Christ Set Forth, Section 1, Chapter 3 – Thomas Goodwin


Christ Set Forth

Section I

shewing by way of introduction that Christ is the example and object of justifying faith

Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.—Rom. 8:34.

Chapter I, Chapter II

Chapter III

First, Directions to Christ as the object of faith.—How in a threefold consideration Christ is the object of justifying faith.

But ere I come to encourage your faith from these, let me first direct and point your faith aright to its proper and genuine object, Christ. I shall do it briefly, and only so far as it may be in introduction to the encouragement from these four particulars, the things mainly intended by me.

  1. Christ is the object of our faith, in joint commission with God the Father.
  2. Christ is the object of faith, in opposition to our own humiliation, or graces, or duties.
  3. Christ is the object of faith, in a distinction from the promises.
  4. First, Christ is the object of faith, in joint commission with God the Father. So here, ‘it is God that justifies,’ and ‘Christ that died.’ They are both of them set forth as the foundation of a believer’s confidence. So elsewhere, faith is called a ‘believing on him (namely, God), that justifies the ungodly,’ Rom. 4:5; and a ‘believing on Christ,’ Acts 16:31. Wherefore faith is to have an eye unto both, for both do alike contribute unto the justification of a sinner. It is Christ that paid the price, that performed the righteousness by which we are justified; and it is God that accepts of it, and imputes it unto us; therefore justification is ascribed unto both. And this we have, Rom. 3:24, where it is attributed unto them both together, ‘Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.’ Where we see that God’s free grace and Christ’s righteousness do concur to our justification. Christ paid as full a price, as if there were no grace shewn in justifying us (for mercy bated Christ nothing); and yet that it should be accepted for us, is as free grace, and as great as if Christ had paid never a farthing. Now as both these meet to justify us, so faith in justification is to look at both these. So it follows in the next verse, Rom. 3:25, ‘Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood.’ And though it be true, that God justifying is the ultimate object of our faith, for Christ ‘leads us by the hand’ (as the word is, Eph. 2:18), ‘unto God;’ and 1 Pet. 1:21, we are said ‘by Christ to believe on God who raised him, that so our faith and hope might be on God;’ yet so, as under the New Testament, Christ is made the more immediate object of faith; for God dwelling in our nature is made more familiar to our faith than the person of the Father is, who is merely God. Under the Old Testament, when Christ was but in the promise, and not as then come in the flesh, then indeed their faith had a more usual recourse unto God, who had promised the Messiah, of whom they then had not so distinct, but only confused, thoughts; though this they knew, that God accepted and saved them through the Messiah. But now under the New Testament, because Christ as mediator exists not only in a promise of God’s, but is come and manifest in the flesh, and is ‘set forth by God’ (as the apostle’s phrase is), to transact all our business for us between God and us; hence the more usual and immediate address of our faith is to be made unto Christ; who as he is distinctly set forth in the New Testament, so he is as distinctly to be apprehended by the faith of believers. ‘Ye believe in God’ (saith Christ to his disciples, whose faith and opinion of the Messiah was till Christ’s resurrection, of the same elevation with that of the Old Testament believers), ‘believe also in me,’ John 14:1. Make me the object of your trust for salvation, as well as the Father. And, therefore, when faith and repentance come more narrowly to be distinguished by their more immediate objects, it is ‘repentance towards God,’ but ‘faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ,’ Acts 20:21; not that God and Christ are* the objects of both, but that Christ is more immediately the object of faith, and God of repentance: so that we believe in God through believing in Christ first, and turn to Christ by turning to God first. And this is there spoken, when they are made the sum of Christian doctrine, and of the apostles’ preaching. And, therefore, the faith of some being much enlarged to the mercies of God and his free grace, and but in way of supposition unto Christ, or in a taking for granted that all mercies are communicated in and through Christ, yet so as their thoughts work not so much upon, nor are taken up about Christ; although this may be true faith under the New Testament, in that God and his free grace is the joint object of faith, together with Christ and his righteousness,—and the one cannot be without the other,—and God ofttimes doth move eminently pitch the stream of a man’s thoughts in one channel rather than in another, and so may direct the course of a man’s thoughts towards his free grace, when the stream runs less towards Christ, yet it is not such a faith as becomes the times of the gospel; it is of an Old Testament strain and genius; whereas our faith now should, in the more direct and immediate exercises of it, be pitched upon Jesus Christ, that ‘through him,’ first apprehended, ‘our faith might be in God’ (as the ultimate object of it), as the apostle speaks, 1 Pet 1:21. And so much for the first.
  5. The second is, that Christ is to be the object of our faith, in opposition to our own humiliation, or graces, or duties.

