Encouragements to faith – Thomas Goodwin

Encouragements to faith – Thomas Goodwin

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.—John 6:37, 38.

A Preface

There are two persons whom faith hath to deal withal in seeking of forgiveness and laying hold of salvation, God the Father and God the Son; the Holy Ghost being that person that sets the heart a-work to seek out for salvation, and reveals the love of them both. And therefore it is that grace and peace (which are the object of faith’s inquest) are still wished from God the Father and God the Son; so generally in all epistles, excepting that of the Revelation, given immediately by word of month from Christ himself.

And accordingly when faith comes to treat with these two about the great business of salvation, the first and main thing that it is inquisitive after is, what their heart and mind is, and how they stand inclined towards the receiving and pardoning of sinners. It listens most to hear something of that; and when a man’s heart, through faith, is fully and throughly persuaded of it, then he is fully won.

Hence, because the Scriptures were written for our comfort, and so fitted to and for the workings of faith, therefore they were so written, as especially to bring down and lay before us the heart of God and of Christ; and so the main thing they hold forth is, the full intent and purpose both of God and of Christ to pardon and receive sinners. ‘This is a faithful saying,’ says Paul with open mouth, ‘that Christ came into the world to save sinners;’ and this Christ himself everywhere indigitates; and to hold forth this is the scope of these words uttered by Christ himself. And such speeches do contain the very heart, marrow, and pith of the gospel.

And though the heart of a sinner will never be fully satisfied till a persuasion be wrought that God and Christ are purposed and willing to save a man’s own self in particular, which persuasion is that which we call assurance, yet when once there is a thorough persuasion settled upon the heart, but of so much indefinitely and in general, that God and Christ are willing and fully resolved to save some sinners, so that the heart does truly believe that God is in earnest, this draws on the heart to come to Christ, and is enough to work faith of adherence, such as upon which Christ ‘will never cast us out,’ as the text hath it.

The great business then for the working faith in men, is to persuade them of God’s good will and gracious inclination unto sinners, to beget in them good opinions of God and Christ this way, men naturally having hard and suspicious thoughts of both, as that speech of Christ implies, ‘God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved,’ John 3:17. Christ would never have hinted such a jealousy, nor suggested such thoughts to men’s minds, had they not been in them before, and this to prevent and take off such jealousies. Men are apt to think that God had a design upon them as upon enemies, and laid but an ambushment for their further condemnation, in his treaty of peace tendered to them by his Son. An example of which we have in Luther, who fell into such suspicions as these, for he, misunderstanding some words he met with in the epistle to the Romans, as they were rendered by the vulgar translation then in use, namely, these, that ‘God sent his Son to declare his righteousness’ (as they are by us translated), he thought the meaning of them to have been this, ‘to declare and set forth his judgment’ on the world (so he interpreted ad justitiam suam, &c.). The truth is, the jealousies of men’s thoughts herein were those that have put God to his oath, ‘As I live, I will not the death of a sinner,’ &c. So also Heb. 6:17. Men do not so usually question the power of God, he is able enough to save them they think; he is ‘able to engraft them in,’ as the apostle speaks to the Jews, Rom. 11:23; but all their doubts are about his will. God’s will was the fountain and spring of our salvation, in the contriving of which he ‘wrought all things according to the counsel of his own will,’ as the apostle to the Ephesians speakers; and in another place it is said, ‘He will have mercy on whom he will,’ &c. And therefore the great queries in our hearts concerning the will of God towards us.

The words of the text opened

Now, these words of my text do hold forth the full willingness of both these two persons, both of God and of Christ.

1. Of Christ, he here professeth himself willing to entertain all that will come to him, ‘He that will come to me, I will in no wise cast out.’ Which words are not to be understood as if spoken only of casting out them that are already come unto him, as if they were only a promise against being cast off after being received, and so intending against fears of falling away; but they are chiefly intended as an invitement to all that are not yet come that they would come to him; and so, to express how ready and willing he is to entertain all comers, as one who sets his doors open, keeps open house, and beats back none that would come in, ‘Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.’ And though it may seem to be but a slender and sparing expression of his readiness to entertain such, to say only, ‘I will not cast them out,’ yet though he speaks with the least, yet he will do with the most, he being ‘abundant in goodness and truth,’ and one that is better than his word in the performance. As when he says, he will not despise a broken heart, is that all the esteem he will manifest to such a heart? Oh, no! it is the most welcome thing, and endeared frame of spirit that can be in any creature. His meaning is to shew what he elsewhere says of a meek spirit (which is all one with a broken heart), that with God it is ‘of great price,’ for so in Isaiah he expresseth himself. ‘I that inhabit eternity, with whom will I dwell? with a spirit that is broken and contrite.’ He useth also this expression of not casting them out, in relation, and for a more direct answer unto the fear which he knew usually possesseth the hearts of poor sinners when they are about to come to him; they fear he may reject them, they know not their entertainment, their welcome. To meet with this scruple, he says, ‘I will not cast such out;’ choosing rather thus to remove the doubt that is in their hearts, than to express the fulness of his own; the Scriptures speaking potius ad cor nostrum quam cor suum, rather unto our hearts, than fully what is in his own, which can never be done.

And yet, even in the diminutive expression, there is that inserted, which argues not only a willingness and readiness, but a resolvedness joined with the greatest care and faithfulness that can be, ὀυ μὴ, I will in no wise cast out. We may see his heart through this little crevice; he doth herein as a faithful man, who, to give the more full assurance, puts in some binding word into his promise, as, I will at no hand, or in no wise, fail you. Thus does God also in that known promise, Heb. 13:5 (to the horns of which sanctuary many a soul hath fled for refuge), ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,’ where there are no less than five negatives to bind and assure it, ‘I will not,’ ‘in no wise’ (&c.), leave thee.

Now this willingness of his, on his part, Christ shews by two things.

