John Howe (1630-1705) on the Redemption of Christ

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in For Whom did Christ Die?

John Howe (1630-1705)

[All citations from the Hunt edition, 1822.]

Shed his blood to redeem the world:

1) By deputation from Christ, as if they were his deputies, in doing such monstrous work as this! as if Christ had deputed them to destroy Christianity, to render it a ridiculous thing, by their inserted fooleries; and odious, by their barbarous cruelties! That He, who was the light of the world, should appoint them to over spread it with darkness! That he, who so freely shed his blood to redeem it, had commissioned them so copiously to shed human, and Christian blood. To make even his church, the temple of the living God a shambles and slaughter-house, and aftright the rest of mankind from coming near it who yet could be as little safe in declining it, if they were within the reach of their arm! What fearful havock did they make, un provoked in America, as soon as they could get any footing there; destroying multitudes of (towards them) harmless, innocent creatures, and who (as strangers) received them with all possible kindness, even to the number of no less than forty millions; as hath been acknowledged by some of their own historians. Their kings and princes were put to death, with most exquisite torture, upon the unjustifiable pretence of their teing infidels; but with design to make them confess their gold and treasure, which they did but suspect they concealed. John Howe, “Deliverance from the Power of Darkness” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 4:174.

Redeemer of man:

1) Inference. That it is a great thing to die. The Son of God, the Redeemer of man, hath an immediate presidency over this affair. He signalizes himself by it, who could not sup pose that he should be magnified by a trifle! John Howe, “Redeemer’s Dominion Over the Invisible World,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822) 1: 21.

2) To instance somewhat concerning the redemption of man by Christ; as that man, being in so lost and forlorn a condition, God did send his own Son down into this world to be a Redeemer and Saviour to him. This is a thing, not evident at first sight; it was not upon the first proposal discovered; it is not as soon as we hear it evident to any of us; but it may admit to be clothed with that evidence wherewith it must recommend itself to the consciences of such as shall consider. There is enough to make it plain, both who he was that came under the notion of a Redeemer into this world, and what he came for; that doing the part of a Redeemer, was really the design and end of his coming. John Howe, “The Gospel Commends Itself,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 8:52.

Redeemer of a lost world:

1) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. By him were all things made : and without him was not any thing made that was made.” And I will not undertake to exclude that from the signification and meaning of the text. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, the essential Word, the divine Logos. Though, I would not lay a stress upon a thing that is not plainly and manifestly intended yet, to take it in, is very suitable to the current of other texts of Scripture. The eternal Word had its hand and part in the creation; and it was by IT, that these worlds were made. And thereupon, by a right of creation as natural, as well as by the acquired right of a Redeemer of a lost world, by the effusion of his blood, and the sacrifice of himself, he comes to have a governing power over all this world: being ascended and gone up far above all heavens, he hath all power given into his hands, both in heaven and in earth. John Howe, “The Principles of the Oracle of God,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 7:283.

2) And further, too, because the lapsed world of mankind is, as such, thereupon, manifestly put into the hands, and under the government of the Redeemer, who died, and revived, and rose again, that he might be Lord of the living and dead: yea, and not only the lapsed world of mankind, but even the whole creation, as a surplusage of remunerative dignity arid glory, for that free and voluntary susception and undertaking of his, it will be, thereupon, most suitable to my design, to bring in the consideration of providence, under the mediatory kingdom of our Lord, and as it belongs to that vicegerency of his which he holds now, not only over this lapsed world, but over the whole creation, as by whom all things consist and are held together. And so, the discourse of the fall, in reference to this design of mine, very fitly intervening, I have chosen to pitch it on this place, from this text of Scripture now read. John Howe, “The Principles of the Oracle of God,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 7:340.

Purchased dominion over all mankind by his blood:

1) For can any man believe these two things, that there is a God who made heaven and earth, and that Jesus Christ is his own Son; and after that believe that it is more reasonable to disobey, than to obey that great God; or be subject to him, who bought us with his blood, and purchased to himself a dominion over them and all mankind? 1 would fain see the man, and hear what he could say for himself, who professing to believe, that there is one Creator of all things, and one Redeemer, who has procured to himself a dominion over all by his death, shall say, “I hold all this; but I will withal hold, that it is a great deal more reasonable to affront than to obey them.” What man would dare to say so? John Howe, “The Vanity of Profession of Formal Religion” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822) 5:476.

2) Lastly, that this ministry, in connection with the same power and presence, is promised to be continued to the end of the world: “Go and teach all nations;” I appoint you to go and make my claim to all the creation; for all power is given me, both in heaven and earth; and go you and teach all nations; disciple them, proselyte them to me; gather in the world, lay my claim for me, and in my name, to all the world, and tell men every where what I am, the Redeemer, and what I have, by my blood, the price of that redemption, purchased, even an absolute dominion and power over all the world; I died, and was buried, and rose again, that I might become Lord both of living and dead. All power hereby is consigned and made over to me, and by virtue of that power, I commission you: go forth every where, and challenge the world, upon that account, to submit to me, their rightful Lord. John Howe, “The Gospel Ministry,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 8:106.