(1.) We are not to trust, nor rest in humiliation, as many do, who quiet their consciences from this, that they have been troubled. That promise, ‘Come to me, you that are weary and heavy laden, and you shall find rest,’ hath been much mistaken; for many have understood it, as if Christ had spoken peace and rest simply unto that condition, without any more ado, and so have applied it unto themselves, as giving them an interest in Christ; whereas it is only an invitement of such (because they are most apt to be discouraged) to come unto Christ, as in whom alone their rest is to be found. If therefore men will set down their rest in being ‘weary and heavy laden,’ and not come to Christ for it, they sit down besides Christ for it, they sit down in sorrow. This is to make John (who only prepared the way for Christ) to be the Messiah indeed (as many of the Jews thought), that is, to think the eminent work of John’s ministry (which was to humble, and so prepare men for Christ) to be their attaining Christ himself. But if you be weary, you may have rest indeed, but you must come to Christ first. For as, if Christ had died only, and not arose, we had ‘been still in our sins,’ (as it is 1 Cor. 15:17), so though we die by sin, as slain by it, (as Paul was, Rom. 7:11, 12, 13, in his humiliation), yet if we attain not to the resurrection of faith (so the work of faith is expressed, Phil. 3:12, 13), we still remain in our sins.

(2.) Secondly, we are not to rest in graces or duties; they all cannot satisfy our own consciences, much less God’s justice. If ‘righteousness could have come’ by these, then ‘Christ had died in vain,’ as Gal. 2:21. What a dishonour were it to Christ, that they should share any of the glory of his righteousness! Were any of your duties crucified for you? Graces and duties are the daughters of faith, the offspring of Christ; and they may in time of need indeed nourish their mother, but not at first beget her.

  1. In the third place, Christ’s person, and not barely the promises of forgiveness, is to be the object of faith. There are many poor souls humbled for sin, and taken off from their own bottom, who, like Noah’s dove, fly over all the word of God, to spy out what they may set their foot upon, and eying therein many free and gracious promises, holding forth forgiveness of sins, and justification, they immediately close with them, and rest on them alone, not seeking for, or closing with Christ in those promises. Which is a common error among people; and is like us if Noah’s dove should have rested upon the outside of the ark, and not have come to Noah within the ark; where though she might rest for a while, yet could she not ride out all storms, but must needs have perished there in the end. But we may observe, that the first promise that was given, was not a bare word simply promising forgiveness, or other benefits which God would bestow; but it was a promise of Christ’s person as overcoming Satan, and purchasing those benefits, ‘The seed of the woman shall break the serpent’s head.’ So when the promise was renewed to Abraham, it was not a bare promise of blessedness and forgiveness, but of that seed, that is, Christ (as Gal. 3:16), in whom that blessedness was conveyed. ‘In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.’ So that Abraham’s faith first closed with Christ in the promise, and therefore he is said to see Christ’s day, and to rejoice in embracing him. And so all the succeeding fathers (that were believers) did, more or less, in their types and sacraments, as appears by 1 Cor 10:1, 2. And if they, then much more are we thus to look at Christ, unto whom he is now made extant, not in promises only, but is really incarnate, though now in heaven. Hence our sacraments (which are the seals added to the word of faith) do primarily exhibit Christ unto a believer, and so, in him, all other promises, as of forgiveness, &c., are ratified and confirmed by them. Now there is the same reason of them, that there is of the promises of the gospel, for they preach the gospel to the eye, as the promise doth to the ear, and therefore as in them the soul is first to look at Christ, and embrace him as tendered in them, and then at the promises tendered with him in them, and not to take the sacraments as bare seals of pardon and forgiveness; so, in like manner, in receiving of, or having recourse to a promise, which is the word of faith, we are first to seek out for Christ in it, as being the foundation of it, and so to take hold of the promise in him. Hence faith is still expressed by this its object, Christ, it being called ‘faith on Christ.’ Thus Philip directs the eunuch, Acts 8:35. ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus.’

The promise is but the casket, and Christ the jewel in it; the promise but the field, and Christ the pearl hid in it, and to be chiefly looked at. The promises are the means by which you believe, not the things on which you are to rest. And so, although you are to look at forgiveness as held forth in the promise, yet you are to believe on Christ in that promise to obtain this forgiveness. So Acts 26:18, it is said of believers by Christ himself, ‘that they may obtain forgiveness of sins, by faith which is on me.’

