Archive for the ‘The Distinction Between Equivalency and Identity’ Category


Now to die ὑπερ ἑαυτί. for us, is to die in our stead, vice nostra: which is so abundantly proved in the learned treatises1 of other men more worthy to hold forth light in this point, that I judge needless to insist upon it, but rather do defer you to them. Only ere I leave this, let me leave with you these thee advertisements concerning Christ’s satisfaction for our violation of the Covenant of Works.

1. Though our punishment and suffering should have been eternal, because we could never out-satisfy; yet the sufferings of Christ, because of the dignity of the person, God-man, were perfectly satisfactory in a short time.

2. Christ paid not the idem, but the tantundem; not the same that was due, but the value: for he suffered not the same pain, numero, but the specie in kind.

3. Ye its one and the same satisfaction in the Law’s sense, which Christ paid, and which we owed, in respect that the Law does not require the Surety to pay the same sum in number, which the debtor borrowed: ‘tis satisfaction in the same in specie, in kind, or in value be paid.

Partick Gillespie, The Ark of the Covenant Opened: Or, A Treatise of the Covenant of Redemption Between God and Christ, as the Foundation of the Covenant of Grace (London: Printed for Tho. Parkhurst at the bible and three Crowns in Cheapside, near Mercers Chapel, 1677), 406. [Some spelling modernized; italics original; marginal reference cited as footnote; and underlining mine.]

[Credit to Tony for the find.]

[Note: One should keep in mind that adherence to the so-called Covenant of Works is optional in terms of classic Reformed theology, and that the doctrine of vicarious satisfaction does not stand or fall upon it.]


1Mr Rutherf. Treatise of the Covenant, pag. 2.t.3.; Brinsl. Of the Mediator, pag. 72, &c.; Dr. Owen.


Obj. 10. This makes Christ to have done that very thing (for matter) which we ourselves should, that he paid that very debt of obedience in kind (and not in value only) which the law required, and which we should have paid; which if so, and that that be reckoned to us, we are then justified by works, our righteousness is legal rather than evangelical.

Ans. I have had occasion, in what went before, to speak a little of the idem and tantundem, as they refer to Christ’s sufferings, in answer to that question, “Whether he suffered the self-same penalty which threatened and the sinner himself should have endured? or whether he suffered only that which was equivalent thereunto?” In the deciding of which I closed with the common determination, that Christ’s sufferings, for kind and substance, were the same which the law threatened; but as to some certain circumstances and accidents they were but equivalent. The same resolution I shall give concerning the idem and tantundem with respect to his active obedience. As to the substantial duties required by the moral law, and them in kind he submitted, and to that very obedience which we were obliged unto; so it was the idem. By then there were some circumstances (arising from some special considerations about his person) which in other things made a difference; with respect to which it was but the tantundem. What all were bound to do in the great and indispensable duties of the law (as holiness, love to God, &c.,) that Christ did; but what some only are bound to do, upon certain special obligations lying upon them as they stand in such and such relations (as magistrates, husbands, &c.,), that was not done by Christ in specie (he not standing in those relationships). In the substantial duties of the law, and in those acts of obedience which were in general necessary, Christ did just that which we should have done; (understand me that I speak of legal, not of evangelical obedience; for though Christ did that for us which the law demanded, yet he did not do that for us which the gospel demands.) But as to some particular duties of the law proper to such persons in such circumstances, those he, not being under those circumstances, did not do; and yet there is no defect in his obedience, the want of this particular being supplied and made up by his general obedience. The text says “that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us”; now why may we not content ourselves with this, that Christ fulfilled the law’s righteousness, without running of ourselves upon perplexing debates about the idem and the tantundem? The case (in brief) stands thus: the law must be obeyed, in ourselves we neither did nor could obey it, our surety, therefore, must do it for us. He doing it for us, his obedience must be imputed to us. This imputation must be of that very obedience which we were bound unto; otherwise, (this, and not something else in the lieu of it, being demanded by the law,) we are yet debtors to the law. Therefore it follows that Christ did the idem which we should have done. For as he delivered us from the curse of the law by bearing that very curse in his own person which we should have borne, so he fulfilled the righteousness of the law for us by conforming to that very righteousness in his own person which we should have come up to.