Ransom for all:

1) And it is to suppose the Majesty of Heaven cheap and mean, and to suppose the Redeemer impotent, to think that the sinner should expiate his own sin and make God amends, when he hath committed this thing entirely to his own Son. Thus it is that he doth gospelize the spirits of sinners, when he is designing to make them his indeed, to -bring them into a state of friendship with him. That though there be most tender relentings, and deepest debasement and humiliation, and they could lay themselves even as low as hell at the foot “of the mercy seat, yet for all this, it is the remotest thing in all the world for them to imagine they can satisfy the Divine Majesty in the least, give the least satisfaction for the least offence or wrong that they have done. Therefore whereas this is the voice of the gospel, “Turn and ye shall live,” and, I expect no compensation from you for any of the injuries you have done me, you that have lived in continual neglect of me all your days, wandering from and rebelling against the God of- your lives, if you turn I will be reconciled to you freely; I will most freely forgive you; the pardon and the peace that I am ready to afford you shall cost you nothing; and whatsoever is requisite to your present safe, and future happy state, shall be without the least expense to you. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Isaiah Iv. 1. Never trouble yourselves for money, for it shall cost you nothing. Those mercies, that flow as waters from a most exuberant and abundant fountain; those gracious, those spiritful communications meant by milk and wine, these shall all stand you in nothing; you shall have all freely if you will come.” Ho, every one that thirsteth, come; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” Why this is a strange way to induce men to be reconciled to God, and to become friends with him. You will say, I have offended him highly, lived long in continual neglect of him and rebellion against him; how shall I see his face? How shall I hold up my head before him? What shall I render to him by way of recompense? Shall it be thousands of rams, or ten thousands of rivers of oil? Alas! I cannot command them, arid they would signify nothing if I could. If this whole world were mine, and I could make it one flaming sacrifice to his offended wrath and justice, it would avail nothing. Oh to have any such objection seasonably and aptly obviated! Why, all that you need, it shall be given without price. Without price ! what, such previous things as I need, and must have, or I must perish? Yes, be they never so precious. “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Do not think it will reach but to a few. Be they never so many, it is a ransom of sufficient value. “He gave himself a ransom for all, (see 1 Tim. it. 6.) to be testified in due time.” That is, he offered so full a ransom, that if there were never so many to be saved, there needs no addition to the value of the ransom. And none can fall short of being saved, for that reason, because the ransom was too little, because it would not answer the exigencies of the case. That can never be objected.–”To be testified indue time.” I rest on that passage, too faintly rendered, and so as to hide from us the true and full significancy of it; “he gave him self a ransom, a testimony;” there is no more than so; Which being read as a parenthesis, those words (in due time) are connected with the former, he gave himself a ransom in due time, in the proper appointed time. A testimony; yea, a wonderful testimony. Christ upon the cross ! What a testimony is this of the reconcileableness of God to sinners ! What pretence hath the unbeliever, or any heart, against the speakingness and significancy of this testimony? When you see Christ dying, and Christ a ransom to redeem sinners by a reconciling sacrifice, is not that a sufficient testimony of the Divine good will? You see this in far lower instances: he did not leave himself without witness, when there was no more to be seen of his kindness, propension, and good-will to men, but giving rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons. But, oh! what a witness is this, when he gives his Son to die as a ransom upon the cross! when he is set forth (as the expression is) to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” Rom. iii. 25. A mighty testimony to the grace of God, and a mighty testimony against the unbelief of men. He gave himself a ransom; and here was the testimony that God is ready to receive returning sinners, and to be reconciled to them without any price paid by them. Having such a ransom, such a price paid down already for them; so that now, sinners, whoever you are, that live under the gospel, you have not this pretence left against making haste to be reconciled unto God “I have highly offended him, I have wronged him; I can make him no recompense, no satisfaction.” This is to add wickedness to your sin, to think of making him a satisfaction. He never leaves that upon you; you have not that to say against returning presently, and falling with a broken heart at the footstool of the throne of grace. You are not to insist upon this; it would be wickedness to stand upon it, to think of making him satisfaction. No, you have nothing to do, but only to fly to him for mercy, implore his mercy, be at his foot; there will be peace between him and you. He is willing to be reconciled, and it shall cost you nothing. John Howe, “Friendship with God,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 8:400-403.

Came to redeem you:

1) If thou wilt not be reconciled, Christ did,as to thee, die in vain, thou canst be nothing the better. Think what it must come to, that so precious blood, (infinitely exceeding the value of all corruptible things; silver and gold, &c. 1 Pet. i. 18, 19.) should be shed, to redeem and save such as thou, and yet do thee no good? John Howe, “On Reconciliation,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 2:443.

Price paid [for you]:

1) Secondly. It is perfectly free, and of mere grace. We are justified freely by his grace, Rom. iii. 24. He invites sinners to come to him, even without money and without price, Isa. Iv. 1. A great price indeed hath been paid, but by another hand, as we shall shew when we come to the second head, the way wherein our Lord effects this reconciliation, in the body of his flesh through death. But no price is expected from us, he doth it for his own sake, as Isa. xliii. 25. John Howe, “On Reconciliation,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 2:430.