And to clear it farther, we must conceive, that the promises of forgiveness are Not as the pardons of a prince, which merely contain an expression of his royal word for pardoning, so as we in seeking of it do rest upon, and have to do only with his word and seal, which we have to shew for it; but God’s promises of pardon are made in his Son, and are as if a prince should offer to pardon a traitor upon marriage with his child, whom in and with that pardon he offers in such a relation; so as all that would have pardon, must seek out for his child; and thus it is in the matter of believing. The reason of which is, because Christ is the grand promise, in whom, ‘all the promises are yea and amen,’ 2 Cor. 1:20, and therefore he is called the Covenant, Isa. 49:8. So that, as it were folly for any man to think that he hath an interest in an heiress’s lands, because he hath got the writings of her estate into his hands, whereas the interest in the lands goes with her person, and with the relation of marriage to her, otherwise, without a title to herself, all the writings will be fetched out of his hands again; so is it with all the promises: they hang all upon Christ, and without him there is no interest to be had in them. ‘He that hath the Son hath life,’ 1 John 5:12, because life is by God’s appointment only in him, as ver. 11. All the promises are as copyhold land, which when you would interest yourselves in, you inquire upon what lord it holds, and you take it up of him, as well as get the evidences and deeds for it into your hands; the lord of it will be acknowledged for such in passing his right into your hands. Now this is the tenure of all the promises; they all hold on Christ, in whom they are yea and amen; and you must take them up of him. Thus the apostles preached forgiveness to men, Acts 13:38, ‘Be it known that through this man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins.’ And as they preached, so we are to believe, as the apostle speaks, 1 Cor. 15:11. And without this, to rest on the bare promise, or to look to the benefit promised, without eying Christ, is not an evangelical, but a Jewish faith, even such as the formalists among the Jews had, who without the Messiah closed with promises, and rested in types to cleanse them, without looking unto Christ the end of them, and as propounded to their faith in them. This is to go to God without a mediator, and to make the promises of the gospel to be as the promises of the law, Nehushtan (as Hezekiah said of the brazen serpent), a piece of brass, vain and ineffectual; like the waters of Bethesda, they heal not, they cleanse not, till this ‘angel of the covenant’ come down to your faith in them. Therefore at a sacrament, or when you meet with any promise, get Christ first down by faith, and then let your faith propound what it would have, and you may have what you will of him.

There are three sorts of promises, and in the applying of all these, it is Christ that your faith is to meet with.

  1. There are absolute promises, made to no conditions; as when Christ is said to ‘come to save sinners,’ &c. Now in these it is plain, that Christ is the naked object of them; so that if you apply not him, you apply nothing, for the only thing held forth in them is Christ.
  2. There are inviting promises; as that before mentioned, ‘Come to me, you that are weary.’ The promise is not to weariness, but to coming to Christ; they are bidden ‘Come to him,’ if they will have rest.
  3. There are assuring promises; as those made to such and such qualifications of sanctification, &c. But still what is it that is promised in them, which the heart should only eye? It is Christ, in whom the soul rests and hath comfort in, and not in its grace; so that the sight of a man’s grace is but a back-door to let faith in at, to converse with Christ, whom the soul loves. Even as at the sacrament, the elements of bread and wine are but outward signs to bring Christ and the heart together, and then faith lets the outward elements go, and closeth, and treats immediately with Christ, unto whom these let the soul in; so grace is a sign inward, and whilst men make use of it only as of a bare sign to let them in unto Christ, and their rejoicing is not in it, but in Christ, their confidence being pitched upon him, and not upon their grace; whilst men take this course, there is and will be no danger at all in making such use of signs. And I see not, but that God might as well appoint his own work of the new creation within, to be as a sign and help to communion with Christ by faith, as he did those outward dements, the works of his first creation; especially, seeing in nature the effect is a sign of the cause. Neither is it more derogatory to free grace, or to Christ’s honour, for God to make such effects signs of our union with him, than it was to make outward signs of his presence.[1]


Goodwin, Thomas. The Works of Thomas Goodwin. Vol. 4. (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1862), 11-15. Public Domain. Original Printing 1651.

Paperback editions of the 12 volumes are available at

Puritans Thomas Goodwin

Christ Set Forth, Section 1, Chapter 2 – Thomas Goodwin


Christ Set Forth

Section I

shewing by way of introduction that Christ is the example and object of justifying faith

Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.—Rom. 8:34.

Chapter I, Chapter III

Chapter II

The scope and argument of this discourse is, either direction to Christ as the object of faith, or encouragement to believers, from all those particulars in Christ mentioned in the text.

Faith and the supports of it, or rather Christ, as by his death and resurrection, &c., he is the foundation of faith and the cause of our justification, is the main subject of these words. All which therefore, to handle more largely, is the intended subject of this discourse. And therefore, as we have seen Christ’s faith for us, so now let us see what our faith is to be towards him: only take this along with you, for a right bounding of all that follows, that the faith (the object and support of which I would discourse of), is only faith as justifying; for justification was properly here the matter of Christ’s faith for us, and is also answerably here held forth by Paul, as that faith which believers are to have on him. Now faith is called justifying, only as it hath justification for its object, and as it goes out to Christ for justification; so that all that shall be spoken must be confined to this alone, as the intendment of the text. And concerning this, the text doth two things:

  1. It holds forth Christ the object of it, ‘Who shall condemn? Christ hath died,’ &c. And he being the sole subject of those four particulars that follow, as encouragements to faith, must needs be therefore the object here set forth unto our faith.
  2. In Christ we have here all those four things made matter of triumph to believers, to assure them they shall not be condemned, but justified: in that

Christ (1.) died, (2.) rose again, (3.) is at God’s right hand, (4.) intercedes.