First, By that great journey he took from heaven to earth, and that to no other purpose but to save sinners. For this (says he) did I come down from heaven. Great actions of one who is wise, must answerably have great ends; now this was the greatest thing that ever was done, that the Son of God should come from heaven. And when there can be but one end of an action so great, that end must needs be accomplished, or else the action is wholly in vain. Now, in coming down from heaven, he could have no other end but the saving of sinners, he could have no other business to do that he did here, therefore the Scriptures put his coming into the world wholly upon this, to seek and to save that which was lost, and do attribute his taking upon him ‘the likeness of sinful flesh’ to have been ‘for sin;’ so Rom. 8:3. Though other ends might be supposed, and were accomplished by the assuming man’s nature, yet he had no other end of taking frail flesh, especially there could be no other end of his dying, but merely and only for sin. John 12:24, he says, If he had not fallen to the ground and died, he had then remained in heaven alone, and no sinners had come thither; that therefore they might ascend to heaven, he descends from heaven, ‘I came down from heaven,’ &c.

Secondly, He demonstrates his willingness by this, that his Father had sent him on purpose to receive and to save sinners: ‘I come,’ says he ‘to do the will of him who sent me;’ and, John 8, he says, ‘I come not of myself, but my Father he sent me.’ And if he were sent by his Father to this end (as he affirms he was, and as by the coherence appears, for he makes it the reason why he will cast none out), then certainly he will faithfully do the work he was sent for. In Heb. 3:1, he is called the ‘apostle of our profession,’ apostle, that is, one sent, so the word signifies; and what follows? ‘who was faithful to him that appointed him.’ Now, upon these considerations, Christ tells you that you may build upon him, that you shall certainly find him willing.

2. For his Father’s willingness, he tells us we may be much more confident of it, for he puts his own willingness and all upon that: ‘Him’ (says he) ‘that the Father gives me, shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me: and this is the Father’s will, that he hath sent me;’ &c. In which words you may observe both wherein he declares his Father to be engaged, and how much.

First, Wherein, and that by two things:

(1.) That he sent him to that end, and so it is his Father’s business more than his own. So also, Luke 2:49, he expresseth himself, ‘Shall I not do my Father’s business?’ as elsewhere in Isaiah he is called his Father’s servant in it; and John 5:36, he makes it his Father’s work.

(2.) Secondly, that he in a solemn manner gave unto him them whom he would have to be saved, with charge to lose none: ‘All that the Father hath given me shall come unto me.’ And this is his will, that I should lose none, but give him an account of every soul of them at the last day. They are given him as jewels, and as his Benjamins, to look to, and see to bring back and keep from destruction. Now whom he so solemnly gave to Christ to save, he will never cast away, when they shall come unto Christ.

Then, 2, he shews how much, and how deeply, his Father was engaged, and makes it his Father’s will rather than his own: ‘I come not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me.’ The meaning whereof is, not to shew that he came unwillingly, or receives sinners unwillingly, but that his Father’s will was first in it (as I shall shew anon), and so much in it, that, if you will resolve it into its first principles, Christ’s coming was principally to please his Father. It is such a speech as that in John 5:22, ‘The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son,’ &c. Not that God is not a judge as well as Christ, for, Heb. 12:23, he is termed the ‘judge of all men,’ but because all judgment is visibly committed unto Christ; therefore the Father is said to judge no man. So here, because the Father’s will is chief and first in it, Christ therefore says, he came not to do his own will, but the will of him that sent him.

And so you have the meaning of the words.

The main observation out of the words.—Demonstrations of God’s heart herein, from his engagements from everlasting.—How his heart stood to sinners afore the world was.

The observation which I single out of these words to insist upon, is this, that

Both God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son are fully willing and resolved to save sinners.

1. For God the Father. There are many demonstrations of his will herein, that may be taken ab extra from his oath, word, promise, &c., which I shall handle in another method; but those which I shall first hold forth are more intimate and intrinsical, and homogeneal to the argument which Christ useth here in the text; which we have seen to be these, that it was God’s will first, and Christ’s but because it was his—‘I come not to do mine own will;’ and that it was he that dealt with Christ about it, and wrought him off to it, and made it his business—‘but the will of him that sent me.’ So that the demonstrations which I shall pitch upon shall be drawn from God’s engagements, both from his transactions with Christ from everlasting, before he came into the world, and those that now lie upon him from Christ’s having fully performed what he sent him into the world for. And from either may be fetched strong consolations and confirmations to our faith, that God’s will must needs continue most serious and hearty to save sinners.

Many other sorts of demonstrations of this point might be fetched and drawn from the riches of his mercy, lying by him to bestow on some great purchase; and on what greater purchase could they be bestowed, to shew forth the glory thereof, than upon the salvation and pardon of sinners? But these also I shall at the present let lie by untold, having elsewhere counted them up and set them forth, such demonstrations being only proper to this text as argue an engagement of his will; whereas all those riches of mercy that are in him (although the moving cause of all) might have for ever remained in him as his nature, without any determination of his will to save any man. When therefore a poor sinner shall hear, besides the merciful disposition of God’s nature, that acts and resolutions of his will have passed from him about the pardoning of sinners, so as his will hath engaged all the mercies of his nature to effect it, this brings in strong consolation.

Now the deepness of these engagements of his will to pardon sinners may be demonstrated,

(1.) From such transactions of his as were held by him with Christ from everlasting; which hath both put strong obligations upon him, and also argue him fully and firmly resolved to save sinners. Now all the particular passages of those treaties of his with Christ, about the reconciliation of sinners from everlasting, I have elsewhere also at large handled; and therefore it is not my scope now to enumerate them. I shall now only draw demonstrations from some few of them, by way of corollary, to help our faith in this point in hand, namely, God’s resolvedness to pardon sinners.

The first is drawn from this, That God the Father had the first and chief hand in this matter of saving sinners, as I then shewed; the project was his, and the first motion his.

[1.] The project; he laid the plot of it, and contrived all about it, for the effecting of it. Therefore, John 5:19, Christ says, ‘The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do.’

[2.] The first motion was his. ‘I came not to do mine own will,’ says Christ, ‘but the will of him that sent me.’ Both which (project and first motion) are shut up in that one sentence, Eph. 1:11, ‘He worketh all things by the counsel of his own will.’ Now, for God thus to have the first hand in it, did put a great and deep engagement upon his will in it. We see among men, the projector and first motioner of a business is always most forward in it; because then it is most peculiarly his own, and the greater will be his honour in the compassing of it. How many great affairs have been spoiled, because some men have not been the chief and first in them, that affect the pre-eminence? Now this honour God the Father may challenge, that he was the first in reconciling and saving sinners. It is therefore called God’s wisdom, Eph. 3:10, and his purpose, Eph. 1:9, God’s righteousness, Rom. 1:17, and the pleasure of the Lord, Isa. 53:10.

