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Surety to make his soul an offering for sin, his immaculate "soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." He endured in his soul all the unknown anguish and agony which the objects of his love had been doomed to suffer in the place of torment, for ever and ever. He engaged thus to restore that which he took not away, to pay that immense sum, not only for one sin, not merely for one sinner, but for all his elect, a multitude which no man can number. How astonishing the love and mercy which our dear Redeemer displayed, in becoming responsible for such a debt! and all for worms of the dust, -for sinners, for rebels, for enemies! Some have been found who offered to lay down their lives for their country and friends; but God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners and enemies, Christ died for us, Rom. v. 8. Judah offered himself as a surety for the life of his brother Benjamin, whilst he hoped that all would be safe; but Jesus our compassionate Saviour pledged his life for his enemies, when he was certain of losing it, and of suffering death in its utmost extent. How excellent, how astonishing, is his loving kindness! How worthy to be remembered with warmest gratitude in all generations!
On this part of our subject it will be proper to suggest a remark, to which hearers of the gospel should more especially attend, viz. when we think of Jesus, as a Surety for his people's debt of obedience and suffering, we are not to consider his suretiship, as if it only secured the payment of the debt in one way or another, either by himself, or by the principal debtor, which is commonly the case in other instances of suretiship, but we are to view it as implying an exchange of persons in law. } Christ Jesus is to be considered as substituting himself in the room of his people, and as taking the whole obligation upon himself. God the Father having admitted of this change of persons, Jesus became debtor in the estimation of law and justice, and so bound to pay the whole infinite sum. In consequence of his being made Surety, all the iniquities of the elect were imputed to him,
and he became responsible to Divine justice for them, Isa. liii. 6.
IlI. I proceed now to the third general head,-To speak of the better testament, of which Jesus was made a Surety. A surety of a testament, at first sight, seems an unusual phrase. The legacies bequeathed in a testament being entirely free, it is not easy to find any place for a surety. Hence some translate the original word by the term covenant, and read thus: "Jesus was made a Surety of a better covenant." This, however, seems to me rather unsuitable to the scope of the context. For, in the whole of this epistle, the apostle does not treat of the covenant of grace absolutely, but of one of the dispensations of it, styled the "new testament," in distinction from another called the "old." The apostle is not here contrasting the covenant of works and the covenant of grace; but two dispensations of the covenant of grace; the one under the priesthood of Aaron, and the other under that of Christ. When he mentions a better testament, he evidently supposes another, which though good, yet when compared with this, was faulty. For as he argues, "If that first had been faultless, then no place should have been sought for the second." The apostle does not say that Jesus was made a Surety of a testament simply, but of a better testament, that is, of the new testament. He also calls him, "The Mediator of the new testament," Heb. ix. 15. At first sight there appears no more occasion for a mediator in a testament than for a surety. But Jesus, as was just now said, is not called either the Mediator or Surety of the testament simply, but of the better, or the new testament, as distinguished from the faulty and the old.
Our great High-Priest, then, was made a Surety of the New Testament,-of the new or better dispensation of the covenant of grace. Now, in order to explain the meaning of this phrase, we may inquire, who were the sureties of the old Testament,-of that dispensation of the covenant of grace which took place before the resurrection of Christ? In answer, the Levitical priests were
doubtless the sureties of the old testament. They were divinely appointed priests, and thereby sureties under that dispensation. They approached unto Jehovah in name of the people, and, by sacrifices, made typical atonement for their sins. They were the typical sureties of the old testament, which was a typical dispensation. Whilst as priests, they offered sacrifices, figurative of the great atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and so made typical atonement for the sins of the people; as sureties, they, by these sacrifices, paid typically the people's debt of suffering death for sin: and seeing, by the typical death of the same sacrifices, the old testament was ratified or put in force, they who offered them might well be called the sureties of that testament. Their priesthood included their suretiship. They were typical sureties: Christ, the antitype, is the true Surety. They, the sureties of a testament that was good; He, the Surety of one which is better. The new testament is every way better than the Old; especially as to light, life, liberty, extent, and duration; which I shall not here stop to explain. Jesus, then, is the Surety of the better testament. As, by his obedience unto death, he cleared the debt of his spiritual seed; so, by his death, by which he completed the payment of that debt, he ratified or confirmed the better testament. He ratified by his death the promises of the covenant of grace, in their testamentary form; and so, by means of death, he put the new testament in force, as his testamentary deed. "For where a testament is," says the apostle, "there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth," Heb. ix. 16, 17.
