It is objected again, that God does freely remit and pardon sin, therefore, he wills not that Christ should make satisfaction: because free remission will not stand with satisfaction. And most sure it is, that God is favorable to our iniquities, Jer. 31:34, but God has set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in his blood. Rom. 3:25, Acts 10:43, Luke 1:68-70.
There is a twofold payment of debt: one of the thing altogether the same, which is in the obligation, and this ipso facto frees from punishment, whether it be paid by the debtor himself, or by the surety. Another of a thing not altogether the same, which is in the obligation, so that some act of the creditor or governor must come unto it, which is called remission: in which case deliverance does not follow ipso facto upon the satisfaction. And of this kind is the satisfaction of Christ: for in the rigor of the law, the delinquent himself is in person to suffer the penalty denounced, “Every man shall bear his own burden,” Gal. 6:5. “In the day that thou eat of thereof, thou shall die the death” [Gen. 2:17].1 So that the law in the rigor thereof, does not admit any commutation, or substitution of one for another. And, therefore, that another person suffering made procure a discharge to the person guilty, and be valid to free him, the will, consent and mercy of him to whom the infliction of punishment belongs, must concur, which in respect of the debtor is remission; and this overruling power must dispense, though not with the substance of the law’s demands, yet with the manner of execution, which in respect of the law is called relaxation. Remission, therefore, is not repugnant to the antecedent satisfaction: but only to that payment of the thing due, which ipso facto does deliver and set free.
It may be added that of grace, Christ was ordained to be our surety, that at the commandment of grace he made satisfaction, and that his mind and will in satisfying was, that grace might justly glorify herself in pardoning offenses, and not that pardon should be given of justice. And so the satisfaction of Christ is full and perfect, and our pardon every way free and gracious. And seeing every one may impose a law to act depending upon his own free will and pleasure, he that pays2 for another, and he that admits the payment of one thing for another, and he that admits the payment of one thing for another, may covenant, that remission shall presently, or after a certain time, purely or upon condition. And this was the will and pleasure of Christ making satisfaction, and of God admitting satisfaction, and this the Covenant, that God should pardon sin, not presently in the very time of Christ’s passion, but when a man is turned unto God by true faith in Christ, humbly entreating pardon. To forgive sin, is no opposite to the accepting of that satisfaction which is freely admitted, when it might be refused, and to which he upon whom the benefit undue is conferred, does confer nothing.
It is further objected, that Christ satisfied fully, but not by divine acceptation only: because he suffered but for a time, whereas we deserve eternally.
Sundry answers are made to this doubt. Some say his suffering for a time was more than if all mankind had suffered eternally, in respect of the excellency of the person. But the worth and excellency of his person, was neither to dispense with time, nor grievousness of his punishments, but to make the passion of one available to many. Otherwise if it might have dispensed with one degree of extremity of punishment due to sin, it might also have dispensed with two, and consequently all.
Others answer, that the punishments of sin eternally remaining, must according to the rules of divine justice, be eternal: but it is in no way necessary, neither does the justice of God require, that the punishments of sin repented of, ceasing and forsake, should be everlasting. For as divines note, there are three things to be considered in sin; the aversion to a finite good, and the continuing in the same, or ceasing from it: and to these several things in sin, there are three several things answering in the punishment of it. For to the aversion, which is objectively infinite, there answers the loss of God, which is an infinite loss. To the inordinate conversion of the sinner to things transitory, there answers a sensible smart grief, intensively finite, as the pleasure of the sinner takes in the transitory things he inordinately loves is finite. To the eternity of sin remaining everlasting in stain or guilt, or continuance of it for a time, answers the eternity of punishment, or the suffering of the same, but for a time. Now our savior Christ suffered only for those sins, which he meant to break off by framing sinners to repentance, and, therefore, it was no way necessary for the satisfying of divine justice, that he should endure eternal punishment.