Secondly, this project and motion did rise up in him unto a strong resolution and purpose, and to an unalterable decree to save sinners by Christ; so Eph. 1:9.

And [1.] for his purposes, they are immutable. Would not Paul lightly alter purposes taken up by him, ‘When I therefore was thus minded (says he, 2 Cor. 1:17), did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea, yea, and nay, nay?’ Would not Paul, I say, alter his purpose because he preached the gospel, and will God (think you) alter them, who gave the gospel? No; it is the ‘eternal gospel,’ Rev. 14:6, and God is of the same mind still, so it follows in that place to the Corinthians, ‘But as God is true’ (or varies not), ‘so was our word to you,’ which yet is his more than Paul’s, &c.

[2.] For God’s decrees, whereof this was one, they are also immutable. The great monarchs of the earth, the Persians, took to themselves that infallibility, that they would not alter the decrees which they made: therefore when a thing was unalterable, it was said to be ‘as the laws of the Medes and Persians;’ which was to shew their greatness and their wisdom, that they could so resolve as no person or power whatever should be strong enough to cause them to change their resolutions; and yet they were forced, though not to alter a former decree, yet to give countermands unto it, as Ahasuerus did; and men do alter, because they cannot foresee all events, and so cannot make unalterable decrees without prejudice. Therefore the pope, who takes on him the style of infallible, and so assumes to himself the highest prerogative that ever man did, yet of him it is said, Papa nunquam ligat sibi manus, that he never binds his own hands by any decree he makes, because he cannot foresee all inconveniences, notwithstanding whatever he assumes. But with God it is not thus, ‘He is not a man that he should’ have cause to ‘repent,’ for he knows and foresees all that can or will follow.

Now this immutability of his counsel he shews by two oaths; the first made to Christ, the second to us.

[1.] To Christ, Heb. 7:21, ‘This priest (Christ) was made with an oath, by him that said unto him, The Lord sware, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever, &c.’ And this was from everlasting; for then it was that Christ was first made priest. Now then God foresaw that he could never have a relenting thought at the pardoning of sinners through him, this his Son would so satisfy and please him; and thereupon he sware.

[2.] To us, Heb. 6:17, 18, ‘God willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation,’ &c. The thing I allege this place for, and which I would have observed, is, that this oath is not mentioned as that now which makes God so immutable, though that be a truth; but God’s oath is here made that whereby God did declare unto us the immutability of his purpose, formerly and from everlasting taken up, and so that immutability of his counsel was the cause of his oath, and that was to pardon sinners; for it is the promise made to Abraham and his seed that is there specified.

Yea [3.] God set his seal unto all further to confirm it. He both ‘sealed Christ to the work,’ John 6:27, and likewise sealed up in his decrees the persons of those sinners that shall be saved. 2 Tim. 2:19, ‘The foundation of the Lord remains sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth who are his.’ And if it were but a king’s seal, it could not be reversed; but this is God’s. Yea, he hath sealed up their sins also by and through Christ, Dan. 9:24, never to be remembered or looked upon more.

Thirdly, God rested not in a decree only, but entered into covenant with Christ to save sinners by him if he would die. This covenant you have dialogue-wise set out, Isa. 49. First, Christ begins at the first and second verses, and shews his commission, telling God how he had called him, and fitted him for the work of redemption, and he would know what reward he should receive of him for so great an undertaking. God answers him, ver. 3, and at first offers low, only the elect of Israel. Christ who stood now a-making his bargain with him, thought these too few, and not worth so great a labour and work, because few of the Jews would come in, but would refuse him, therefore, ver. 4, he says, he should ‘labour in vain,’ if this were all his recompence; and yet withal he tells God, that seeing his heart was so much in saving sinners to satisfy him, he would do it however for those few, comforting himself with this, that his ‘work was with the Lord.’ Upon this God comes off more freely, and openeth his heart more largely to him, as meaning more amply to content him for his pains in dying. ‘It is a light thing,’ says God to him, ‘that thou shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob;’ that is not worth the dying for, I value thy sufferings more than so, ‘I will give thee for a salvation unto the ends of the earth.’ Upon this he made a promise to Christ, Titus 1:2, and a promise is more than a purpose. A purpose may be in one’s self, as Eph. 1:9, but a promise is made to another. Now God cannot lie in himself, but most of all, not to his Son.

A second sort of demonstrations.—The engagements of God’s heart to sinners, from and upon Christ’s having died at his request.

A second sort of demonstrations are drawn from Christ’s having already come and performed all this: for,

1. Christ is now to be satisfied for that his dying, as well as he by his death had satisfied God; he is now to have his reward. God never set any on work but he gave them wages. Thus unto Nebuchadnezzar he gave Egypt as his hire for his service at Tyre, and to Cyrus he gave hidden treasure. Now it is not Christ’s own glory that will satisfy him; for that he could have had, and never have died; there remains therefore nothing that can or will satisfy him but to have the end of his death, ‘to see his seed and be satisfied, and to see of the travail of his soul; and to justify many,’ as it is, Isa. 53:11. He died, as himself speaks, John 12:24, that he might not be alone in heaven; his desire is, that those whom he died for might see his glory.

2. If we consider the act itself, of delivering Christ unto death, there was not, nor could there ever be, anything more abhorrent unto God; no act ever went so much against his heart; for if he be ‘afflicted in all our afflictions,’ and doth ‘not willingly punish the sons of men,’ neither ‘wills the death of a sinner’ that deserves it, much less would he will the death of his own Son. Now what was there to sweeten the death and sufferings of his Son unto him, except his end in it? for it is the end that sweetens and facilitates the means tending unto it. Now the end of Christ’s death could be no other but to take sins away, and to procure the pardon of sinners; and so it must needs be infinitely delightful unto him, and his heart strongly set upon it, seeing it did sweeten unto him an act otherwise so abhorrent; and of this end therefore it is impossible he should ever repent. Now, Eph. 5:2, the very offering of Christ is called a ‘sacrifice of a sweet smelling savour;’ and what was it that made it so, but even the end for which it was done, and which is there put upon it, that it was out of love unto us, and out of a mind to have sinners pardoned? For else in itself it must needs have been abominable unto him.