IV. I go on now to the fourth general head,-To speak of the solemnity with which the Lord Jesus was installed in his office of suretiship. That was, the oath of God. "In as much as not without an oath he was made priest by so much was Jesus made a surety." This solemn oath plainly implies the most absolute certainty, and the inexpressibly great importance of his suretiship.
1. It imports the absolute certainty of Christ's suretiship, that, beyond all possibility of failure, he should be a Priest, and so a Surety for ever. Hence his suretyrighteousness is declared to be an everlasting righteousness, and his intercession founded upon it, to continue for ever, Heb. vii. 25. Whatever God saith in his word is as certainly and as necessarily true as that he exists, and he so immutably holy that it is impossible for him to lie. His threatenings and many of his promises, however, are in a qualified sense conditional. They therefore are either accomplished or not, according to the condition on which each of them is suspended. If the condition on which a threatening turns be performed, the threatening is not executed; but if not, it is. And if the condition on which a restricted promise is suspended be performed, the promise is fulfilled; but if not, it is not fulfilled. Now, in such cases, God is said in Scripture to repent either of what he has threatened or promised; that is, to change his providential dispensations toward individuals or nations. But such threatenings and promises are never attended with an oath. Where an oath is interposed, it is a sure token that the Lord will not repent either of what he hath promised or threatened, or that he will not alter the thing that is gone out of his lips. The phrase," he will not repent," is sometimes added, as explanatory of what is implied in the oath. Thus in Psalm cx. 4." The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a Priest for ever." Whenever Jehovah pledgeth his oath, then it is absolutely certain that the thing promised or threatened shall come to pass, or that he will on no account alter his dispensation. Thus Christ's being invested by the Father's oath, imports both the certainty and the immutability of his priesthood and suretiship, and also of that testament to which his suretiship refers. Hence our apostle says, that he hath an unchangeable priesthood, and that the new testament is an everlasting testament, Heb. xiii. 20. We also read, that "the Son is consecrated a Priest for evermore." Heb. vii. 28. And if he is consecrated a Priest, then likewise a Surety for evermore;
for the one is implied in the other. He will, therefore, be an interceding, though not a suffering Surety, for ever. The endearing relation of a Surety to his redeemed, he will through endless ages retain, and on it he will ground his continual intercession for them. What ground of strong, of everlasting consolation is this to you who have believed through grace!
2. This oath of God also implies the inexpressibly great importance of the suretiship of Christ. Though all the works of Him who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working, be great, yet some of them are far more important than others. Such, doubtless, are those concerning which Jehovah hath sworn. It was of great moment that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, that in the Seed of Abraham all the nations of the earth should be blessed, that of the fruit of David's body the Lord would raise up Christ to sit upon his throne, and that to him every knee should bow. To all these, therefore the Lord hath sworn. The suretiship of Christ, then, in which he was solemnly invested by the oath of Jehovah, must be an affair of the utmost importance, of the very highest moment. The honour of the holy law, and of the blessed gospel of God,—the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and the everlasting salvation of a multitude which no man can number,-all depend upon it. If these be matters of great importance, so must the suretiship of Christ Jesus be. It magnified the law, and made it honourable; it is a fundamental doctrine of the glorious Gospel; it is also a fundamental part of Christ's priesthood, which is the ground-work of his prophetical and kingly offices; it was that mainly by which Christ glorified God on the earth. On it depends all that transcendent glory to which Christ as Mediator is now exalted, and all that exceeding and eternal weight of glory which awaits his redeemed in the realms of bliss. The oath of God, then, by which the Lord Jesus was constituted a Surety, implies the absolute certainty and the inexpressibly great importance of his suretiship.