Jacob Catlin (1786-1826) on the Redemption of Christ

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in For Whom did Christ Die?


Having dilated as far as is thought expedient, on the solemn and awful subjects of the apostasy, depravity, and original corruption of all mankind; we now proceed to a more pleasant theme–a gospel doctrine. The subject of this essay may be the doctrine of redemption, by the blood of Christ. This is a subject which claims the most lively, ardent and grateful attention. The gospel and the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, are the things “which the angels desire to look into.” And if all that appertains to the great work of redemption by Jesus Christ, be exhibited; it will amount to an exhibition of the whole gospel of divine grace.

Introductory to a discussion of this doctrine, we may notice, that from the scriptures, there appears to have been an eternal covenant between the persons of the sacred Trinity , called the covenant of redemption. This covenant is clearly manifested by its effects. The several parts performed by each of the three persons of the Godhead, suggests the idea of an eternal compact, or agreement, as respected the marvelous work of redemption. The great objects to be accomplished, and which have employed the counsels of the Three in One, from eternity, were, to provide an adequate atonement for sin, and an actual deliverance of the elect from the curse of the divine law. For this purpose, the Father is represented, as sitting on the throne of justice, claiming satisfaction for the violation of his law, and finding a ransom; and as giving to his Son the promise of a seed to serve him for a reward of his sufferings as a Mediator. The Father also, “sent forth his son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law. God gave his only begotten Son, and “delivered him up for us all.” The Son, on his part, freely undertook the arduous work. “Lo I come! in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O God; and thy law is within my heart.” Cheerfully did he engage to assume our nature, and lay down his life for us. All this being insufficient to win the hearts of sinners, an important work was also assigned to the Holy Ghost. To him it belonged, not only to guide and comfort all the saints, and keep them, by his power, through faith unto salvation; but also to reprove the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. His was also the great and glorious work of regeneration. “According to his mercy he saves us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” The wonderful order and arrangement of the great works appertaining to redemption, make it evident, that they are, and have been, covenant transactions of the sacred Trinity, established from eternity.

There are several passages of scripture, which, in a general view, evidently allude to the covenant of redemption. Particularly in the 89th Psalm; the things which are said of David, have more particular reference to the Savior, of whom David was an illustrious type. “I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David, my servant; thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Then thou speaks in vision to thy Holy one, and said, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. I have found David my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him. Also I will make him my first born, higher than the kings of the earth. Mt mercy will I keep forevermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him.” These high honors belong to him only, who is the Prince of peace; and they are the fruits and rewards of his faithfulness in the character of a Mediator.

Much we find also which relates to the covenant of redemption, in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy. “He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.–He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities.–The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.–It pleased the Lord to bruise him, he hath put him to grief.” Thus the blessed Redeemer performed and suffered his stipulated part, and waited for his reward. ”When thou shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed; he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he hath poured out his soul unto death; and he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” In this chapter, we have many clear and strong expressions of covenant transactions between the persons of the adorable Trinity; and especially, between the Father and the Son. The work of the Holy Spirit is always understood, whether expressed or not, so far as respects the actual redemption to God of all the subjects of divine grace. A similar statement, respecting the covenant of redemption, we have in the epistle to the Colossians. Describing the voluntary humiliation of Christ, from the highest seat in heaven, to the ignominious death of the cross, to make an ample atonement for a guilty world; it is added, as expressive of his stipulated reward;” God also,” even God the Father, “hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, and every tongue should confess that he is Lord of all, to the glory of God the Father.”

Thus, by way of covenant, and mutual compact, the great and glorious work of redemption has been accomplished by the sacred Trinity; and the precious fruits of this work of grace are manifest, and will be more and more manifest, while the world stands; and the glorious work will be celebrated in heaven by unceasing praises and hallelujahs.

These are the views which Christians generally entertain of the covenant of redemption. In this, man has no part to act, no condition to perform. The whole of this great and wonderful transaction, is accomplished by the Godhead; by which it appears, that all are equally engaged to accomplish the arduous and glorious work of redemption; and all derive from it equal honor and glory.


1. It appears from the view which we have taken of the covenant of redemption, that however united and harmonious the persons of the Godhead might be, in the execution of this glorious work, yet Christ is more particularly than the others, the Redeemer of sinful men. “The only Redeemer of God’s elect, is the Lord Jesus Christ.” Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. “Christ hath redeemed us to God, by his own blood.” Christ, only, assumed human nature, and was made capable of pain, and sorrow, and death. Considering the infinite dignity of his character, as “God manifest in the flesh,” he was capable, by his own voluntary sufferings and death, of making an infinite atonement for sin. And to him it belonged, according to the tenor of the covenant of redemption, to suffer, in sinner’s stead, all that they deserved: not that he suffered, literally speaking, all the pains and sorrows, due to sinners. For, as the human nature only, was capable of suffering; it was impossible for Christ to suffer an infinite quantity of pain or sorrow. But taking into the account the infinite dignity of his character, it is evident, that what he suffered was as well fitted to express the displeasure of God against sin, as if Deity himself had suffered on the cross; in man’s stead. Accordingly, in a free mode of expression, the life and the blood of Christ are spoken of as the life and the blood of God. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he (God) laid down his life for us.” “Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