So that (for the general), I am to do two things; and therein I shall fulfil the text’s scope.

  1. Direct your faith to Christ, as to its right object.
  2. To encourage your faith from these several actions of Christ for us, and shew how they all contain matter of triumph for faith in them, and also teach your faith how to triumph from each of them. And herein I am to keep close to the argument propounded, namely, faith as justifying; or to shew how faith, seeking justification in Christ, may be exceedingly raised from each of these particulars, and supported by them, as by so many pillars of it. So as although Christ’s death, resurrection, &c., may fitly serve to encourage our faith in many other acts it useth to put forth (as in point of sanctification to be had from Christ, into which his death and resurrection have an influence), yet here we are limited to the matter of justification only; ‘It is God that justifies; who shall condemn, seeing Christ hath died?’ and herein to shew how his death, resurrection, &c., may and do afford matter of comfort and triumphing in point of justification from all these. And thus you have the sum of these words, and of my scope in this ensuing treatise.


Goodwin, Thomas. The Works of Thomas Goodwin. Vol. 4. (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1862), 10-11. Public Domain. Original Printing 1651.

Paperback editions of the 12 volumes are available at

Puritans Thomas Goodwin

Christ Set Forth, Section 1, Chapter 1 – Thomas Goodwin


Christ Set Forth

Section I

shewing by way of introduction that Christ is the example and object of justifying faith

Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.—Rom. 8:34.

Chapter I
Chapter II, Chapter III

The scope of words: that they were Christ’s originally.—Christ the highest example of believing.—Encouragements to our faith from thence.

These words are a triumphing challenge uttered by the apostle in the name of all the elect; for so he begins it in ver. 33 foregoing, ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies.’ And then follow these words, ‘Who shall condemn?’ namely, God’s elect. ‘It is Christ that died,’ &c. This challenge we find first published by Jesus Christ himself, our only champion, Isa. 50 (a chapter made of and for Christ), ver. 8, ‘He is near that justifies me; who will contend with me?’ They were Christ’s words there, and spoken of God’s justifying him: and these are every believer’s words here, intended of God’s justifying them. Christ is brought in there uttering them as standing at the high priest’s tribunal, when they spat upon him, and buffeted him, as ver. 4, 5; when he was condemned by Pilate, then he exercised this faith on God his Father, ‘He is near that justifies me.’ And as in that his condemnation he stood in our stead, so in this his hope of his justification he speaks is our stead also, and as representing us in both. And upon this the apostle here pronounces, in like words, of all the elect, ‘It is God that justifies; who shall accuse?’ Christ was condemned, yea, ‘hath died; who therefore shall condemn?’ Lo, here the communion we have with Christ in his death and condemnation, yea in his very faith; if he trusted in God, so may we, and shall as certainly be delivered. Observe we first from hence, by way of premise to all that follows,

Obs. That Christ lived by faith as well as we do.

In John 1:16, we are said to ‘receive of his fulness grace for grace; that is, grace answerable and like unto his; and so (among others) faith.

For explication hereof.

First; in some sense he had a faith for justification like unto ours, though not a justification through faith, as we have. He went not, indeed, out of himself, to rely on another for righteousness, for he had enough of his own (he being ‘the Lord our righteousness’); yet he believes on God to justify him, and had recourse to God for justification: ‘He is near’ (says he) ‘that justifies me.’ If he had stood in his own person merely, and upon his own bottom only, there had been no occasion for such a speech; and yet consider him as he stood in our stead, there was; for what need of such a justification, if he had not been some way near a condemnation? He therefore must be supposed to stand here (in Isaiah) at God’s tribunal, as well as at Pilate’s, with all our sins upon him. And so the same prophet tells us, chap. 53:6, ‘God made the iniquities of us to meet on him.’ He was now made sin, and a curse, and stood not in danger of Pilate’s condemnation only, but of God’s too, unless he satisfied him for all those sins. And when the wrath of God for sin came thus in upon him, his faith, was put to it, to trust and wait on him for his justification, for to take off all those sins, together with his wrath from off him, and to acknowledge himself satisfied and him acquitted. Therefore, in Ps. 22 (which was made for Christ when hanging on the cross, and speaks how his heart was taken up that while), he is brought in as putting forth such a faith as here we speak of, when he called God his God, ‘My God! my God!’ then, when as to his sense, he had forsaken him, ‘Why hast thou forsaken me?’ Yea, he helped his faith with the faith of the forefathers, whom upon their trust in him God had delivered; ‘Our fathers,’ saith he, ‘trusted in thee; they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.’ Yea, at ver. 5, we find him laying himself at God’s feet, lower than ever any man did. ‘I am a worm,’ says he, (which every man treads on, and counts it a matter of nothing for to kill), ‘and no man,’ as it follows; and all this, because he bare our sins. Now his deliverance and justification from all these, to be given him at his resurrection, was the matter, the business he thus trusted in God for, even that he should rise again, and be acquitted from them. So Ps. 16 (a psalm made also for Christ, when to suffer, and lie in the grave), ver. 8, 9, 10: ‘The Lord is at my right hand, I shall not be moved: Therefore my heart is glad, my flesh also resteth in hope,’ or, as in the original, ‘dwells in confident sureness.’ ‘Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell,’ that is, under the load of these sins, and thy wrath laid on me for them; ‘neither wilt suffer thy holy One (in my body) to see corruption.’ This is in substance all one with what is here said in this one word, ‘He is near that justifies me,’ for Christ’s resurrection was a justification of him, as I shall hereafter shew.

