, the theater of his mission; he saw the manger and the cross; he saw the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and his other sheep of the Gentile world, "when as yet there was none of them." "I came down from heaven," he says, "not to do my own will (alone), but the will of him that sent me, which was that of all which the Father hath given me I should lose nothing." "Ask of me," said the Almighty Father to the Son, "and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." Some were given to Christ before he came, and when they became involved in ruin he stood in the relation of a responsible Redeemer to them. He stood as their Representative when the Law said, "Pay me what thou owest." A prior property title is essential to the right of redemption, and this Jesus had in his chosen people.

The relation or union between a redeemer and that which is to be redeemed is not vital, but legal. So the union between Christ and the elect before faith and before atonement is the foundation for a union that is vital, and which is established by regeneration. The death of Christ is placed before us in the Scriptures as an act of love and mercy, which clearly implies that he was voluntary in what he did; and this could not be the case if he and those for whom he died were vitally one, as the head and members of the body are one. The Lord Jesus was one with his people as a husband and wife are one, but this union is legal and not vital. While the marriage union is not vital, it is of a character to make both parties one. "For both he that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one." The debtor and one who is surety for him are in law one party, and if the surety discharges the debt it can be said that the debtor has paid it. And so of the blood shedding for sin. "If one died for all, then were all dead." If one paid for all, then all have paid. If it be true that Jesus as my surety "Has paid it all, yes, all the debt I owe," then legally, I have paid the whole debt.

When our Saviour speaks of himself as the Shepherd, and his people as the sheep, he puts before us not a vital union, but a representative or legal one. The shepherd, whose own the sheep are, has a property right in them that obliges him to redeem them, or answer for their trespasses, and so the Bible declares that all we like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord laid upon him the iniquities of us all. I have said that it was obligatory upon the Lord Jesus to suffer for his flock. He himself, speaking of his sufferings and death, said to his bewildered disciples, "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?" How often is it that he who becomes surety shall smart for it. Such a one is snared by the words of his mouth. The point in the whole transaction when Christ acted voluntary, and thus manifested his love in the things he suffered, was in his becoming surety and assuming that relation to his chosen people that made him bound for all their sins; and this he did in eternity, having a perfect prescience of them in their fall and ruin by sin.

It has been said there was as much of one man’s blood in the veins of Christ as another, and hence some have urged that he died equally for all. It is true that when he partook of flesh and blood, he took that which is common to all men, for they are all made of one blood, (Acts xvii. 26); and in this circumstance he is related to all men alike; but that is not the relation that constitutes him our Saviour. While vital union is too strong a term representing an untenable position upon one hand, the simple relation of humanity goes to the opposite extreme. Dr. Gill in explaining the relation of Christ to our common humanity, says, "For, though the nature he assumed was common to all mankind, yet he assumed it with special view to the children of God, whose nature he is said to take, and for whose sake he is the child born, the Son given, and consequently they must be the children of God before Christ died for them; indeed, he died for them considered as the children of God by adopting grace." Gill believed that the elect, who were chosen out of every nation, were the adopted children of God, and considered in this sense Christ died for them. In this way he explains Gal. iv. 6; "Because ye are sons" ---sons of adoption. He maintained adoption to be eternal, and that by adoption the elect were put in the relation of children to God, or of sheep to a shepherd, or a wife to a husband, or a debtor to a surety; and that upon this ground his death for them was efficacious. His obligation to die for them does not rest upon the fact that he assumed their nature, but because of the legal union before referred to: just as the husband is bound for the debts of his wife by the legal union that makes them one. It is true he would be incapable of this legal union with her if he were not of the same order of being; and so Christ must needs assume the same nature of his chosen people, that the law may be honored by the same standard of being that violated it.

Allusion has been made to a covenant relation, or union, wherein Christ in all things stands as the representative of a chosen people. Those who deny the Trinity of God cannot believe in the doctrine of a covenant union, for fallen man, or, even redeemed man is too low an order of being to enter into covenant with God. Man has nothing to give, and is capable of nothing but what God may justly require at his hands. Everything that he is or can be is due the Lord, whether it be soul, body, mind, heart or strength. But Christ as one equal with God from eternity is capable of making a covenant with the Father on our behalf.