Your redeemer calls:

1) Trace your own hearts : how canst thou say, I am not polluted? see thy way, (Jer. ii. 23,) mark thy own footsteps, see what course thou hast held, years together, even under the gospel; and when thou hast been so often warned, even by him who bought thee by his blood, to seek first the kingdom of heaven to strive to enter in at the strait gate and told how precious a thing thy soul is, even more worth than all the world; and how fearful a bargain thou wouldst have of it, if thou shouldst gain the whole world, and lose thy soul! And if all the neglects of his warnings and counsels have proceeded from the worldliness, earthliness, and carnality of thy heart and mind, and all this is declared to be enmity against God; then cast thyself down at his foot, and say to him, now Lord, I yield to conviction; I now perceive I have been alienated, and an enemy in my mind by wicked works, though I never suspected any such thing by myself before. Arid know that till then the gospel of reconciliation will do thee no good, thou wilt never be the better for it, though thou livest under it all thy days; all exhortations to be reconciled to God, and to get this dreadful disease of enmity against God cured, will avail no more than physic, or a physician to one that counts he is well, and feels himself not at all sick. All thy Redeemer’s calls will sound in thine ears, as if he called the righteous, and not a sinner to repentance. But that such calls might, or may yet signify the more, know that reconciliation not only comprehends a conviction of the fact, that thou hast been an enemy; but will also contain, in thy case, if ever thou be reconciled. John Howe, “On Reconciliation,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 2:416.

2) And that it is as impossible, for a man to be a sincere lover of God, and an over intense lover of this world, as to have two Gods; that is, two supreme powers to govern him, two supreme goods to satisfy him. This must breed a perpetual war, till the case alters between thee, and him that made thee; and woe to him that strives with his Maker. To have the wrath of God, armed with omnipotency engaged against thee; and yet that thou shouldst not covet peace that yet thou shouldst not cry for peace! To have the peace-making blood of thy Redeemer crying to thee, O be at peace with God! to have him that shed it thus bespeaking thee, I am ready to do the part of a days-man, I have died upon the cross, that I might do so, that I might effect, and bring about a peace between God and thee; I am ready to mediate, make use of me, I will undertake on God’s part, that he shall pardon thee, that he shall forgive thee, and let the controversy fall, if yet thy heart on thy part will yield, melt and relent, and thou cry for mercy. He came with this design into this world, the proclamation of angels at his coming spake his design; Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, and good-will towards men. Shall not all this be believed? or shall men pretend to believe it, and not consider it, or not look upon it as a considerable thing? John Howe, “Of Peace,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 2:511-512.

3) That it is a very dismal thing, and ought accordingly to be deplored much, that such things as we have revealed to us, concerning God, should be from time to time propounded and explained, and inculcated, and yet have no more effect upon us, than upon devils. How many a man is there, that lives under the gospel of Christ, unreconciled to God all his days? Oh, if there be any such a one in this assembly, How often hast thou been striven with to turn and live? how often invited back to God in Christ? But it hath signified as little to preach to thee all this while, as if one had preached to a devil. Oh, wretched creature, that thou wilt make thyself a devil, when God doth, not make thee such! that thou wilt sort with the devils, when. God would deal with thee, on very distinct terms from them! He would have thee come to him: he doth not invite devils back; he saith to thee, Return, return: “he saith not so to them. Here is the blood of a Redeemer spilt for thee, it was not for them. And if we consider this matter generally; Oh, how dismal it is to think, that the revelation of the doctrine of the very one God’s existence, should have made no more impression than it hath, to advantage the world of mankind; that the state of things should be so very much upon earth, as it is in hell! as if there were no difference in the cases of men and devils; that there should be such enmity against God, amongst men upon earth, such rage, such contempt, such blasphemy against this one existing Deity. And indeed, in this, men are worse than the devils, for the devils do hate God, but they do not despise him: here on earth he is hated and despised too: the devils hate him, but they cannot contemn him : men hate and contemn him both together. “Wherefore do the wick ed contemn God Psal. 10.13. John Howe, “The Principles of the Oracle of God,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 6:515.

4) The great things contained in the gospel that should influence them hereunto, they grow from time to time less and less considerable to them: what should have influence to the turning of a soul through Christ to bring him to exercise “repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,” grows from time to time less considerable. These mighty weighty motives are contained in the gospel. Sinner, if thou dost not turn thou diest ! If thou dost not fall into a closure with the Son of God as thy Redeemer, Saviour, and Lord, thou art a ruined creature to all eternity. Lo, here is a glorious heaven before thee, that will be the reward of thy gospel obedience. Here is a place and state of torment, a fiery gulf, a flaming hell before thee, and in view too, that must determine thy place, and the state of thy eternal torment and punishment if thou turn not, if thou do not obey the gospel, if thou becomest not a serious penitent and sincere believer, a faithful dutiful subject to God in Christ. Here, are the great considerations which the gospel presents men with, to influence their turning, their renovation and conversion to God through Christ. Now the longer men continue under the gospel, while it yet continues an hidden gospel to them, the less do these considerations signify with them from day to day; because the force of them hath been spent upon them (as it were) heretofore, and now they signify little, still less and less. Such considerations as these, though they are the weightiest and most important that can be imagined, yet they have been blown upon; and, saith the obdurate sinner, I have learned long ago to make light of these things; and, what? do you tell me of these things now? These are the greatest things that can be told them, or mentioned to them. But these things they have learned long ago to make very little of, so as they can say, in case you talk of heaven to me now, pray what doth it signify more now than it did ten or twenty years ago? John Howe, “The Gospel Being Hidden,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 8:144-145.