Neither, 2, did he exercise faith for himself only, but for us also, and that more than any of us is put to it, to exercise for himself; for he in dying, and emptying himself, trusted God with the merit of all his sufferings aforehand, there being many thousands of souls to be saved thereby a long while after, even to the end of the world. He died and betrusted all that stock into his Father’s hands, to give it out in grace and glory, as those for whom he died should have need. And this is a greater trust (considering the infinite number of his elect as then yet to come) than any man hath occasion to put forth for himself alone. God trusted Christ before he came into the world, and saved many millions of the Jews up on his bare word. And then Christ, at his death, trusts God again as much, both for the salvation of Jews and Gentiles, that were to believe after his death. In Heb. 2:12, 13, 14, 15, it is made an argument that Christ was a man like us, because he was put to live by faith like as we are (which the angels do not); and to this end, the apostle brings in these words prophesied of him, as spoken by him of himself, ‘I will put my trust in him,’ as one proof that he was a man like unto us. Now for what was it that he trusted God? By the context it appears to be this, that he should be the salvation of his ‘brethren’ and ‘children,’ and that he should have ‘a seed and a generation to serve him,’ and raise up a church to God to praise him in. For this is made his confidence, and the issue of his sufferings, in that fore-cited Ps. 22, from ver. 22 to the end.

Use. How should the consideration of these things both draw us on to faith, and encourage us therein, and raise up our hearts above all doubtings and withdrawings of spirit in believing! For in this example of Christ we have the highest instance of believing that ever was. He trusted God (as we have seen) for himself, and for many thousands besides, even for all his elect; and hast not thou the heart to trust him for one poor soul? Yea, Christ thus trusted God upon his single bond; but we, for our assurance, have both Christ and God bound to us, even God with his surety Christ (for he is God’s surety as well as ours). A double bond from two such persons, whom would it not secure? If God the Father and God the Son thus mutually trusted one another for our salvation, whom would it not induce to trust them both, for one’s own salvation, whenas otherwise they must be damned that will not?

  1. This example of Christ may teach and incite us to believe. For did Christ lay down all his glory, and empty himself, and leave himself worth nothing, but made a deed of surrendering all he had into his Father’s hands, and this in a pure trust that God would ‘justify many by him’ (as it is in Isa. 53)? And shall not we lay down all we have, and part with whatever is dear unto us aforehand, with the like submission, in a dependence and hope of being ourselves justified by him? And withal;—
  2. It may encourage us to believe, especially against the greatness of sins. Hast thou the guilt of innumerable transgressions coming in and discouraging thee from trusting in him? Consider but what Christ had, though not of his own; Christ was made (as Luther boldly, in this sense that we speak of him, speaks), the greatest sinner that ever was, that is, by imputation; for the sins of all God’s chosen met in him. And yet he trusted God to be justified from them all, and to be raised up from under the wrath due to them. Alas! thou art but one poor sinner, and thy faith hath but a light and small load laid upon it, namely, thy own sins, which to this sum he undertook for, are but as an unit to an infinite number. ‘God laid upon him the iniquities of us all.’ Christ trusted God for his own acquittance from the sins of all the world, and when that was given him, he yet again further trusted him, to acquit the world for his satisfaction’s sake.

But thou wilt say, Christ was Christ, one personally united to God, and so knew that he could satisfy him; but I am a sinful man. Well, but if thou believest, and so art one of those who are one with Christ, then Christ speaking these words in the name both of himself and of his elect, as hath been shewed, thou hast the very same ground to utter them that he had, and all that encouraged him may embolden thee, for he stood in thy stead. It was only thine and others’ sins that put him in any danger of condemnation; and thou seest what his confidence beforehand was, that God would justify him from them all. And if he had left any of them unsatisfied for, he had not been justified; and, withal, in performing his own part undertaken by him, he performed thine also, and so in his being justified thou wert justified also. His confidence, then, may therefore be thine now; only his was in and from himself, but thine must be on him: yet so as by reason of thy communion with him in his both condemnation and justification, thou mayest take and turn all that emboldened him to this his trust and confidence, to embolden thee also in thine, as truly as he did for himself. Yea, in this thou hast now a farther prop and encouragement to thy faith, than he had; for now (when then art to believe), Christ hath fully performed the satisfaction he undertook, and we now see Jesus crucified, acquitted, yea crowned with glory and honour, as the apostle speaks; but he, when he took up this triumph, was (as Isaiah here foretold and prophesied it of him), but as then entering upon that work. The prophet seeing the day of his arraignment and agony, utters these words as his; shewing what thoughts should then possess his heart, when Pilate and the Jews should condemn him, and our sins come in upon him, ‘God is near that justifies me; who therefore shall contend with me?’ But now this comes to be added to our challenge here, that ‘Christ hath died, and is also risen again;’ that he was condemned and justified; who therefore shall condemn? may we say, and say much more.