Thus the law of God, sanctioned by a penalty, absolutely infinite, was amply vindicated, fulfilled, magnified and made honorable. This was the arduous part which Christ performed, in distinction from the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Indeed, ail that was arduous and painful, was sustained by Christ. In this respect, Christ is, by way of distinction and eminence, denominated the REDEEMER. Should any conceive it to have been a hardship for the Savior to sustain all the sorrows and sufferings due to an ungodly world; let them consider, that as great as his sufferings were, so great also is his reward. His humiliation and death arc attended with an infinite reward. “God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name.” He is exalted to be head over ail things to the church. To him is given the dominion over all the principalities and powers of this world. He ever has and ever will have a seed to serve him in this world; and the time is drawing near, when his kingdom shall break in pieces and destroy the empires of iniquity, and then shall all the earth be filled with his glory.

2. In the discussion of the doctrine of the redemption of sinners, we may notice, that it differs materially from the redemption of slaves and captives. Such may be redeemed with money, or be exchanged for others in a like state of bondage with themselves. For they are considered as being free from criminality; though lawful captives. But in the case of sinners, money is out of the question. All the gold of Ophir would be of no avail, to redeem the soul from spiritual bondage. To offer money for the redemption of a convict, under the wholesome laws of human government, would be deemed an insult to the government. To offer money for the redemption of offenders in the Christian church, would be an insult to the body of Christ.

Redemption, in the bible sense, is effected, only by the atonement, which was made by the vicarious sufferings of Jesus Christ. “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Iamb without blemish, and without spot.” All mankind, having by their transgression, fallen under the sentence of eternal death, and being unable to deliver and save themselves, unable to atone for their sins, or to render that honor to the divine law, which justice demands; the way was prepared for Christ to interpose, according to the covenant of redemption, and give up his infinitely precious life for sinners, which was an all-sufficient sacrifice. This was a sacrifice acceptable to God; and this removed every obstacle, and every insuperable difficulty, in obtaining salvation. Now the door of mercy was opened, and nothing was required, but barely to accede to the humiliating terms of forgiveness, through the atoning blood of the Redeemer; and to embrace him by that faith, which works by love. Propitiation was made for the sins of the whole world. Christ “tasted death for every man.” The atonement was infinite and unlimited, however limited the application of it may be, in the actual redemption of souls from the bondage of sin and death, by the power of the Holy Ghost. To lay an ample foundation for the pardon and salvation of all penitent sinners, by suffering in their stead, the curse of a broken law; was the nature, as well as the design of the atonement. The suffering was strictly speaking, vicarious–one far others–”the just for the unjust.” “Christ died for the ungodly.”

Thus we discover the nature and design of the great work of redemption by the blood of the Son of God; and how different it is from the redemption of slaves and captives.

3. We may notice, more particularly, the necessity of redemption by the blood of Christ. ” For if there had been a law, which could have given life, verily righteousness,” or rather justification, ” should have been by the law.” But no such law can be found. Nothing can be done by sinners, which will give them a title to salvation. “God will by no means clear the guilty,” on the ground of their own works. Accordingly, sinners are said to be in a lost state. Christ came to seek and to save those who are lost. When man had fallen under the curse, there was but one alternative, either an infinite sacrifice, must be offered, or else eternal death must be the portion of all mankind. Thus we see, that redemption by Christ’s blood was absolutely necessary to the salvation of sinners.

4. Great as the work of redemption is, and all-sufficient as the atonement is; yet these afford no security for the salvation of a single sinner. What could the atonement avail a guilty world, were no man found willing to receive it? Superficial minds infer, from the sufficiency of the atonement, that all men will be saved. With as much propriety it might be said, that the atonement is sufficient to rid this world of evils ; therefore this world will be rid of evils. Or that the atonement is sufficient for the salvation of the devils, therefore the devils will be saved. But the fact is, “The whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.” The dreadful consequences of the apostasy are not removed; and mankind are not saved, by the mere sufferings of Christ. The atonement, in itself considered, saves no man from his sins; and no man can be saved in his sins. Of course, the salvation of no man is secured by the atonement.

By the blood of Christ, the law of God is vindicated, and is most powerfully enforced. Of course, the certainty of the damnation of all the impenitent is established. The work of redemption, instead of leading us presumptuously to hope for salvation, at all events, should alarm us with a sense of sin and danger. For as great as the atonement is, so great is our guilt; and if we continue in sin, so great will be our final condemnation. How extremely hazardous is it, therefore, to persevere in sin, hoping for salvation, on the ground of full redemption, by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ! This is a groundless and fallacious hope.