5) This adds weight to all the rest, that they were very light matters for which men have exposed themselves to this fearful loss, even of themselves, of their very souls: a loss that nothing can recompense, nothing can make up.”What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matt, xvi. 26. What hast thou had in exchange for thy soul? The smallest matters imaginable, the temporary satisfaction of a lust. I sold my soul (may one say) to please my friend. I sold my soul (may another say) for the love I had, for the lust I had, to a cup of drink. I sold my soul (may a third say) for the pleasure I took in a vain idle companion. These are the things that kept me from closing with God, uniting with my Redeemer, and from engaging and persisting in the way of life. O that God, and Christ, and heaven, should be set so low! Thou didst break with me, (must the great God say, and must the Redeemer that died for you say,) thou didst break with me for a trifle, for a thing of nought; yea, thou didst prefer before me the vilest things, the most odious things. Thou didst rather choose to be a vassal, a slave to lust, than to live under the easy yoke and government of a compassionate and merciful Redeemer and Saviour. The deformities of wickedness were more amiable in thine eyes than the beauties of holiness. What can be said in this case, when the story comes to be told, and the matter is to be represented just as it is, that it is thus as you have heard? John Howe, “The Gospel Being Hidden,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 8:157.

Reject the price of your redemption:

1) And how should it ravish the heart of any man to have mercy and help offered him by another hand, who hath perished by his own? how taking should gospel-grace be upon this account? how should this consideration engage souls to value and embrace it? it is urged (we see) to that purpose, Hosea 13. 9. O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help; and verse 10. it follows, I will be thy King; where Is any other that will save thee, &c. And ch. 14. 1. O Israel, return unto the Lord, for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Now (friends) do but seriously consider this. If you believe the truths you have heard, how precious should Christ be to you! how precious should the gospel, the ordinances, and ministry of it be! Do you complain that formerly you were not treated with? by all these God now treats with you. Now your own personal consent Is called for; not to any thing that hath the least of hazard in it, but what shall make you certainly happy, as miserable as you have made yourselves; and there is nothing but your consent wanting; the price of your redemption is already paid; it is but taking Christ for your Saviour and your Lord, and living a life of dependance and holiness for a few days, and you are as safe as if you were in glory; will you now stick at this? O do not destroy yourselves a second time, and make yourselves doubly guilty of your own ruin. John Howe, “Man’s Creation,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 2:384.

Redeemer rejected:

1) And that lest any should refuse such compliance with their great, Lord, wholo hades should be no longer so, hut made naked before them, and the covering of hell and destruction be taken off, and their own eyes behold the internal horrors, and their own ears hear the shrieks and howlings, of accursed creatures, that having rejected their Redeemer, are rejected by him. We are not here to consider, what course would most certainly effect their salvation, but what most be came the wise holy God, to preserve the dignity of Ins own government, and save them too; otherwise almighty power could save all at once. John Howe, “Redeemer’s Dominion Over the Invisible World,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822) 1:33.

2) And when thou so fallest in with the world, how highly dost thou gratify the pretending and usurping god of it? The great fomenter of the sensual, worldly genius: the spirit itself that works in the children of disobedience, (Eph. 2. 2. 3.) and makes them follow the course of the world, holds them fast bound in worldly lusts, and leads them captive at his will; causes them (after his own serpentine manner) to creep and crawl in the dust of the earth. He is most intimate to this apostate world; informs it (as it were) and actuates it in every part; is even one great soul to it. The whole world lies in that wicked one, (I John. 5. 19.) as the body, by the best philosophers, is said to be in the soul. The world is said to be convicted when he is judged. John 16.8,12. He having fallen from a state of blessedness in God, hath involved the world with himself in the same apostacy and condemnation; and labours to keep them fast in the bands of death. The great Redeemer of souls makes this his business, to loose and dissolve the work of the devil. 1 John 3.8. With that wicked one thou compliest against thy own soul and the Redeemer of it, while thou neglectest to desire and pursue this blessedness. This is thy debasement, and his triumph; thy vile succumbency gives him the day ad his will upon thee. He desires no more than that he may suppress in thee all heavenly desires, and keep thee thus a slave and a prisoner (confined in thy spirit to this low, dark dungeon) by thy own consent. While thou remainest without desire after heaven, he is secure of thee, as knowing then thou wilt take no other way, but what will bring thee, as unto the same eternal state with himself in the end. He is jealous over thee, that thou direct not a desire, nor glance an eye heaven-ward. While thou dost not so, thou art entirely subject, and givest as full obedience to him, as thy God require to himself in order to thy blessedness. But is it a thing tolerable to thy thoughts, that thou shouldst yield that heart obediance to the devil against God? And this being the state of thy case, what more significant expression canst thou make of the contempt of divine goodness? O the love that thou neglectest, while the most glorious issue and product of it is with thee an undesired thing. Yea, this the thing itself speaks, were there no such competition. What, that when eternal love hath conceived, and is traveling to bring forth such a birth; that when it invites thee to an expectation of such glory shortly to be revealed, the result of so deep counsels and wonderful works, this should be the return from thee, I desire it not! Is this thy gratitude to the Father of glory, the requital of the kindness, yea, and of the blood of thy Redeemer? If this blessedness were not desirable for itself, methinks the offerer’s hand should be a sufficient endearment. But thou canst not so divide or abstract, it consists in beholding and bearing his glorious likeness who invites thee to it; and therefore in the neglect of it thou most highly affrontest him. John Howe, “Of the Blessedness of the Righteousness” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 3:241.