That such covenant was made from eternity is apparent from Psalm 80: "I will make hime my fiorst born son higher than the kings of the earth; my covenant shall stand fast with him; his seed also will I make to endure forever, and his throne as the days of heaven. If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my statutes; if they break my commandments, and keep not my judgments, then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes. Nevertheless my loving kindness I will not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that has gone out of my lips. His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me." Here is a covenant between God and his first-born that embraces the children of the latter---a covenant that is to be everlasting and stand fast forever. Cruden and Buck---both of them mighty in the Scriptures---regarded this Psalm as proving the doctrine of an eternal covenant. The startling responsibility of this covenant is brought to view by Paul when he speaks of "the blood of the covenant," and also when he speaks of God bringing "again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant." Centuries before the birth of our Redeemer, one of the prophets, speaking of his coming into Zion, having salvation, says, "As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water." The same prophet no doubt had his mind fixed upon the fulfillment of this covenant between the Father and the Son when he uttered those mystical words, "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts; smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered; and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones." Wonderful covenant! ---the manger, the sword and the cross for the Redeemer; salvation, holiness and eternal glory for the redeemed! Eph. i. 5; "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." The Father and the Son entered into this compassionate arrangement before time. Every detail of the covenant transaction stood out in the sunlight of eternity. The choice, the ruin, the atonement and the happy consummation of being holy and without blame, all was comprehended "in the counsel of peace between them both." The above text is rich with gospel truth. Each clause of the sentence is significant. The choice was in Christ, who is called "the mediator of a better covenant." It was made before the foundation of the world, and the end was that these chosen people should be holy and without blame before him in love. This latter is the golden clause. The design of the choice and the especial purpose of Christ’s suffering was that the chosen ones should be holy --- not that they were holy --- but that they should be. This disposes of the theory of the "vital union," as nothing unholy could sustain a relation of that kind.

All who are familiar with the theological discussions of the past know what wide divergence existed on this point. One school of divines (the Supralapsarians) held that God in election considered man as unfallen, and chose his people as it were from a pure mass. The opposite school of theologians (the Sublapsarians) maintained that God in election regarded man as fallen, and that he chose them from this fallen state; and this has been the general view of our people. The text in Ephesians implies the idea that they were considered unholy. The Lord foresaw the ruin of the race and in his discriminating grace and electing love appointed a remnant to salvation. Paul, in Romans, referring to the declaration of God that he had reserved to himself seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal nor kissed his image, goes on to say, "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant, according to the election of grace." Grace is the corner-stone of election. It can only deal with fallen, sinful beings. If God’s people had been considered holy, Paul would never have spoken of an "election of grace." Grace is not the handmaid of merit. Grace comes upon the scene only when worth and works and merit and strength have disappeared. Grace has no partner; it will endure no rival. Paul makes the issue plain: if there is an atom of grace in salvation, it is all grace; if any works, it is all works.

As men were chosen unto salvation before they had a being in the world, having reference strictly to God’s purpose, so also is Christ, who offered himself without spot to God, spoken of in Revelation as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world---that is, thousands of years before he actually "bore our sins in his own body on the tree." The coming and death of Christ was fixed on before he forsook the glory he had with the Father. We read of Israel with wonder how "it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even at the self-same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt;" but how is our wonder increased when, after thousands of years had passed away---when kingdom had succeeded kingdom, and long lines of rulers had followed one another into oblivion, to see the fulfillment of events that had been decreed before the sun or the moon or the day star knew their places! With what astonishment we read of Jesus, the covenant head of his people, lifting up his eyes to heaven and exclaiming, as the darkness came down upon the earth, "Father, the hour is come; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do!" ---the hour in which must occur the tragic event typified by "the hour is come!" How perfect and minute was the compact! The very hour had been fixed when he must fulfill the obligations assumed in eternity, and put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. "The blood of the everlasting covenant" was not a metaphor or dream; it was literal and real. Without the shedding of blood there was no remission. Blood must stain the lintel and the door-posts, that the destroying angel touch not the redeemed. "Father, the hour is come; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." So he spoke, and with his little band he crossed the brook and entered into the garden, there to grapple with the powers of darkness, to meet the betrayer, to endure the cross and give his life a ransom for many. "If ye seek me, " said the Saviour, "let these go their way," that the saying might be fulfilled. "Of them which thou gavest me, have I lost none."

I have intimated that the doctrine of the Trinity is indispensable in order to maintain covenant union, and so Primitive Baptists hold it essential to believe in the Three-One or Triune character of the Godhead. Times without number the Three-One God is brought to view in a single text of scripture. It was so when before men Jesus was set apart in baptism to fulfill all righteousness. When he "went up straightway out of the water lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon him," and then came the voice, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Thus the three bore record of the great transaction wherein the covenant head was duly installed at the beginning of his mediatorial work; and the same witness is given in closing his stupendous mission, when, through the eternal Spirit, Jesus offered himself without spot to God. We cannot explain nor in anywise understand such a mystery as a Three-One God, but God’s children can believe it and accept the testimony that Father, Son and Holy Ghost bore each a harmonious part in saving the elect.