But thou wilt yet say, He knew himself to be the Son of God, but so do not I. Well, do thou but cast thyself upon him, to be adopted and justified by him, with a giving up thy soul to his saving thee his own way, and, though thou knowest it not, the thing is done. And as for that so great and usual discouragement unto poor souls from doing this, namely, the greatness and multitudes of sins, this very example of his faith, and the consideration of it, may alone take off, and help to remove it, more than any I have ever met with; for he, in bearing the sins of his elect, did bear as great and infinitely more sins than thine, yea, all sorts of sins whatever, for some one of his elect or other, for he said upon it, that all (that is, all sorts of) sins shall be forgiven unto men, and therefore were first borne by him for them; and yet you see how confident aforehand he was, and is now clearly justified from them all. And by virtue of his being justified from all sorts of sins, shall all sorts of sinners in and through him be justified also; and, therefore, why mayest not thou hope to be from thine? Certainly for this very reason our sins, simply and alone considered, can be supposed no hindrance.

Thus we have met with one great and general encouragement at the very portal of this text, which comes forth to invite us ere we are entered into it, and which will await upon us throughout all that shall be said, and have an influence into our faith, and help to direct it in all that follows.


Goodwin, Thomas. The Works of Thomas Goodwin. Vol. 4. (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1862), 7-10. Public Domain. Original Printing 1651.

Paperback editions of the 12 volumes are available at

Puritans Thomas Goodwin

Of the Work of The Holy Ghost in Our Salvation, Book 1 – Chapter 1 – Thomas Goodwin


Of the Work of the Holy Ghost

(the third person of the trinity)

In Our Salvation

Book I

A general and brief scheme of the whole of that work committed to the Holy Spirit in bringing us to salvation; in an enumeration of all particulars, and of the glory due unto him for it.—The work of the Holy Spirit in the unction of Jesus to be our Saviour.

Chapter I

Some general observations premised out of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth chapters of St John’s Gospel.

There is a general omission in the saints of God, in their not giving the Holy Ghost that glory that is due to his person, and for his great work of salvation in us, insomuch that we have in our hearts almost lost this third person. We give daily in our thoughts, prayers, affections, and speeches, an honour to the Father and the Son; but who almost directs the aims of his praise (more than in that general way of doxology we use to close our prayers with, ‘All glory be,’ &c.) unto God the Holy Ghost? He is a person in the Godhead equal with the Father and the Son; and the work he doth for us in its kind is as great as those of the Father or the Son. Therefore, by the equity of all law, a proportionable honour from us is due to him. God’s ordination amongst men is, that we should ‘render to all their due, honour to whom honour is due,’ Rom. 13:1. To the magistracy (which there he speaks it of) according to their place and dignity; and this he makes a debt, a due, ver. 8. And the like is enjoined concerning ministers, that are instruments of our spiritual good, that we should ‘esteem them very highly for their work’s sake,’ 1 Thes. 5:13. Let the same law, I beseech you, take place in your hearts towards the Holy Ghost, as well as the other two persons of the Trinity. The Holy Ghost is indeed the last in order of the persons, as proceeding from the other two, yet in the participation of the Godhead he is equal with them both; and in his work, though it be last done for us, he is not behind them, nor in the glory of it inferior to what they have in theirs. And indeed he would not be God, equal with the Father and the Son, if the work allotted to him, to shew he is God, were not equal unto each of theirs. And indeed, no less than all that is done, or to be done in us, was left to the Holy Ghost’s share, for the ultimate execution of it; and it was not left him as the refuse, it being as necessary and as great as any of theirs. But he being the last person, took his own lot of the works about our salvation, which are the last, which is to apply all, and to make all actually ours, whatever the other two had done afore for us. The scope of this treatise is to set forth this work to you in the amplitude of it, to the end you may accordingly in your hearts honour this blessed and holy Spirit. And surely if to neglect the notice and observation of an attribute of God, eminently imprinted on such or such a work of God’s, as of power in the creation, justice in governing the world, mercy in bearing with sinners, grace in our salvation; if this be made so great a sin (Rom. 1) then it must be deemed a greater diminution to the Godhead to neglect the glorifying one of these persons, who is possessed of the whole Godhead and attributes, when he is manifested or interested in any work most gloriously.