3) And do you not find, as his word also plainly tells you, a great averseness and disinclination in you to any such serious solemn applying yourself to him, and your Redeemer? Try your own hearts; Do you not find them draw back and recoil? if you urge them, do they not still fly off? How loth are you to retire! and set yourselves to consider your case! and unto serious seeking of God ins Christ! both from a reluctancy, and in disposition to any such employment as this is itself and from disaffection to that whereto it tends, the breaking off your former sinful course of life, and entering upon a better. And does not all this shew you the plain truth of what the word of God hath told you, that the Ethiopian may as soon change his skin, or the leopard his spots, as they do good, who are accustomed to do evil; (Jer: 13. 23.) that you have a heart that cannot repent,(Rom. 2. 5.) till God give you repentance to life,(Acts 11. 18.) that you cannot come to Christ till the Father draw you, John 6. 44. Do you not see your case then? that you must perish if you have not help from heaven? John Howe, “The Redeemer’s Tears” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 4:55-56.

Denying the Lord who bought you:

1) Again, is it righteous to deny the Lord that bought thee, to neglect that great salvation which he is the author of? And whereas he came to bless thee in turning thee from thine iniquities, wilfully to remain still in an accursed servitude to sin? when he was made manifest to destroy the works of the devil, still to yield thyself a captive at his will? whereas he died that thou mightest not any longer live to thyself, but to him that died for thee, and rose again; and that he might redeem thee from thy vain conversation, and that thou art so expressly told, that such as still lead sensual lives, mind earthly things, have not their conversation in heaven, are enemies to the cross of Christ. Is it no unrighteousness, that in these respects thy whole life should be nothing else but a constant contradiction to the very design of his dying? a perpetual hostility, a very tilting at his cross? Is there no unrighteousness in thy obstinate infidelity, that wickedly denies belief to his glorious truths, acceptance of his gracious offers, subjection to his holy laws? No unrighteousness in thy obstinate, remorseless impenitency? thy heart that cannot repent? that melts not, while a crucified Jesus, amidst his agonies and dying pangs, cries to thee from the cross, O sinner, enough, thy hard heart breaks mine! yield at last, and turn to God. Is it righteous, to live as no way under law to Christ? to persist in actual rebellion against his just government, which he died, and revived, and rose again, to establish over the living and the dead? yea, and that while thou pretendest thyself a Christian? In a word: Is it righteous to tread under foot the Son of God, to vilify his blood, and despise his Spirit; Is this the righteousness that thou taikest of? Are these thy qualifications for the everlasting blessedness? If thou say, thou confessest thou art in thyself, in these several respects, altogether unrighteous: but thou hopest the righte ousness of Christ will be sufficient to answer for all; no doubt Christ’s righteousness is abundantly available to all the ends for which it was intended by the Father and him; hut it shall ne ver answer all the ends that a foolish, wicked heart will fondly imagine to itself. John Howe, “Of the Blessedness of the Righteousness” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 3:171-172.

Redeemed perishing:

1) How many that understand nothing of its principal and plainest doctrines! as if nothing were requisite to distinguish the Christian from the pagan world, more than an empty name; or as if the Redeemer of sinners had died upon the cross, that men might more securely remain alienated from the life of God, not to reconcile and reduce them to him! or that they might with safety indulge appetite, mind earthly things, make the world their God, gratify the flesh, and make provision to fulfil the lusts of it, defy heaven, affront their Maker, live in malice, envy, hatred to one another! not to bless them, by turning them from these impieties and iniquities! As if it were so obscurely hinted, as that it could not be taken notice of, that the grace of God, which bringeth salvation to all men hath appeared, teaching them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, so looking for the blessed hope. And that Christ gave himself for us, to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify us to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works! How many, again, are Christians, they know not why! upon the same terms that others are mahometans, because it is the religion of their country, by fate or by accident, not by their own choice and judgment! the same inconsideration makes them be Christians, that makes ethers be none. And now, shall our Redeemer be left to weep alone, over these perishing souls have we no tears to spend upon this doleful subject? Oh that our heads were waters, and our eyes fountains! Is it nothing to us, that multitudes are sinking, going down into perdition, under the name of Christian, under the seal of baptism, from under the means of life and salvation! perishing! and we can do nothing to prevent it. We know they must perish that do not repent and turn to God, and love him above all, even with all their hearts and souls, and mind and might; that do not believe in his Son and pay him homage, as their rightful Lord, sincerely subjecting themselves to his laws and government. But this they will not understand, or not consider. Our endeavours to bring them to it, ate ineffectual, it is but faint breath we utter. Our words drop and die between us and them! We speak to them in the name of the eternal God that made them, of the great Jesus who bought them with his blood, and they regard it not. The Spirit of the Lord is in a great degree departed from among us, and we take it not to heart! We are sensible of lesser grievances; are grieved that men will not be more entirely proselyted to our several parties and persuasions, rather than that they are so disinclined to become proselytes to real Christianity; and seem more deeply concerned to have Christian religion so or so modified, than whether there shall be any such thing, or whether men be saved by it or lost! John Howe, “The Redeemer’s Tears” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 4:9-10 (the preface).