Thomas Jacomb, Several Sermons Preach’d on the whole Eighth Chapter of the Epistle to the Romans (London: Printed by W. Godbid, and are to be Sold by M. Pitt at the White-Hart in Little-Britain, and R. Chiswel at the Rose and Crown, and J. Robinson at the Golden Lion in St. Pauls Church yard, 1672), 608-609. [Some spelling modernized, and italics original]

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Now, to pluck up all these desperate consequences by the root, there needs no more than a right understanding of the true and proper notion and manner of Christ’s redeeming us. It is not by way of solution, but of satisfaction. Clearly thus:–our case to God is not properly that of debtors, but that of criminal subjects. God’s aspect to us-ward [is] not properly that of a creditor, but that of a Rector and Judge. The person [which] Christ sustained, and the part [that] he acted, [was] not, in a strict sense, that of a Surety, paying the wry debt in kind, and so discharging a bond; but that of a Mediator, expiating our guilt and making reparations to Divine Justice [in] another way than by the execution of the law; And, indeed, the very nature of a law is such, as [that] it is quite impossible that the obligation either of its threatening or command should in a proper sense be fulfilled by any other than the very person threatened and commanded: alius here makes aliud. If another suffer the penalty, the threatening is not fulfilled; nor, if another performs the duty, [is] the command [fulfilled]: for, “the obligation as to punishment lies on the person threatened;” (noxa caput sequitur); and that to duty, on the person commanded. It cannot be fulfilled in kind by “another,” but it ceases to be the same thing, and becomes “another thing” from that in the obligation: yet it may be such another thing (and Christ’s righteousness, both active and passive, really is such) as the rector or judge may accept of with honour and be satisfied with, as if the very same thing had been suffered and done just in the same manner as the law threatened and commanded it.

That Christ has paid, not the idem, but tantundem,–that is, not fulfilled the law (as for us) in kind, but satisfied it for us,–is most evident. For,

(1.) The law obliged the sinner’s person to suffer: Christ was no sinner.

(2.) All men to suffer; forasmuch as “all had sinned”: Christ was but one man.

(3.) The punishment due by law was eternal: Christ suffered but for a season, and is “entered into his glory.” (Luke xxiv. 26.) Thus Christ paid not the same thing that was in the obligation, but something equivalent thereunto.

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1) (3.) Our Lord Jesus was appointed and did undertake to make satisfaction for our sins and so to save us from the penal consequences of them. [1.] He was appointed to do it, by the will of his Father; for the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. God chose him to be the Saviour of poor sinners and would have him to save them in this way, by bearing their sins and the punishment of them; not the idemthe same that we should have suffered, but the tantundemthat which was more than equivalent for the maintaining of the honour of the holiness and justice of God in the government of the world. Observe here, First, In what way we are saved from the ruin to which by sin we had become liable—by laying our sins on Christ, as the sins of the offerer were laid upon the sacrifice and those of all Israel upon the head of the scape-goat. Our sins were made to meet upon him (so the margin reads it); the sins of all that he was to save, from every place and every age, met upon him, and he was met with for them. They were made to fall upon him (so some read it) as those rushed upon him that came with swords and staves to take him. The laying of our sins upon Christ implies the taking of them off from us; we shall not fall under the curse of the law if we submit to the grace of the gospel. They were laid upon Christ when he was made sin (that is, a sin-offering) for us, and redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us; thus he put himself into a capacity to make those easy that come to him heavily laden under the burden of sin. See Ps. xl. 6-12. Secondly, By whom this was appointed. It was the Lord that laid our iniquities on Christ; he contrived this way of reconciliation and salvation, and he accepted of the vicarious satisfaction Christ was to make. Christ was delivered to death by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. None but God had power to lay our sins upon Christ, both because the sin was committed against him and to him the satisfaction was to be made, and because Christ, on whom the iniquity was to be laid, was his own Son, the Son of his love, and his holy child Jesus, who himself knew no sin. Thirdly, For whom this atonement was to be made. It was the iniquity of us all that was laid on Christ; for in Christ there is a sufficiency of merit for the salvation of all, and a serious offer made of that salvation to all, which excludes none that do not exclude themselves. It intimates that this is the one only way of salvation. All that are justified are justified by having their sins laid on Jesus Christ, and, though they were ever so many, he is able to bear the weight of them all. [2.] He undertook to do it. God laid upon him our iniquity; but did he consent to it? Yes, he did; for some think that the true reading of the next words (v. 7) is, It was exacted, and he answered; divine justice demanded satisfaction for our sins, and he engaged to make the satisfaction. He became our surety, not as originally bound with us, but as bail to the action: “Upon me be the curse, my Father.” And therefore, when he was seized, he stipulated with those into whose hands he surrendered himself that that should be his disciples’ discharge: If you seek me, let these go their way, John xviii. 8. By his own voluntary undertaking he made himself responsible for our debt, and it is well for us that he was responsible. Thus he restored that which he took not away. Matthew Henry, Commentary, Isaiah 53:4-9. [Italics original and underlining mine.]