In prosecution of my design, to persuade you to honour the Holy Ghost as you do the Father and the Son, I shall consider the 14th, 15th, and 16th chapters of John, and make some general observations upon various passages in those chapters serving to this purpose; and we shall see therein what a valuation the Father and the Son, the other persons with him, have in those chapters put upon him and hi work, and what a great and singular matter they make of his work, and what a great and singular matter they make of his work, and what divine esteem of his person, as by Christ’s speeches scattered up and down therein appears. Though the Father himself doth not immediately speak, yet the Son doth in his name, as well as in his own. And you may well take their judgments, for they are sharers and co-rivals with him in point of glory about our salvation; the work of which I shall only treat of.

There are these general observations which I shall make upon the whole series of the aforesaid chapters, which serve the design of my discourse.

Obs. 1. First, Our Saviour had abundantly in all his former sermons discoursed both his work and hand in our salvation, as also his Father’s; and now at last, just when he was to go out of the world, he then, and not till then, doth more plainly and more fully discover to them this third person, that had an after-work left to him, who to that end was to come when he should be gone, and was to come visibly upon the stage, to act visibly a new scene of works, left by the Father and himself unto him: John 14:16, ‘I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter.’ He had said, chap. 8:17, that ‘the testimony of two men’ (or persons) ‘is true;’ and that he himself was one witness of those two there spoken of, and his Father another: ver. 18, ‘I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.’ And he tells us here, you see, that there is yet another, distinct from the Father and himself; for in his saying, ‘I will pray the Father to give you another Comforter,’ he must mean a third person, distinct from them both, to be that other. And more over this Spirit, as another person, is said likewise to be a third witness of, and unto Christ; John 15:26, and so is to be joined as a person, and third witness with these two: ‘When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me;’ like as of the Father and himself, the same had been spoken in that chap. 8 ver. 18, last cited. And the coherence with ver. 17 argues their being witnesses alike, to be distinct persons each from other, for, ver. 17, he allegeth the law, ‘It is written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.’ For therein lies the validity of their testimony, that they must be two men or two persons that make up a legal testimony. And in this 15th chap. ver. 26, there is the Holy Ghost as a third witness brought into court to testify with both; and therefore he is a person if a witness, for there are three persons if three witnesses, and the law itself he cites says, ‘Under the mouth of two or three witnesses shall the matter be established,’ Deut. 19:15, and Matt. 18:16. We may also observe how industriously careful Christ is further to characterise this person of the Holy Spirit, the author of these works, and to describe who he was, and what manner of person, that they might be sure to mind him, and have a regard to him, and to know whom and to what name they were to be so much beholden. Thus, ver. 26, ‘The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost’ (says he); and ver. 17, ‘Even the Spirit of truth;’ and chap. 15:26, ‘Whom I will send unto you from the Father, who proceedeth from the Father.’ Which last addition is to shew the divine procession of the Holy Ghost, and the original and the consubstantiality of his person, to be out of the substance of the Father, proceeding from him; as (1 Cor. 2:12) the apostle signaliseth him, ‘The Spirit that is out of God;’ or (which is all one) that hath his subsistence, or his being a person, by proceeding from God the Father, and so being God with God, insomuch as it is not in anywise to be understood that he subsisted extra Deum, out of, or separate from God; for he had said, ver. 11, that he is in God, even as the spirit of a man is said to be in him.

Some would understand that speech of Christ’s, ‘Who proceedeth from the Father,’ to be meant in respect of God’s sending him forth to us, and his embassage to us. But that had been said by Christ in the words afore, ‘Whom I will send from the Father;’ and therefore to intend the words after—‘Who cometh from the Father’—of an ambassador’s sending, had been needless, for Christ had said that already; and therefore if that had been all the meaning of that addition, he had but said the same over a second time. There is therefore, in those speeches, a manifest distinguishing between that dispensatory sending of him from the Father to them, and that substantial proceeding of his from the Father, as a third person; and this is added to shew the original ground, why it must be from the Father that he sends him, and with his consent first had; because his very person is by proceeding from the Father, and therefore this his office too. And therefore that latter is spoken in the present time, whereas that other speech of Christ’s, ‘Whom I will send from the Father,’ is in the future; because the Holy Ghost his dispensatory sending, both from the Father and from Christ, was yet to come; whereas this personal proceeding of his from the Father was then, when he spake it, and is continually, and had been from eternity.

Now the tendency of these reiterated designations of the person, doth manifest Christ’s sedulous intention, and tender regard to, and for the honour of this, so great a person; and to raise up in their hearts a valuation of this person himself, that should be the Comforter; and to make them careful to give glory to him, even the Holy Ghost, as a third person, and the Comforter. As likewise to assure them of his coming upon them, when himself was gone; and that therefore they might honour him in his coming, for his work, as he would have them to honour himself for his own work, and coming in the flesh. It is as if he had said, I would not, for that honour I ever look for from yourselves, that you should go attribute the comfort you shall have, or the revealing of truth to you (from which he is called ‘the Spirit of truth’), so unto me or my Father alone, as to neglect or omit to give him his peculiar honour in it; for it properly, and of due, belongs to him. You are and shall be beholden to me and my Father, for the sending of him; but you are to be especially beholden to himself, for that work he doth in you, being sent by us. Be sure therefore to take notice of him and his person, distinct both from me and my Father. For it is ‘another Comforter’ (says he, ver. 16) ‘which is the Holy Ghost,’ (ver. 26), and therefore you ought as distinctly to glorify him as you would do us.