5. From this discussion of the doctrine of redemption, and from the scriptures in general on this subject, we learn, that all mankind are equally the subjects of redemption, though not of salvation, by the blood of Christ. Not that any but the elect are the subjects of redemption, in the most extensive sense, in which some use the word redemption. None but the elect are actually redeemed from the bondage of sin and death, and actually brought home to God, by faith in Jesus Christ But this is not the sense in which the word redemption, ought to be used. For it is blending the doctrines of redemption and regeneration together.

The redemption, which has been under consideration, and which is effected by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, is doubtless as extensive as the atonement itself; and is, in fact, a universal redemption. The ransom is fully paid for all men; and all are equally invited to participate in its benefits. Christ is said to have given himself a ransom for all, “And he is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” “Christ died for all;” and hereby proved, not that all should be saved; but that all were dead, “And he died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him that died for them and rose again.” All the instruction given us in the holy scriptures, on the subject of redemption, conveys the idea, that the ransom is paid for all. The prison doors are open to all! and on this ground, all are invited to come forth out of their spiritual bondage, into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Thus an ample foundation is laid for the actual salvation of all mankind, would they but only humble themselves, and heartily comply with the precious offers and invitations of the gospel. These, without reserve, are addressed to all men. “Ho! every one that thirsts, 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.” The money and the price are already paid; paid in advance, and paid gratuitously. “Incline your ear, therefore, and come; hear, and your soul shall live.” “And the spirit, and the bride say, come.” All mankind, both bad and good, if they ever come within the hearing of the gospel, are invited to the marriage feast. Surely these invitations and promises do not at all comport with the doctrine of a limited atonement and limited redemption. The invitations and promises are evidently addressed both to the elect, and to the non-elect. They were addressed to the Jews, when it was evident that many of them were of the non-elect; and to the Gentiles universally. Nor is there a word in the holy scriptures, expressing the idea of a limited atonement, limited redemption, or limited offers, invitations, or promises. By the great plan of redemption, the door of mercy is set open equally, to all mankind. Not that any man, saint or sinner, has the least claim of divine favor, as a matter of justice, or a reward of merit. He can claim no part of Christ’s righteousness, to support a plea in his own favor. For the righteousness of Christ is not transferable to another. All his hope is in the infinite merit of the blood of Christ ; and in the riches of divine grace.

6. From the view which we have taken of the doctrine of redemption, it is evident that it is effected, not by the obedience, but by the sufferings of Christ. All the expressions of the atonement, which have been noticed in the discussion of the doctrine before us, are expressions of suffering, rather than of obedience; and it has clearly appeared, that sufferings correspond with the curse of the law; and are necessary to the proper execution of the curse, or penalty of the law. It was by suffering on the cross, and not by obedience to the moral law, that “Christ hare our sins in his own body on the tree;” “died for the ungodly suffered for us was made sin for us;” “was wounded for our transgressions;” “redeemed us from the curse of the law being made a curse for us.”

Besides; It is to be noticed distinctly, that in the redemption of sinners, by the blood of Christ, there is an infinite sacrifice for sin. Christ is said to have made his soul an offering for sin; and to have put away sin, by the sacrifice of himself. “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” But is there any sacrifice in mere acts of obedience? Is not obedience to God the supreme delight of all rational creatures, who are, as Christ was, in a state of perfect holiness? surely, there must be something more humiliating, and more arduous, than mere obedience to the moral law of God, to constitute an atonement for sin, and to deliver us from the curse of a broken law.

We may observe further, as an evidence, that the atonement is effected, not by the obedience, but by the sufferings of Christ; that all the types of the atonement, under the old testament dispensation, consisted in bloody sacrifices, and offerings for sin : “And without shedding of blood, there is no remission.” The paschal lamb, a type of the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world, was to be slain and roasted and eaten ; and as a special type of the manner of Christ’s death, not a bone was to be broken. And it is said, that” the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burnt without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.” The typical priesthood, and everything typical of Christ, in the Mosaic system, lead us to consider the atonement, as consisting, wholly in the sufferings and death of Christ.

The obedience of Christ, in his human nature, was indeed perfect. “He was holy, harmless, undefiled.” Had he not been obedient, he could never have been disposed to lay down his life for us; neither would his death have been at all meritorious. It is said he became obedient unto deaths even the death of the cross. His death was doubtless voluntary, and to this he became obedient, because in this consisted the atonement.

Such is the doctrine of redemption; a doctrine which angels, as well as men, may justly admire and celebrate. It is a glorious manifestation of the love and mercy of the sacred Trinity. And now unto the Three that bear record in heaven, be honor and glory, thanksgiving and praise forever…. AMEN.

Jacob Catlin, A Compendium of the System of Divine Truth, (Hartford: George Goodwin & Sons…. Printers, 1818), 110-119

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