Again, 3. If at any time he would have repented him of his purpose, it would have been at the time of Christ’s being crucified, when he came to bruise him: then his heart would have recoiled, and especially when Christ poured out his soul with such strong cries and tears as he did. At other times, in punishing but his children, we find, that when he comes to do it, his heart as it were fails him, as Hos. 11:8. ‘How shall I give thee up?’ The rod falls out of his hand, and his bowels yearn within him; yet he relented not when he saw the soul of his Joseph in bitterness, but still made an impossibility of it for him to avoid suffering, because his purpose was thereby to take sins away. Therefore Christ’s request was, ‘Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass.’ The necessity lay only in God’s will in reference to this end, to forgive sins. If God would ever have relented or repented him of this purpose, it would have been then. We read of his repenting him of other of his works, but his mind is so fully carried to take away sins, that he did not then, or can ever repent of putting his own Son to death for the effecting of it. To pardon sinners is more natural to him than to kill his Son was unnatural. Now his end and purpose being thus fully set to pardon and save sinners, if he should be frustrated of this his end, he would then indeed repent him of using his Son as he had done. Nay, it is not only said that he repented not, but that ‘it pleased him to bruise’ Christ, in respect to that his end, which was so pleasant to him: so you have it, Isa. 53:10. And, therefore, surely it pleaseth him much more to pardon sinners, now he hath thus bruised him; and so indeed it follows there, ‘The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.’ It is spoken of his saving and justifying of sinners. It troubled God to hear a soul bemoan itself for its sin, Jer. 31:20, but we read not that it did so when Christ bemoaned himself in his sufferings; and the reason was, because the work that Christ was about to do was a sweet sacrifice to him; and it would trouble God more to condemn a sinner that Christ died for, than it did to sacrifice Christ for him.

4. Upon that ancient agreement between God and Christ, God pardoned millions of men under the Old Testament upon the bare word of Christ, before he came into the world, or had paid one penny of the debt; he must needs therefore be supposed to be much more willing now to do it, when Christ has done all that was required, and failed not, and that at the due time, as it is said, Rom. 5. If Christ had failed to come short but of a little of what he was to do, God might have denied to let the world go upon trust any longer; but now Jesus Christ hath performed all, and is aforehand with him, and hath put in stock enough to pardon sinners to the end of the world.

Yet, 5. Now even justice itself will call upon him to discharge sinners, will not let him rest in quiet till he has pardoned and shewed mercy unto poor sinners that come to Christ, and hath given in their bond, and this, though we had no promise to shew for it, yea, though Christ himself had nothing to shew for it: God’s very justice would trouble him (I may so speak with reverence, for he himself says, that he was ‘troubled for Ephraim,’ Jer. 31:20), till he had given out an acquittance, because he knows the debt is paid, and also, that Christ’s and his own intent was, that when Christ had once died, sinners should thereby be justified. Even as if an honest man had a bond for a debt that is discharged lying still in his hands, of which payment he whose debt it is knows nothing, although he or they that paid this debt were dead, so that there were no one left that were able to challenge an acquittance from him, and a cancelling of that bond, yet mere honesty would cause him to give it in. Now Jesus Christ died, and God himself put him to death, merely to pay our debts; and, says Christ at his death, Let sinners require my blood, and the merits of it at thy hands, and have it out in pardon.

That was Christ’s will that he made at his death, as you have it, Heb. 9:16, 17, where the apostle calls it ‘a testament confirmed by the death of the testator.’ Now there is nothing so sacred as the performance of the will of the dead. And now Christ himself is alive again, and is ordained by God to be his own executor, and so lives to claim an acquittance; therefore certainly God will never withhold it. In justice he cannot, he will not, have a bond lie by him that is discharged. Hence it is said, that God is ‘just to forgive our sins,’ 1 John 1:9.

There are three things which do cry for justice, and all do meet in this.

(1.) The wages of a hireling (if detained) are said to cry. So in James 5:4, it is said, ‘The wages of hirelings detained do cry in the ears of the Lord of Hosts.’ They cry, wages being due in justice, and because God’s justice is thereby provoked, and cannot be quiet till God hath avenged it. And so would Christ’s satisfaction having been made for us; it would restlessly cry to God, and not suffer his justice to be quiet, unless we were pardoned. For he was truly and indeed God’s hired servant in this work; and God covenanted to give him the salvation of those he died for as his wages and reward, as Isaiah often represents it, chap. 53, and elsewhere. So that if God be just, he must give forth salvation, otherwise Christ’s obedience would cry as the work of an hireling doth for wages.

(2.) A second thing that cries for justice, is the will of one that is dead unperformed, who hath bequeathed legacies, and left wherewith to pay and discharge them. And this is yet a louder cry than the former. Now Christ, before he died, did thus make his will, and bequeathed pardon of sin and justification, and that eternal inheritance in heaven, as legacies to those for whom he died, and to be given out by God after his death, as I observed even now out of Heb. 9:15, 16, 17, where it is said that Christ was ‘The Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death they who are called might receive the promise (or bequeathed legacy) of eternal life.’ And thereupon, ver. 16, 17, the apostle calls this ‘a testament confirmed by his death,’ and which at his death ‘began to be in force,’ so ver. 17. And of all things in justice that are held due, the performance of the will of the dead hath ever been held most sacred.

(3.) There is yet a third thing which cries for justice, and that is innocent blood spilt. And this cries louder than the rest. So Gen. 4:10. And the apostle, Heb. 12:24, sets forth the cry of Christ’s blood for us, by Abel’s blood crying against Cain.

It may be notwithstanding this, that God may put the bond in suit against a sinner, to make him come to acknowledge the debt, as the apostle there speaks, ‘If we confess our sins.’ But if any soul doth say, ‘I have sinned and it profited me not;’ God then cannot withhold from throwing down his bond cancelled, saying, ‘Deliver him, I have found a ransom,’ Job 33:24, God will not have innocent blood, such as his Son’s is, to lie upon him. If he should not pardon sinners, Christ’s blood would be upon him, for it was for them only that Christ died, being in himself innocent.