Christ offered a sacrifice for you:

1) And even his mercies more abstractly considered ought to have that power upon us. Were we not lost? Are we not rescued from a necessity of perishing, and being lost for ever, in the most costly way? costly, to our Redeemer, but to us, without cost. Is it a small thing, that he offers himself to us as lie doth when he demands us, and requires that we offer our selves to him: that he, in whom is all the fulness of God, having first offered himself for us, doth now offer himself also to us: that he hath treated us, hitherto, with such indulgence, waited on us with so long patience, sustained us by so large bounty? John Howe, “Self-Dedication,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822) 1:487.

2) And that I may, more particularly, direct my speech the same way, that the voice of that memorable providence is especially directed; you are, my Lord, to be more peculiarly besought by the mercies of God, that you would this day dedicate yourself to him. 1 do therefore beseech you, by the many endearing mercies which God hath so plentifully confer red upon you, by the mercies of your noble extraction and birth, by the mercies of your very ingenious and pious education, by the mercies of your family, which God hath made to descend to you from your honourable progenitors; (which, as they are capable of being improved, may be very valuable mercies;) by the blood and tender mercies of your blessed and glorious Redeemer, who offered up himself a Sacrifice to God for you, that you would now present yourself to God, a holy, living sacrifice, which is your reasonable service. I add, by the signal mercy which hath made this a memorable day to you, and by which you come, thus long, to enjoy the ad vantages of all your other mercies. How came it to pass that this day comes not to be remembered by your noble relatives, as a black and a gloomy day, the day of the extinction of the present light and luster of your family, and of quenching their coal which was left? You had a great Preserver, who we hope delivered you because he delighted in you. Your life was precious in his sight. Your breath was in his hand; he preserved and renewed it to you, when you were ready to breathe your last. And we hope he will vouchsafe you that greater deliverance, not to let you fall under the charge which was once exhibited against a great man, (Dan. 5. 23.) “The God in whose hands thy breath is hast thou not glorified:” and make you rather capable of adopting those words, (Ps. 42. 8.) “Yet the Lord will command his loving kindness in the day time, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.” Your acknowledgment are not to be limited to one day in the year; but from day to day his loving kindness, and your prayer and praise, are to compose your nuchthemeron, day and night; the one, to shew you, the other, to be unto you your morning and evening exercise. Let this be your resolution, ” Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever;” (Ps. 145. 2.) or that, (Ps. 104. 33.) ” I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live : I will sing praise unto my God while I have my being.” John Howe, “Self-Dedication,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 1:492-493.

Christ died for the sins of men:

1) But when the gospel shall come and tell him he hath deserved eternal wrath, that his sin is inexpiable, but by everlasting sufferings, or what is of equal value; that here is one (the eternal Son of God) who became a man like himself, and thereupon a voluntary sacrifice, to make atonement for the transgression of men; that God will never accept another sacrifice, for the sins of men than his, nor ever any ser vice at their hands, but for his sake; that him now revealed to them they must receive, rely upon, and trust to wholly, or perish without mercy; yea, and that he hath put the government over them, into his hands, laid it on his shoulders, and to him they must subject themselves as their Ruler and Judge the great Arbiter of life and death to them and all men; that they are to be entirely devoted to him as long as they live, as their Redeemer and Lord; in him as they are to have righteousness and strength so to him they must pay all possible homage and subjection, to him their knees must bow, and their tongues confess; they must receive the law from his mouth; be prescribed to by him, comply with his will, though never so much to the crossing of their own; and though notwithstanding, they must know they can deserve nothing by it; that so vile and worthless miscreants they are become that God will never have to do with them upon other terms. John Howe, “Of Delighting in God,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 2:40-41.

2) Nor again was it at all incongruous, or unbecoming, that the blessed God, this being the common temper and disposition of all men, to reject his gracious tenders, should provide, by some extraordinary means, that they might not be finally rejected by all. For what can be more appropriate to sovereignty (even where it is infinitely less absolute) than arbitrarily, to design the objects of special favour? Who blames a prince, for placing special marks of his royal bounty, or clemency here and there as he thinks fit? or that he hath some peculiar favourites, with whom he familiarly converses, whom he hath won, by some or other not-common inducements, and assured their loyal affection: though there be thousands of persons in his dominions besides, of as good parts, dispositions and deserts as they? It belongs to sovereignty, only so to be favourable to some, as, in the mean time, to be just towards all. Yea and it must be acknowledged, such are the dispensations of the holy God towards the whole community of mankind, as import, not only strict righteousness, but great clemency and mercy also. Though they might easily understand themselves to be offenders, and liable to the severities of his justice, they are spared by his patience, sustained by his bounty, protected by his power: their lives and properties are fenced by his own laws. And whereas they are become very dangerous enemies to one another : and each one his own greatest enemy; it is provided by those laws, even for the worst of men, that none shall injure them, that all love them, and seek their good. He interposes his authority on their behalf; and, if any wrong them, he takes it for an affront done to himself. By the same laws, they are directed to industry, frugality, sobriety, temperance, to exercise a government over themselves, to bridle and subdue their own exorbitant lusts and passions, their more immediate tormentors and the sources of all the calamities and miseries, which befall them in this world. By all which evidences of his great care, and concern for their welfare, they might understand him to have favourable propensions towards them, and that though they have offended him, he is not their implacable enemy; and might, by his goodness, be led to repentance.

