The like answer I give to Rom. 5:10, “We were reconciled unto God by the death of his Son,” to wit, that Christ’s death was the price of our reconciliation, and so it is through the death of Christ that we are reconciled, be it when it will be that we are reconciled. Here then we must distinguish, as it were of three periods of the will of God. 1. As it may be conceived immediately after sin committed, before the consideration of the death of Christ. And now is the Lord at enmity with the sinner, though not averse from all ways and means, by which he may return to friendship with him again. 2. As it may be conceived after the consideration of the death of Christ, and now is the Lord not only appeasable, but also does promise that he will be reconciled with sinners, upon such terms as he himself shall propose. 3. As the same will of God may be considered after the intercession of Christ’s part, and faith on the sinner’s part, and now is God actually reconciled and in friendship with the sinner, when then the Apostle says, “We are reconciled through the death of Christ,” he does not mean, that immediately upon the death of Christ we are actually reconciled unto God (for in the very next verse he says, that through Christ “we have now,” (not before), “received the atonement,” or reconciliation, which in plainer terms is this, that now, that is, since we are believers, we are actually reconciled unto God. But his meaning is, that through the death of Christ it is, that the promise of reconciliation is made, by and according to which we are actually reconciled unto God after we believe, suitable to that of the Lord Jesus, “This is the New Testament in my blood,” (obtained and sealed in my blood), “which was shed for the remission of the sins of many,” Matt. 26:28.

The ground of all this, because the death of Christ was not a solutio ejusdem, but tantidem, not the payment of the which was in the obligation, but of the equivalent, being not the payment of the debtor, but of the surety, and, therefore, it does not deliver us ipso facto, but according to the compact and agreement between the Father and him, when he undertook to be our surety. If a debtor bring me what he owes me, it discharges him presently, but the payment of a surety, is a payment refusable of itself, and therefore effects not the discharge of the principal debtor, but at the time, and according to the conditions agreed upon between the surety and the creditor.

If then our adversaries could prove, either that it was the will of God in giving up Christ to the death, or the will of Christ in giving himself to the death, that this death of his should be available to the immediate and actual reconciliation and justification of the sinner, without any condition performed on the sinner’s part, it were something to the purpose. But till this be done (which, indeed, can never be done) they were as good as say nothing,: When Christ gives us an account both of his own and his Father’s will in this matter, he tells us. “That it is the will of him, ‘That whosoever sees the Son and believes on him, may have everlasting life,’” John 6:40, without which faith, Christ “shall profit us nothing,” Gal. 5:4; I John 5:11,12: “He that has not seen the Son has not life.” So much for that objection.

Benjamin Woodbridge, Justification by Faith: Or a Confutation of that Antinomian Error, That Justification is before Faith; Being the Sum and Substance of a Sermon Preached at Sarum, by Benjamin Woodbridge, Minister of Newberry in Barkshire (London: Printed by John Field for Edmund Paxton, and are to be sold at his Shop in Pauls Chain, over against the Castle-Tavern, near to the Doctors Commons, 1653), 22-23. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]

[Notes: 1) What Woodbridge says here stands in direct denial of Owen’s claims regarding the exact identity and irrefusability of Christ’s satisfaction (contra Baxter). 2) Woodbridge’s sentiments are solidly echoed by Charles Hodge relative to the same point. 3) The theological implications are clear: When understood correctly, the satisfaction of Christ does not entail any notion of an actual pre-faith justification. For as long as the sinner declines to comply with any conditions proposed by the Father and the Son, that sinner remains under the wrath of God wherein he stands before God in an unjustified state. 4) The view that the satisfaction of Christ was a strict and proper payment to the idem of the law laid the foundation for the more basic distortion that the imputation of sin involved a literal transference of the debtor’s obligation to the surety. However, construed in this way (as a strict and literal payment to the idem of the law’s demands), forgiveness of the debtor is no longer an act of grace, but an act of justice; contra Owen, who for the same reason reasons pushed “grace” back into election, displacing it from the act of forgiveness and pardon (c.f., Dabney’s lectures 42 and 43 in his Lectures of Systematic Theology. 5) What is unfortunate is that in modern times, this conception of the relationship between the Father and the Son in the death of Christ has been eclipsed by the rush to reaffirm Owen’s theological conclusions, all the while being ignorant of the defective theological assumptions which under-gird those conclusions. The net result is that the theological waters regarding the death of Christ have been muddied and distorted.]

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