6. God mends not himself by damning those for whom Christ died. Now there were not only an injustice to Christ and us in it, but God himself also would prove a loser. For the end of Christ’s death was not simply to satisfy justice, so as without it justice could not have permitted a pardon, that might have been dispensed with, but it was chiefly to declare the glory of God’s justice, which required such a satisfaction, as the apostle says, Rom. 3:25, ‘To declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through God’s forbearance.’ It was, we see, the manifestation or declaration of the glory of his justice that he aimed at in it. So as if any one man’s sin satisfied for by Christ should be left unforgiven, God’s justice should lose so much glory. And if justice should think to get a greater glory out of the sinners, that could never be; for the sinner is unable ever to satisfy, and so to glorify God’s justice by suffering, as Christ hath done. Yea, and besides, God would be a further and a greater loser in the glory of his mercy also, which by his pardoning sin is advanced.

The second part of the observation.—Demonstration of Christ’s willingness to receive sinners that come to him.—First, how his heart stood from everlasting.

And so now I come to Christ’s willingness, which was the second thing propounded in the doctrine to be demonstrated. Now, though his will was not first in it (as was said), yet we shall find him to have been no less willing than his Father. As Christ in subsisting is the second person, and hath his personal subsistence from his Father, so he is second also in order of working, and consequently of willing too, yet he is not second to him in heartiness of willing; but as his Father and he are equal, so in all that his Father willeth, his will is equal with his Father, and so, is as much in this business as his.

In the demonstrating of this, I will take the same course that I did in the former:

First, I will shew how hearty he was in this, to have sinners saved, before he came into the world.

And secondly, how willing he was since he came into the world, and since his death and going out of the world.

And as a general introduction to either, I shall premise this, which shall be as the corner-stone in this building, joining both parts of this discourse together, and is a consequent of what hath formerly been delivered.

The thing to be premised is this: That if God the Father be willing, then Jesus Christ must needs be willing also, and look how much the will of the one is in it, so much the will of the other must be in it also, for ‘the Father and he are all one.’ And this will serve for our further assurance of the wills of either; and we make use of it both ways, either to argue to our faith, that if the Father be willing, Christ must needs be so also; and that if Christ be willing, the Father is so also. That whereas some men’s thoughts have been more taken up about, and so more taken with, the consideration of how much the Father’s heart was in it, and how active and plotting he was about it; and again, other men’s apprehensions have been carried more unto Christ’s heart in the work; this demonstration which I have in hand shall be a help to the faith of either of these: so that if your hearts have a ‘door of faith,’ (as the apostle speaks) ‘set open,’ or a window to see either into God’s heart or Christ’s, you may raise a confidence of the one from the other, and so come to be sure of both.

And this also I do first mention, because it is the most intrinsical bottom demonstration that can be made of Christ’s willingness, and is the utmost reason of it.

This demonstration I found upon John 10:30, ‘I and my Father are one.’ That whereas in this my text he shews how his Father’s will and his agree in one, he there gives the reason of it, for (says he) we are one; and the words there, as they stand in their coherence, are proper to the purpose in hand. For Christ there allegeth them as the reason why his heart, and power, and all in him is so engaged for the salvation of his own, that if he have any power in him, and be able to do anything, ‘not one of them shall perish,’ because ‘his Father and he are one.’ For, mark the occasion upon which he speaks this, it is the same that here in my text. He had been speaking of saving his sheep, and of his power and will to save them; and concludes, that ‘they shall never perish.’ And he says not only that he will never cast them out (as here), but that ‘neither shall any man pluck them out of his hand.’ And in that speech he shews and utters the strength of his will as much as of his power. For otherwise, although his hand of power had been never so potent to have held them against all opposition, yet if his will had not as strongly resolved to hold them in his hand, and so, if they were not as deep in his heart as they are fast in his hands, this speech of his had not been made good, that ‘they shall never perish.’ And then he gives the reason both of this resoluteness of his will and this prevalency of his power from his Father’s both will and power, engaged as much as his own, in this fulness.* ‘My Father,’ says he, ‘that gave them me is greater than all, and none is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hands.’ He pleads here, first, his Father’s will—‘He gave them me;’ and then, secondly, his power, whom these Jews he spake to acknowledged greater than all, though him they did not. ‘He is greater than all; none can pluck them out of his hands;’ and then argues to himself, ‘My Father and I are one.’ One in nature, therefore much more in will. Two persons that have distinct essence may yet be one in will, as the ten kings are said to be of one mind when they agreed in one thing, Rev. 17:13, 17; so Acts 4:32, it is said that they that believed were of ‘one heart and of one soul,’ that is, in judgment and consent of mind. But Christ and God the Father are one yet nearer, one in nature, and therefore much more entire in will, for by nature they have but one will between them. And that place speaks at once in relation to both their willingness to save, as to both their powers to save sinners. And this is not only an argument that they did both agree, and were like to agree, in it, but that they can never disagree. Two that essentially have two wills, though for the present agreeing in one, yet it may be supposed that they may come to disagree, and not will the same thing; but if they essentially have but one will, it is impossible then but that they must ever agree. This great security, therefore, doth Christ give for the salvation of sinners. You have not only two persons engaged, persons greater than all, but all that is in them engaged, both their power and will; and what more can be desired? And if the one holds his purpose, the other must also, for they are one. You have the oneness of God and Christ given you for security; so that if they can never be made two, and wrought asunder, then sinners must needs be saved. Till these two persons do disagree, you are sure enough; and they must cease to be ere they can cease to agree, for they are one, and one in being.

We have another testimony as full as this, 1 John 5:7: ‘There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost’ (we are yet surer, here is a third person that comes in), ‘and these three are one.’ Now, what is the thing that these do witness unto? Ver. 11 it follows, ‘This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.’ Here their truth is pawned, as in that other place their power was, for the apostle allegeth this as such a truth as they all agree and stand in to make good. And to prove this, he says (as in that other place, John 10) that ‘these three are one,’ that is, one in nature, therefore one in will, and so also one in witness to this truth. He says not only they agree in one, for you shall observe that whereas there are three other witnesses mentioned to be on earth, there is this difference put between their concurrency in their testimonies and that of these, that ‘they agree in one’ (so ver. 8), but there is more said of these, namely, that they are one, that is, in nature, and so in will and purpose, and so must needs much more agree in one. Now, that thing which their wills and testimonies and all agree in is, as hath been said, that God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son, to all that shall come for it. So that for demonstrations of this I need go no further. If there be any will, power, or truth in these persons, sinners shall be saved.