Yea and moreover; he hath sent them a Redeemer, his own Son, an incarnate Deity, who came down into this world, full of grace and truth, upon the most merciful errand. And they have some of them been in transports, when they have but fancied such a descent, for the doing them, only, some lighter good turn; as upon the cure of the cripple. The gods (say they) are. come down in the likeness of men! Act. 14,11. “He being filled with the glorious fulness of the Godhead, hath been a voluntary sacrifice for the sins of men; and if they would believe and obey him, they would find that sacrifice is accepted, and available for them. And though they are disabled to do so, only by their own wicked inclination, even against that also they have no cause to despair of being relieved, if they would (which they might) admit the thoughts of their impotency, and the exigency of their case, and did seriously implore divine help. John Howe, “The Reconcileableness of God’s Prescience” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 2:260-261.

3) Or that we are destitute of sufficient means to come by the knowledge of that truth! “Was this religion instituted only for one nation, or age?” Did the Son of God descend from heaven, put on flesh, and die? had we an incarnate Deity conversant among men on earth, and made a sacrifice for the sins of men? and hath he left the world at liberty, whether, upon any notice hereof, they should inquire and concern themselves about him or no? being incarnate he could not, as such, be every where; nor was it fit he should be long here; or needful, (and therefore not fit) he should die often. It was condescension enough that he vouchsafed once to appear, in so mean and self-abasing a form, and offered himself to put away sin, by the sacrifice of himself. And whereas he hath himself founded a dominion over us in his own blood, did die, and revive, and rise again, that he might be Lord of the living, and of the dead; and the eternal Father hath hereupon highly exalted him, given him a name above every name, that at his name every knee should bow, and that all should confess that he is Lord, to the praise and glory of God: and hath required that all should honour the Son as himself is to be honoured; hath given him power over all flesh; and made him head of all things to the church. Was it ever intended, men should, generally, remain exempt from obligation, to observe, believe, and obey him? was it his own intention to wave, or not insist upon, his own most sacred, and so dearly acquired rights? to quit his claim to the greatest part of mankind? why did he then issue out his commission as soon as he was risen from the dead, to teach all nations, to proselyte the world to himself, to baptize them into his name, (with that of the Father and the Holy Ghost. O the great and venerable names that are named upon professing Christians !) Could it be his intention, to leave it lawful to men to choose this, or any, or no religion, as their humours, of fancies, or lusts should prompt them to disregard, and deride his holy doctrines, violate and trample upon his just and equal laws, reject and contemn his offered favours and mercy, despise and profane his sacred institutions! When he actually makes his demand, and lays his claim, what amazing guilt how swift destruction must they incur, that dare adventure to deny the Lord that bought them! And they that shall do it, among a christianized people, upon the pretended insufficiency of the revelation they have of him, do but heighten the affront and increase the provocation. It is to charge the whole Christian institution with foolery, as pretending to oblige men, when they cannot know to what, how, or upon what ground they should be obliged; to pronounce the means and methods inept, and vain, which he hath thought sufficient (and only fit) for the propagating and continuing Christianity in the world; to render the rational reception of it from age to age, impossible, in his appointed way; or unless men should be taught by angels, or voices from heaven, or that miracles should be so very frequent, and common, as, thereby also to become useless to their end; and so would be to make the whole frame of Christian religion an idle impertinency; and, in reference to its avowed design, a self-repugnant thing, and consequently were to impute folly to him who is the wisdom of God. And how are other things known, of common concernment, and whereof an immediate knowledge is as little possible? Can a man satisfy himself that he hath a title to an estate, conveyed down to him by very ancient writings, the witnesses whereof are long since dead and gone? or that he is obliged by laws made many an age ago Or could any records be preserved with more care and concern, than those wherein our religion lies? or be more secure from designed, or material depravation? But this is no place to reason these things. Enough is said by others, referred to before. I only further say, if any that have the use of their understandings, living in a Christian nation, think to justify their infidelity and disobedience to the Son of God, by pretending they had no sufficient means to know him to be so, the excuse will avail them alike, as that did him, who insolently said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? John Howe, “The Redeemer’s Tears” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 4:7-8 (the preface).

5) That the bodies of men shall not be justified? Surely not. But thus, from not believing this doctrine, proceeds the denial of that great and noble propitiation, once for all made for the sins of men, under the proper notion of a propitiation or an expiatory sacrifice to atone for sin, and take away guilt. John Howe, “The Principles of the Oracle of God,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 7:27.