2) [I] Our Lord Jesus voluntarily undertook to be a surety for us; pitying our. deplorable case, and concerned for his; Father’s injured honour, that divine justice might be satisfied, and yet sinners saved, he offered to make his own soul a sacrifice for sin, and himself a propitiation, answering the demands of the law, as the propitiatory, or mercy-seat, exactly answered the dimensions of the ark. The Father entrusted him with this great piece of service, and he voluntarily and cheerfully consented to it; he said, “Lo, I am come, and not only did this will of God, but delighted to do it,” Ps. xl. 7; drawn but those of his own love, and the agreeableness of his undertaking to his Father’s commandment.

Christ had no debt of his own to pay, for he always did those things that pleased his Father. Such was the dignity of his person, and such the value of the price he paid, that he had wherewithal to make full satisfaction, and to pay this debt, even to the last mite. He said, “Upon me be the curse” my Father Thus he became bound for us, as Paul for Onesimus to Philemon his master: If “he have wronged thee, or owes thee ought, I Paul have written it with my own hand,” the blessed Jesus has written it with his own blood, “I will repay it,” Phil. 18, 19. And this undertaking of Christ’s shall redound more to the glory of God, even to the glory of his justice, than the damnation of these sinners would have done; for if they had perished, the righteousness of God would have been, to eternity, but in the satisfying; but now, by the merit of Christ’s death, it is once for all satisfied, and reconciliation made for iniquity. Thus he “restored that which he took not away,” Ps. lxix. 4.

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2. It is alleged against our view of the extent of the atonement that it supposes an unnecessary redundancy in the merits of Christ’s death.

If Christ’s death be, intrinsically considered, of value sufficient for all, and yet designed only for some, does not this suppose a superabundance of merit, which is available for no end whatever, and with regard to which the question may be asked “To what purpose is this waste?”

To this we reply, in the first place, that, even admitting the divine intention with respect to the atonement to be unlimited, the same difficulty meets us with regard to a restricted application. Whatever is the extent of destination, it is admitted that the actual efficiency is limited. Now, as in this case the degree of available merit exceeds the extent of actual good done, every one must perceive that there is as much room as in the other case for the question, “To what purpose is this waste?” The difficulty presses with as great force on the opinion of our opponents as on ours.

Again, it may be remarked, that it accords with the general procedure of God in other departments of his works, to confer his favors with a profusion which to many may seem redundant and unnecessary. For example, he causes his rain to fall on barren deserts, sterile rocks, and the watery deep, as well as on fertile hills and valleys. There are many fertile tracts of land which have never been cultivated; much spontaneous fruit grows in regions where there is not an inhabitant. And how many flowers expand their blossoms and diffuse their fragrance, in wilds where there is not a human being to admire their beauty or inhale their sweets. Are we at liberty to say that, in such cases, there is a wasteful exuberance of divine goodness or of providential care? No more can it be said that, in the case before us, there is an unnecessary redundance of merit. We must not, in the one case any more than in the other, presume to limit the Almighty, or to sit in judgment on the works of his hands; but firmly believe it will be seen in the end that he has done nothing in vain.

Moreover; let it be observed, that the objection proceeds on the mistaken supposition, that the atonement of Christ is an exact equivalent for the sins of men, and that, had the number to be saved been either more or less than they are, or had their sins been of greater or less amount, the sufferings of the Redeemer must have varied in proportion. Now, to this view of the subject there are insuperable objections. It is at variance with what we have before established, namely, the infinite intrinsic value of Christ’s atonement. It overlooks the grand design of the atonement, which was, not simply to secure a mere commutative satisfaction to the justice of God, but to glorify all the divine perfections, and to make an illustrious manifestation of the principles of his government before the whole universe of moral creatures. It leaves no room for such an unlimited offer of Christ in the Gospel, as to render those who reject him without excuse; for if the atonement of Christ bore an exact proportion, in point of worth, to the sins of those who are actually saved by it, then the salvation of any others was a natural impossibility, and no blame could attach to such for neglecting to embrace the proffered boon; indeed there would be no ground on which such an offer could be made. Nay, it would require us to believe, that a far greater display of the righteousness of God and his abhorrence at sin could have been made by the sufferings of men than by those of Christ; for, as, on the supposition in question, the number actually saved is limited, and the sufferings of Christ were an exact counterpart of the sufferings due to the sins of that limited number, it was only necessary that the whole human race should have suffered for their own sins, to secure an amount of suffering greatly superior to that of the Saviour of sinners. For these reasons, we reject the theory of atonement against which the objection is pointed, and hold by the view already explained, namely, that the sufferings of Christ are to be regarded in the light of a moral satisfaction to the law and justice of God, which would have been requisite had there been but one sinner to be saved, and had that sinner had but one sin, and which would have been adequate had the number to be saved been to any conceivable extent greater than it is. But to this view of the subject the objection does not apply, as the merit of the atonement is not greater than, according to this, is absolutely indispensable.

William Symington, On the Atonement and Intercession of Jesus Christ (New York: Robert Carter, 1847), 207-209. [Underlining mine.]

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