This being premised, as the most bottom ground of Christ’s being at first, and his continuing to be for ever, willing to pardon sinners, let us more particularly see, first, how his heart stood to the salvation of them before to came into the world; and then, secondly, how it stood inclined unto it after he was come; and what confirmations our faith may have from both. So that the thing I am herein to speak to is not so much his willingness to the work of redemption itself (that I have elsewhere handled apart), but his willingness and readiness to save sinners.

1. Let us see how his heart stood to this before the world was, and before he came into it. And for this we find that his delights were set upon it; so Prov. 8:31, ‘Rejoicing in the habitable parts of his earth, and my delights were with the sons of men:’ which words are more properly spoken of Christ than of God the Father, and therefore I produce them under this head. For they are said to be spoken by Wisdom, that is, Christ himself, he therein shewing how his mind stood towards us before the world began; for he speaks what he and his Father did ‘before the mountains were,’ &c. ‘I was set up from everlasting,’ ver. 22. ‘Then I was by him,’ &c., ver. 30. And how did they pass away that long ævum, as the apostle calls it? In nothing but rejoicing and delights. He there speaks of nothing else that they did. And what was the matter of delight unto them?

(1.) He and his Father delighted one in another, ver. 30.

(2.) In the salvation of men, ‘My delights were with the sons of men,’ so ver. 31. And he speaks of men as fallen, for it is said in the beginning of the same verse that he ‘rejoiced in the habitable parts of the earth,’ which is spoken not of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles too, and of men all the earth over. Now, first, delights arise out of the strongest and choicest desires. Men are pleased with many things in which they delight not. Christ’s heart and desires must needs have been most on that which his delights are in. Again, secondly, the greater the persons are, and the greater their minds are, the greater are their delights. Things of great concernment are usually the objects which are the delights of kings, and which they take pleasure in. Now, the great God and Jesus Christ singled out the pardon and reconciliation of sinners for their chief delights.

(3.) Their delight herein is mentioned, and in no other work of theirs; not the angels, nor the world, nor anything in it.

(4.) This their delight is mentioned next to their delighting in each other.

(5.) And fifthly, this delight he took aforehand, whilst his heart was only in the expectation of it, and his mind but laying the plot of it. He delights in it ere he doth it. And if all this joy of his be only in the thoughts of it, how much more will it delight him when he comes to do it? All this argues how great a matter this was in his esteem, and how much his heart was in it, and that from everlasting.

Demonstrations from the disposition of Christ’s heart, and his carriage upon earth.—As also some engagements since his death.

2. In the second place, when Christ had assumed our nature, and whilst he remained upon earth, how did this disposition of his abound in him? It were endless to give all the instances that his story and sermons do afford hereof. See but how welcome all sorts of sinners were at all times unto him. He cast out none that acknowledged him for the Messiah; he turned none away that gave up their souls unto him to be saved his own way. He was indeed most reserved unto that rich young man of any other, yet he used him courteously—the text saith, ‘he loved him.’ Christ turned him not away, but directed him the right way to follow him; and he went away of himself, undervaluing Christ to his possessions. And another time Christ indeed seems to discourage the Canaanitish woman, and put her away, calling her dog. But it was only in words; for underhand he strongly draws her heart to him by his Spirit, and suggests thereby to her heart by way of answer, a consideration of the highest faith towards him, that dogs might partake of the crumbs that fall from their master’s table. I instance in these, because I would prevent and remove any exception which might be taken from them. For otherwise Christ’s professed entertainment of all sinners was so open and notorious, as it was turned into his disgrace and opprobry, that he was ‘a friend to publicans and sinners;’ which yet he owns and glories in, professing that he ‘came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ And how glad he was when any such came in unto him, he sufficiently expresseth by those parables on purpose taken up, of the joy of the prodigal’s father for his return, and of the rejoicing for the finding of the lost groat, and likewise of the lost sheep, more than of the ninety and nine.

We read of Christ’s joy but seldom, and when it is at any time recorded, it is at the conversion of souls. He had little else to comfort himself in, being a man of sorrows; and he had nothing else on earth which he took delight or pleasure in. When he was converting the poor woman of Samaria, which he doth as a pleasure and recreation to him, he forgets his meat, although before he had been very hungry, and tells his disciples that he had ‘meat which they knew not of,’ which was indeed the saving that poor woman’s soul. In Luke 10:21, we read that Jesus rejoiced in his spirit; but observe the occasion. He had sent out his disciples to preach the gospel, and they had in his name and through his power cast out devils. He bids them not rejoice in that, ver. 20, but shews them what they should rejoice in, by his own example, and by what most comforted him. ‘Father’ (says he) ‘I thank thee that thou hast revealed these things unto babes.’ This in the next words following recorded to be the matter of his rejoicing, he saw now an handsel, and an experiment of the fruit of his disciples’ ministry, and comforted himself beforehand, in that as their souls had, so others of the poorer and meaner sort should thus come in unto him.

We find him at another time in like manner rejoicing, namely, in the story of his raising Lazarus, John 11:15. And what was it for? Not that himself should be glorified by so great a miracle, even the greatest that ever he wrought, but, says he, ‘I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the end that you might believe.’ He rejoiceth if any of his got a little more or further degree of faith. And on the other side, as sorry was he when men came not in. Witness his tears over Jerusalem, and those speeches of his, John 5:34, ‘These things I speak, that you might be saved.’ And thereupon in the ensuing verse he complainingly utters himself, ‘You will not’ (says he) ‘come to me, that you may have life.’ He speaks as one greedy of winning souls, and as sorry that any customers or hearers of his should pass by, and not turn in; ‘You will not come to me,’ &c. And he relieves himself with this, that there were others that would, though they would not. So here in this place, when in the verse before my text he had complained of them, that they would not believe, he comforts himself with this in the words of the text, ‘All that the Father giveth me shall come unto me.’ And the like you have, John 10:25, 26, ‘You believe not; but my sheep, they hear my voice,’ &c.

And then at his death, when he was upon the cross, he then converts a thief that was crucified with him, and prays for those that crucified him. And after his resurrection his last words recorded in Luke 24:47 are, ‘That remission of sins should be preached in his name, beginning at Jerusalem; ‘that so those whom he had prayed for, though they had crucified him, might be converted and saved. Thus stood his heart all the while he was on earth, both before and after his death.