4) If we look a little into another sort of species, what a weighty instance of this power was it to support the manhood of Christ under those sufferings of his, which he, as to satisfaction for the sins of men, and in which capacity only he was capable of suffering; to wit, as he was man, for he could not suffer as he was God. That that man should be able to bear the weight and load of all that guilt, which he undertook to expiate by his blood, which blood was necessary to expiate it, and to lay a foundation for the preaching of the gospel, which saith, “who soever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life:” that he did not sink under that weight and load of guilt, and under the power of divine wrath, when all our iniquities did meet on him : that he, one single man should be sustain ed and borne up, when so vast a load and weight of guilt lay upon him : here was the power of the Godhead sustaining that one man. It was because he was Immanuel, u God with us,” God in our nature. That that nature did not fail, did not sink under that mighty load : that that man should stand as the fellow of God, when the sword was drawn to strike that man his fellow : that he should stand against him and not be destroyed, and not be overcome, is a great power. John Howe, “The Principles of the Oracle of God,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 7:74-75.

Heb 10:28-29:

1) They were not obliged by their own consent, but they were obliged to it, and by an in comparably greater and deeper obligation; not by their own act and deed, but by His who gave them breath. What is their authority over themselves, compared with that of the Supreme Lawgiver? A mere borrowed subordinate thing, without and apart from him, without whom their being itself were mere nothing! An argument ad hominem, is convictive, in disputation, between one man and another; but how much more overpowering means of conviction will there be in the judgment of the great day! And the parity of cases between the angels that fell, and insolent sinners under the gospel, is intimated as monitory to the latter, in those texts of Scripture that speak of God’s most just and terrible severity to the former; namely, the sin of both was apostasy, according to the different covenants or laws under which they stood. For as the one sort were apostates from God, so the others were from Christ, denying the Lord that bought them, 2 Pet. 2. 1. And again, ” turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ,” Jude 4. Whereupon, this example of God’s vengeance upon the angels that fell is subjoined in both places. Besides what was common to them with the apostate angels, there were some things peculiar to these wilful refusers of the grace of the gospel, and violators of the gospel-covenant. As,

That the guilt of wilful sinners under the gospel admits of this aggravation above that of the rebelling angels, that they offend against the grace of the remedy, never offered to the other; treading under foot the Son of God, profaning the blood of the covenant, wherewith they were sanctified, as an unholy thing, and doing despite unto the Spirit of grace, Heb. 10. 29. And,

That the offer itself, made to them, carried in it a manifest signification of their (remote) claimable right to the benefits of the gospel-covenant, on supposition of their compliance with the terms of it, (unto which the fallen angels could have no pretence,) barred only by their non-acceptance or refusal, which appears in the general tenor of the gospel-covenant it self: “Ho, every one that thirsts” “Whosoever will, let him come, and take of the waters of life freely” God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish.” And it is here to be noted, that a secret intention gives not a claimable right, but some overt-act or deed; and it must be claimable, before it ought to be claimed or accepted. This is the case then with the wilfully impenitent and rebellious under the gospel, that it may be truly said to them, “You might have had pardon and eternal life, if you had not rejected the kindest offers.” It is not therefore want of value in this sacrifice, but their rejection, whence it is unavailable to them. As for them that could never have the gospel, or infants incapable of receiving it, we must consider the holy Scriptures were written for those that could use them, not for those that could not; therefore to have inserted into them an account of God’s methods of dispensation towards such, had only served to gratify the curious and unconcerned, not to instruct or benefit such as were concerned. And it well became hereupon the accurate wisdom of God, not herein to indulge the vanity and folly of man. John Howe, ‘The Living Temple: Part II,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 1:398-399.

2) There is a sorer punishment, that is incurred by sinning against that gospel, wherein that Spirit breathes, than could be by sinning against the law of Moses; as in that Heb. 10. 28 and onward. “If he that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unclean thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” There lies the achme and height of the wickedness that appeal’s in this case: that is, that Spirit is a Spirit of grace, that they have been contending and striving against; that Spirit of all goodness, and love, and kindness, and benignity : to have striven against that Spirit, to the last breath, of how much sorer punishment shall such be thought worthy? The sinning against one’s own conscience, it is doing a violence to one’s self, and to what God hath made superior and governing in us, did appoint it to be so. But this is a more immediate and direct affront to hea ven, when resistance is made to the Spirit of God himself, who insinuates, slides into the mind, repeats and inculcates from time; and still in vain. It is a fearful thing when men do engage in a continual war with their own consciences, it is unnatural; and it is a great offence against God too. Heathens have thought so; as particularly Marcus Antoninus: “that warned men, if they would live well, they must live with God, and keep up a conversation with God, and that (saith he) we shall do, if we do not offer violence to, and tear that vicarious God that is in us, which God hath set over every man to be the guide of his life.” But when an affront is offered to God himself, the Supreme Good, (as I may say,) not to that vicarious God, but to the very Divine Throne: this is a fearful thing to do so. And so it is when men are continually fighting against that Spirit, that breathes in the gospel. John Howe, “The Principles of the Oracle of God,” in Works, (Hunt edition, 1822), 7:455-456.

Good secondary source: David Field, Rigide Calvinisme in Softer Dress: The Moderate Presbyterianism of John Howe (1630-1705) (Edinburgh, Scotland: Rutherford House, 2004).

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