The Father chose them before time and gave them in covenant agreement to the Son. He chose them in Christ and blessed them with all spiritual blessings in him, as in the setting up of his earthly kingdom he chose Abraham and covenanted in him to bless all the families of the earth. The Son is called pre-eminently the SAVIOUR because he was the sufferer. He came to shed his blood and to give his life a ransom for many; to redeem them from the curse of the law, being made a curse for them. The Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. He trod the winepress alone, and thus one died for all. His parents were commissioned from heaven to call his name Jesus, that is, SAVIOUR, for he should save his people from their sins, and so Christ, Paul says, "was once offered to bear the sins of many." He died an official and representative death in the fulfillment of a covenant agreement. Bold and reckless must we be to deny the truth of covenant agreement as shown in the tenth chapter of Hebrews, which tells of Christ’s coming to substitute the crimson of his own veins for the blood of bulls and of goats, which it was not possible could take away sins. It was then he said, "Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do they will, O God." This is in fulfillment of what has already been quoted: "Also I will make him my first born, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him." Every jot and tittle must be fulfilled, and when, as in the weakness of his humanity he exclaimed, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me," he himself realized it was not possible, and so he added, "Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." Knowing that the Father had said that he would not break his covenant nor alter the things that had gone out of his mouth, we can realize the meaning of the term, "The blood of the everlasting covenant," when applied to the death of Christ. The grandeur of the gospel is, that Christ did a perfect work. He drank the cup to its lowest dregs, and in his death he saw of the travail of his soul and was satisfied, and in his triumphant rise could say, "Behold, here am I, and the children thou hast given me." The Holy Spirit also bears a part in perfecting the heirs of promise, which seems more particularly to apply to the sanctifying, regenerating and sealing operations that prepares them for the world of glory. It is the Spirit that quickens and guides and comforts the redeemed children, and that sustains them in the pilgrimage state. If the everlasting Father, the redeeming Son and the quickening Spirit be for us, who can be against us? And that believers might know the certainty of this great work on their behalf, Paul uses the covenant made with Abraham as an illustration. He says, "Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto 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 a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." Here are two immutable things, the counsel and the promise of God, given as the foundation of our hope, which hope he declares we have both sure and steadfast, as an anchor of the soul when storm and tumult shall darken the way before us. To such a hope Paul turned, desiring to be found in Christ, and not trusting to his own righteousness, which was of the law. Let every believer contemplate with quietude this strong consolation, serving God in the spirit and having no confidence in the flesh. A writer, in comparing the covenant of works with that of grace, says, "The conditions of both are the same---perfect obedience to the law---for God will not admit man to communion with him but in the way of holiness. The covenant of works has no mediator; the covenant of grace has a mediator. In the covenant of works the condition of perfect obedience was required to be performed by man himself. In the covenant of grace the same is proposed, but to be performed by a mediator. In the covenant of works man is considered as working, and the reward is to be of debt; in the other, life is given as the merit of the mediator out of the grace, which excludes all boasting. In the covenant of works something is required as a condition which entitles to reward. The covenant of grace consists not of conditions, but of promises. The life to be obtained by faith, by which we are made partakers of Christ’s perseverance, and in a word, the whole of our needs, is absolutely promised. The end of the covenant of works was the manifestation of the holiness and justice of God; but the end of the covenant of grace is the praise of the glory of his grace and the revelation of his unsearchable and manifest wisdom. The covenant of works was only for a time, but the covenant of grace stands sure forever. The covenant of grace is shown not to be a device to save the guilty at the expense of law or justice, but it promises a mediator or surety that will pay the just penalty due to us. Viewing Christ and his people as one, this covenant has no more mercy than the covenant of works. It claims perfect obedience. "Be ye holy, for I am holy." There is no suspension or relaxation of law in this covenant, as it looks at Christ and his people as one party; but Christ, as the Shepherd, receives the sentence, and his people go free. Blessings go to them---faith, repentance, remission, and every qualification for heaven. The promises and threatenings to Israel were of a temporal nature only, whether for obedience or disobedience; but Paul shows that the blessings of the new covenant are better and more enduring---in a word, eternal life, with every qualification to enjoy it, are all embraced in the covenant of grace. The covenant of grace has this seal, "The Lord knoweth them that are his." Every blessing and joy is certain, and without any conditions to be performed by them. But while we are under the paternal government of God, and amenable to paternal discipline, we as children are liable to meet the chastening rod and to receive the rebukes of the Almighty for our sins.

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