3. And then, in the third place, now that he hath died and laid down that price which was to purchase the salvation of sinners, he must needs be much more willing, if it were possible he should be, than ever. Many demonstrations there are from those obligations which Christ’s sufferings and death do put upon him, which I have already given in a treatise upon this very argument, The Heart of Christ in Heaven, Part II. Only I have reserved one or two for this place. As,

(1.) It was the aim and utmost intent of Christ’s soul, in his being crucified, to have sinners saved, and saved effectually. It was that travail which his heart was then big with. And certainly Christ would not that so many and so great sufferings, now that they are past and over, should be in vain. The apostle makes a motive of it unto the Galatians, ‘Are ye so foolish?… Have ye suffered so many things in vain?’ Gal. 3:3, 4. To be sure Christ’s death shall not be in vain; he will not lose the end of his sufferings (as the same apostle intimates but four verses before, chap. 2:21). A business that a man hath prayed for much, how doth he long to see it accomplished and fulfilled! And how glad is he when it falls out as he hath prayed! And why but because it is the fruit of his prayers? Now, much more glad is Christ to see the fruit of his death, ‘the travail of his soul,’ and thereby is ‘satisfied,’ Isa. 53:10, a place I often quote to this purpose. I will add but this to it. When a woman hath been in travail, she forgets all her pains for joy that a man-child is born, which is the fruit of that her travail; and so doth Christ. And then again for that other word, that Christ is said to be ‘satisfied;’ satisfaction is the accomplishment of desire, or the fulfilling of one’s longings. So in that speech of Christ, ‘Blessed are those that hunger, for they shall be satisfied.’ So that this doth argue and presuppose the most vehement desires and longings in Christ for the salvation of souls, and his having died must needs increase them.

And (2.) add this engagement unto that former, that his death can be put to no other use than for the pardon of sinners. So as if he should not expend it that way, he should utterly lose the fruit of it, or let it lie useless by him. For divert it to any other use he cannot. And yet if he knew how to improve it to any other purpose, yet his love (he having intended it for the sons of men) would not suffer him to do it. But besides, if it be not employed and bestowed this way, it will be wholly in vain; for the good angels, though they stand in need of his personal mediation, to confirm them in grace, yet his blood was not requisite thereunto. And for the bad angels, they are utterly excluded the benefit of it. And then Christ himself, he stands in no need of it, nor can he have any benefit by it, all that personal glory which now he hath in heaven being due unto him by that hypostatical union. So that his death serves for no end if not for this. Christ indeed hath an honour in heaven besides the glory of the personal union; but then it ariseth to him from the salvation of sinners through his death, which salvation is the purchase of his blood; as you have it, Eph. 1, which might afford a third engagement, in that Christ should not only lose the fruit of his death, but that glory that is ordained him by the salvation of men. So that he should be a loser not only of his sufferings by-past, but of all that glory that is to come from the salvation of believers, which is no small thing unto him. As officers in courts of law, or in universities, get the more fees, the more clients and the more commencers there are, so it is the more for Jesus Christ’s gain that many sinners get out, and are received to grace and mercy.

Some extrinsical demonstrations of God’s and Christ’s willingness to pardon sinners.

And unto all these secret engagements both of God and Christ mutually to each other, and to us, we may add all the professed publications of their minds herein unto us, which have been made upon all occasions and by all means possible. As,

First, This news hath been published by all three persons: first, God the Father he began to preach it to Adam in paradise, and hath renewed it again and again, as with his own immediate voice from heaven when Christ was baptized, ‘This is my well-beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear him;’ which the apostle Peter records and confirms, as spoken a second time upon the mount, as a matter of highest moment to be known by us, ‘which voice he heard’ (says he), ‘and is no fable,’ 2 Pet. 1:16, 17.

Secondly, Christ who is ‘the faithful and true witness,’ Rev. 1:5, he came from the bosom of his Father, and preached peace, Eph. 2:17. Yea, and it was one of his first texts he preached upon, Luke 4:18, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel, to preach deliverance to the captives.’

Thirdly, The Holy Ghost he also herewith bearing witness, that ‘God hath exalted Christ to be a Prince and Saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins,’ Acts 5:31, 32. And so Heb. 2:4. And these are these ‘three witnesses in heaven,’ 1 John 5:7, whose record as it follows is this, ‘that there is life to be had in his Son Jesus Christ,’ ver. 11.

Secondly, God hath published this news both by all creatures reasonable, and to all creatures reasonable.

First, The angels they came and preached it, singing, ‘Peace on earth, good will towards men,’ Luke 2:13, 14.

Secondly, By men; and to that end he hath given gifts to men, powerful and full of glory, Eph. 4:8, &c. And a commission with those gifts, a most large and gracious one. ‘And he hath committed to us the ministry of reconciliation, to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself,’ 2 Cor. 5:20.

Yea, and thirdly, he hath maintained this ministry in all ages, even to our times, all times have rung of the news hereof, and the world is still full of his ambassadors to treat with men about this peace, and they are to proclaim that he is fully willing; and upon that ground, to beseech men to be reconciled, and so long as lieger ambassadors reside uncalled home or not sent for away, so long the treaty of peace holds.

Fourthly, He hath proclaimed this by these his ambassadors in all places; he bade them go and preach it to all the world, ‘to every creature,’ Mark 16:15. And his disciples did accordingly. Now he would not have had it spoken so openly and generally, if he were not most serious in it.

Fifthly, Add to this, that he hath declared it by all ways and means that do argue faithfulness and seriousness.

(First.) Not by bare word of mouth, but we have it under his hand, he hath left his mind in writing. This book, which is dropped from heaven, the title of it is, ‘The word of reconciliation,’ 2 Cor. 5:19, the main argument of it being reconciliation. In this book we find proclamation sent forth after proclamation, book after book, line after line, all written to this end, that we sinners ‘might have hope and strong consolation,’ as the apostle witnesseth.

(Secondly.) He hath added to this writing those seals of the sacraments, and further, an oath to both, and that made advisedly with the greatest earnestness and deliberation that might be, Heb. 6:17, ‘God willing’ (the text says) ‘more abundantly to manifest this his intent, the immutability of his counsel, he confirmed that promise with an oath; that by two immutable things, his word and oath, we might have strong consolation.’