Obs. 2. The second observation is concerning the particular works which Christ says are his, and for which we are to honour him. And an enumeration of his works being the scope of this my discourse, we may find divers particulars that are the most eminent of them, named and specified in these chapters to our hand, which will sufficiently serve for me to take the mention of them, for an example to me to proceed to specify other works that are attributed to him elsewhere. This I premise, because I would not be obliged to fetch each of them which I shall after name out of these chapters, and so to confine myself thereto.

The particular eminent work indeed on which he insists in these chapters, is, that of being a Comforter to them; for the occasion of these sermons was to relieve and pacify the apostles’ minds, against his own leaving them, as they thought, desolate. But therewith he further brings in other works of his besides, and in effect that he should do all, that they had need of his help in. He insinuates to them how much already themselves had been obliged unto him for his working hitherto in them, which he calls them to look back upon, for they had received them already in regenerating, converting and calling them out from the world (which was his first and great work in them), and so distinguished them from the world. Thus chap. 14:16, 17, ‘The Comforter, the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him;’ that is, knows him not by experience of any saving work upon them, and so they cannot receive him as a comforter, because it is necessary they first receive him as a converter. ‘But ye know him,’ and have found him to have begotten you again; ‘for he dwelleth in you,’ hath come and taken possession of you, and acted hitherto in you all that spiritual good that hath been found in you, and thereby hath taken everlasting possession of you, as it follows: ‘and shall be in you,’ to perfect all that is wanting, and that for ever, as verse 16.

A second work there specified is, that he should be to them a ‘Spirit of truth,’ ‘to lead them into all truth,’ which, as a sacred depositum, he was by them, as apostles, to leave unto the rest of the world; chap. 14:26, ‘He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.’ And not only so, but shall suggest new to you, chap. 16:12, 13, ‘I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak.’

A third work instanced in is, that ‘He will shew you things to come;’ and this to that end, that ye may teach and write them to others, chap. 15:26, 27. He shall bear witness of me, and you shall bear witness of me.

A fourth work specified is, to sanctify them against sin and corruption. This work is imported in his name, ‘the Holy Spirit,’ as the other, of leading them into all truth, is signified by that other title, ‘the Spirit of truth;’ for he is termed the Holy Spirit, because he sanctifies: Rom. 15:16, ‘Being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.’

Fifthly, He shall be a Comforter to you, against all sorrows, chap. 14:16, 17, 18.

Sixthly, He shall assist and direct you in all your prayers, and be the inditer of them for you; and so effectually as to obtain what you shall ask, chap. 16:23, ‘Verily, verily, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you; hitherto have you asked nothing in my name;’ for the Holy Ghost was not as yet given, as he in these chapters promiseth he should be. ‘But in that day,’ namely, when the Holy Ghost is come, ‘ye shall ask in my name,’ then (as in chap. 14:20). ‘In that day,’—namely, when the Comforter is come, that word in that day refers thereunto—‘ye shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me.’ These works he specifies as to themselves.

But withal, seventhly, he mentions his works upon the world, by their ministry, unto whom they were sent. He shall be a converter and convincer of the world; that is, the glory of the conversion of the Gentiles is reserved for him, by your ministry: chap. 16 verses 8, 9, ‘When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me,’ &c. To which three enumerations the total of the work of conversion is reduced, of which afterwards.

Obs. 3. Thirdly, observe what Christ says, I myself must be gone (saith he) and disappear, to the end it may appear that all this whole work is his, not mine: ver. 7, ‘If I go not away, the Comforter will not come.’ He will not do these works while I am here, and I have committed all to him. That look, as my Father hath visibly ‘committed all judgment unto me,’ (John 5:22, 23, ‘For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son; that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father’), so here: I and my Father will send him, having committed all these things to him, that all men might honour the Holy Ghost, even as they honour the Father and the Son. Even as in like manner the reason why the Spirit was not sent, whilst Christ was on earth, was to shew that not the Father alone sent him, but that he came from Christ, as well as from the Father. And so Christ, he went to heaven to shew that both Father and Son would send the Holy Ghost from thence, Acts 2:32, 33, ‘This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which you see and hear.’ Thus wary and careful are every of the persons to provide for the honour of each other in our hearts. And as careful should we be to give it to them accordingly.


Goodwin, Thomas. The Works of Thomas Goodwin. Vol. 6. (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1863), 3-7. Public Domain

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Puritans Thomas Goodwin