The third answer is, that Christ suffered for a time, because he suffered to satisfy, and so to overcome upon the cross, he triumphed meritoriously over principalities and powers, therefore, his sufferings could not continue forever, but must have an end. For in suffering he had not satisfied justice, nor conquered the enemies of our salvation, if he had lain under the punishment of our sins eternally. But this shows the reason why Christ suffered but for a time, rather then how his suffering for a time could satisfy the justice of God forever, which had deserved eternal death.
The fourth answer is more full and free from exception, that Christ suffered but for a time, because it was impossible he should be held under the sorrows of death, Acts 2:24. The wicked suffer eternally, because they being cast under the curse, they cannot deliver themselves, and justice will not set them free: but his sufferings did overcome, and delivered himself, so that his sufferings continued for a time. In kind his sufferings were the same with those, which in us should have continued forever, although they did not continue: wherefore? because they had an end not of themselves, or their own nature, but of the power of Christ. He overcame these punishments which had been altogether eternal, if he could not have overcome.
John Ball, A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace, (Published by Simeon Ash, Printed by G. Miller for Edward Brewster on Ludgate hill neer Fleet-Bridge at the signe of the Bible, 1645), 290-292. [Some spelling modernized; marginal references not included; footnotes mine; and underlining mine.]
Credit to Michael Lynch for the find.
[Notes: This is interesting because at one point ball includes “governor” along with Creditor in describing God. In early Puritanism, the ‘God as creditor’ metaphor dominated their conceptions of how Christ’s satisfaction as a ‘payment’ worked. In post-Puritan New England, with the realization that credit-debit metaphors lead to a pecuniary satisfaction (which also holds good for many in Scotland and to a lesser degree, England) the “governor” metaphor became dominant and the credit-debit language fades.
For a while I thought this shift was to due influence of Governmentalism, but we must also see it as due to the conscious shift away from pecuniary/credit-debtor constructions of the satisfaction. And of course we should keep in mind that popular concepts of Governmentalism look nothing like the actual teaching of Grotius or the New England second generation Edwardseans.
So rather than see it as folk being poisoned by Grotius as popular TULIP literature and advocates tend to suggest or imply, rather it was the conscious move away from pecuniary constructions of the satisfaction, which necessarily led them to a proper penal model of Christ satisfaction, which classic Grotian categories fitted well with or could be plugged-in easily.
Then also, we can really see how Owen’s view was the minority report, and that he went out on a limb on this point. Further, Ball’s treatise on the covenant of grace was published posthumously and received endorsement and recognition by many of the WCF divines. He may be the reason why Manton also accepts this same position.
For proof of this later post-puritan shift away from a pecuniary satisfaction along with its use of creditor-debtor-sin metaphors, we have all the tabled refutations of the double payment fallacy. In just about all of them, they contain an explicit rejection of a pecuniary based satisfaction model. This demonstrates that they were self-consciously moving away from a pecuniary satisfaction, both in terms of language and theology.
Our problem today is that Banner of Truth and like publications, republish Puritan literature on the death of Christ which is saturated in creditor-debtor language because of the influence of a pecuniary satisfaction, but without informing the modern reader of either the background for this language or the explicit denial of it and shift away from it in later Reformed theology.
So the modern reader, is as it were, is time-warped back to the 17th century, picking up all the conclusions derived from a pecuniary satisfaction, without understanding the assumptions that originally drove or sustained those conclusions.
We actually live in age of subtle forces of ignorance driving the modern Reformed community for the most part. All the while we think we are the most enlightened generation of Reformed thinkers.
Reading Ball again shows us that these men (for ill of for good) really penetrated into the core of these subjects in ways we are not doing now. Of course one may say that the endeavor to penetrate so far is a problem in itself. That may be true, but given that modern TULIP literature and polemics are riding the wave of the conclusions derived from such in depth reasonings, we actually should be aware of the bases for those conclusions.]
1Bracketed insert mine.
2Original has “prayeth.”