(Thirdly.) If this be not sufficient, he hath pawned heaven and earth, the ‘covenant of day and night,’ in mortgage to forgive iniquity and pardon sinners. Thus, Jer. 31:34, 35, 36, ‘This is my covenant (says God there), that I will forgive their iniquities, and remember their sins no more.’ So ver. 34, and then it follows, ver. 35, ‘Thus saith the Lord, who giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and stars for a light by night: if those ordinances depart from before me, then the seed of Israel,’ &c. The like you have, chap. 33:25, 26. Day and night we see stand still, and therefore this covenant holds good still. But we have a greater pawn than this, the death of his Son.

And lastly, Let his actions and courses, which he hath taken from the beginning of the world, speak for all the rest; as Satan hath been a murderer from the beginning, so God hath been a Saviour from the beginning, and Christ is the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world. God began with the first of mankind, even with Adam and Eve, the ringleaders, the heads of this rebellion, who drew all the rest of the world into that enmity, these were yet reconciled. Kings usually hang up the heads and chief in treasons, for examples of their justice, though they pardon others; yet these did God save and pardon as examples of his mercy, to all that should come of them; and it is observable that the first thing he did, after the world was fallen, was this act of mercy, both in preaching this gospel and in pardoning them, he began to do that soon, which he meant to be always a-doing to the end of the world: it argues he delights in it, yea, and according to Christ’s last promise on earth, that he would ‘be with us to the end of the world.’ God is to this day reconciling the world of men to himself; some that walk in your streets by you, live among you. And he will have thousands when you are gone, and what are these but as flags, and patterns of mercy, hung forth by God to toll and bring others in, as Eph. 2:7.

Use. What should the consideration of these things work in our hearts, but what the scope of the text itself puts men upon, even that they would come in unto Christ, and believe on him, and give up their souls unto him? ‘He that believes shall in no wise be cast out.’ As Christ therefore is willing, so should we be ‘a willing people.’ That which keeps men off is, that they know not Christ’s mind and heart. Think it not to be an indifferent thing to him whether you believe or no, as if he came into the world to do this duty of dying for sinners singly in obedience to his Father, so that men might be rendered saveable if they will; and that however, if they will not, he yet hath enough to satisfy and quiet himself with, even this, that he shall be glorified in what he hath done, though few or none of the sons of men be saved. It is a prejudicial doctrine this to the salvation of men, and derogatory to Christ’s free love. What, do we think that Jesus Christ is gone to heaven, there to complain unto angels of the unkindness and hardness of men’s hearts, that will not turn to him notwithstanding he hath done so much, and to tell what he had done for them, and what they would not be persuaded to do for themselves; and that so he can sufficiently please himself with such just complaints? No, surely; our effectual salvation concerns him more than so; and his heart is more fully bent upon it than thus to leave it. Of what he hath bought he will lose nothing. The truth is, he is more glad of us than we can be of him. The father of the prodigal was the forwarder of the two to that joyful meeting. Hast thou a mind? He that came down from heaven, as himself saith in the text, to die for thee, will meet thee more than half way, as the prodigal’s father is said to do, by his Spirit: he will send him from heaven to thee, and at the latter day himself will come again to fetch thee and receive thee to himself. If among the angels in heaven there be joy at the conversion of a sinner, how much more joy is there in Christ’s heart? If there be joy in the bedchamber-men (as John speaks) what joy is there in the bridegroom’s heart? Or if among the standers by, when a man-child is born into the world, how much more doth the mother that was in travail for it, as Christ’s soul was, how much more doth she rejoice? O therefore come in unto him. If you knew his heart you would. As they that crucified him knew him not, so neither do those who believe not in him. If you had been on earth with him, or if he were now here, and had this day preached these things unto you, and uttered these his own desires and longings after you; how would you in troops go all thronging after him when the sermon were done, and each of you come about him, as those that had diseases did, and beseech him to pardon and save you, and not leave him till you have obtained some word of comfort and favour from him! Let me tell you, he had preached this day, but that he had other business to do for you in heaven, where he is now praying and interceding for you, even when you are sinning; as on earth we see he did for the Jews when they were a-crucifying him. Now because he could not for this other business come himself, he therefore sends us his ambassadors, and we in Christ’s stead do beseech you; and it is as if ‘Christ by us did beseech you;’ and we preach but such things as were ‘first spoken by the Lord himself,’ as it is in Heb. 2:3. And he sends his Spirit, and continues to give gifts unto men to this very day; and in all these respects, whenever the gospel is preached, he is said to ‘speak from heaven.’ Refuse not him that speaks from heaven, Heb. 12:25. And though you have not his bodily presence, as they had who heard himself preach here on earth, yet you may by faith have as free an access unto him, and know as surely that he hears you, as if he were in the same room with you. Retire, therefore, into your closet, and treat with him in private, and there press these things on him; say them all over again unto himself, and ask him if they be not true; get the match struck up between thy soul and him, which if once made will never be undone again. Say unto him, Lord, why may it not be made up now? Only let me add this: see you come not to him without a wedding-garment, and without wedding affections. Take up a resolution to love him. For if thou comest to him, what dost thou come for? Pardon of sins. And what is it in him that must procure that? His having died for thee; that was it. And what was it that moved him to die? An infinite love; such a love, as were the thing yet to be done, he would certainly do it, and die to satisfy God for thee. Now then, seeing he hath already done it out of such a love, with what face canst thou ask pardon of him, as the effect of such a love, and not love him again, and obey him in all things? But to make short with you, know this, that if you will not come in to him, thou wilt be damned. So saith Christ, ‘He that believes shall be saved, but he that believes not shall be damned.’ And I could tell you another, and as large a story of Christ’s wrath against those that refuse him, as I have told you of his love. The Lamb can be angry, for he is a Lion also. ‘O consider this therefore, lest he tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver you.’

Thomas Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, vol. 4 (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1862), 205–225. Copyright: Public Domain

Puritans Thomas Goodwin

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 https://www.heritagebooks.org/products/the-works-of-thomas-goodwin-12-vols.html

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 https://www.heritagebooks.org/products/the-works-of-thomas-goodwin-12-vols.html

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 https://www.heritagebooks.org/products/the-works-of-thomas-goodwin-12-vols.html

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

Paperback editions of the 12 volumes are available at https://www.heritagebooks.org/products/the-works-of-thomas-goodwin-12-vols.html

Puritans Thomas Goodwin