The Marrow of Modern Divinity is a charming little 17th century work on the Federal structure of the Scriptures. Chapter 2 of the work covers God’s Plan of Grace to redeem fallen man. The outline for the chapter reflects God’s Promise as – Purposed (in eternity), Promised (in Old Testament History), and Performed (in time – Christ). We’ve completed our look at the purpose and promise of grace, we now turn our attention to the provision.
But when the fullness 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)
Christ’s fulfilling of the law in the room of the elect
God, in the fullness of time, performed that which he purposed before all time [Purpose], and promised in time [Promised], concerning the help and delivering of fallen mankind. And touching this point, The Scripture testifies, that God “did, in the fullness of time, send forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law,” (Gal. 4:4). That is to say, look how mankind by nature are under the law, as it is the covenant of works; so was Christ, as man’s surety, contented to be; so that now, according to that eternal and mutual agreement that was betwixt God the Father and him, he put himself in the room and place of all the faithful, (Isa 53:6) – “And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Next, Fisher paints a brief scene where Christ, as our surety, has taken the guilt of our sins upon him through imputation. The just demands of the moral law are demanded of him –
Law/Justice: “I find him a sinner, yea, such an one as hath taken upon him the sins of all men, therefore let him die upon the cross.”
Christ’s reponse of obedience is grounded in and the temporal fulfillment of that everlasting covenant between the persons of the Godhead for the redemption of mankind, which was made before time.
Christ: “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not, but a body hast thou prepared me; in burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come to do thy will, O Lord!” (Heb 10:5-7).
And so the law proceeding in full scope against him, set upon him, and killed him; and, by this means, was the justice of God fully satisfied, his wrath appeased, and all true believers acquitted from all their sins, both past, present, and to come. So that the law, as it is the covenant of works, hath not anything to say to any true believer, for indeed they are dead to it, and it is dead to them.
Compare Lv 16:21-22 with Isaiah 53:6
And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness. (Lv 16:21-22)
Note: The guilt of sin, on Day of Atonement, is transferred, by imputation, from the sinner to goat – i.e. the substitution. In this way, the goat bears the sin of the sinner.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. (Is 53:4-7)
Note: The guilt of our sin (the chastisement of our peace), is transferred to Christ, by imputation. Our guilt is ‘laid on him’ and he bears and carries our affliction.
Thomas Boston’s footnotes contain quotes from many famous theologians that express that we understand Christ to be made a sinner only in a legal sense and that by imputation. Boston is also careful to qualify the ‘all’, as in ‘sins of all men’ as that Christ’s atonement only saves those who believe.
Some of Thomas Boston’s remarks
The word ‘All’
That is, all those who have, or shall believe, or all the elect, which is one and the same in reality…Our Lord Jesus Christ died not for, nor took upon him the sins of, all and every individual man, but he died for, and took upon him the sins of, all the elect, (John 10:15, 15:13, Acts 20:28, Eph 5:25, Titus 2:14)
See all of Boston’s comments in this section of The Marrow for a very extensive treatment on this topic.
Christ as Surety
Jesus Christ did from eternity become man’s surety in the covenant that passed betwixt him and the Father. A surety puts himself in the place of those for whom he becomes a surety, to pay their debt, (Gen 44:32,33, Prov 22:26,27). And our author tells us, that now, when the prefixed time of Christ’s fulfilling the eternal covenant, paying the debt he had taken on him, and purchasing man’s redemption by his sufferings, was come, he did, according to the tenor of that covenant, which stated the extent of his suretyship, put himself in the room and place—he says not, of all men, but—of all the faithful, or elect of God; Jesus Christ thus standing in their room and place, actually to take on the burden.
Regarding the Covenant of Works
“What things soever it saith, it saith to them who are under it,” (Rom 3:19). But believers are not under it, nor under the law of the covenant of works, (6:14), therefore it saith nothing to them. As such, it said all to Christ in their room and place; and, without the Mediator’s dishonour, it cannot repeat its demands on them [the elect] which it made upon him [Christ] as their surety.
“Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” (Rom 4:48)