Monday, August 23, 2010

0 Two-fold Grace in Christ from Colquhoun

If you can pronounce the author's name, you're in a small minority :)

Yesterday afternoon, looking for something to read in between my perusings of The Marrow of Modern Divinity and Caryl's Exposition of Job, I picked up a book entitled Sermons on Important Doctrines by John Colquhoun (1748-1827), a pastor of the Scottish Secession church, and one upon which the writings of the Marrow brethren had enormous impact. Several of his works, like this one, have been republished in the past few years by Don Kistler, to whom I give hearty thanks for this and other evidences of his service and love for the church. His new publishing effort is Northampton Press.

Colquhoun is also the author of a very important work, A Treatise on the Law and the Gospel, that I intend to acquire and blog about in the near future.

In the first sermon from this volume, Colquhoun writes about the nature of Christ as the Incarnate Word, preaching from John 1:14. I appreciated his remarks concerning the identity of Christ as "Word of God", because, as he wrote,
"As it is by Him that God declares His thoughts or will to His people, so it is by Him that they express their thoughts and desires to God. The Man Christ Jesus is the only Mediator between God and men. It is by Him, therefore, that believers offer the sacrifice of praise and thanks to God continually. He spoke for His people in the council of peace, and covenanted to pay the price of their redemption. He speaks for them in His intercession, and presents their prayers and performances accepteable to His eternal Father." (p. 3, Sermons on Important Doctrines)
Normally the use of the term "Word of God" to describe Christ I think of exclusively in terms of His meditating God's presence to us... but Colquhoun ties it also to Christ's mediation of our desires, praises and prayers to God. Keenly insightful, I think, and helpful as we consider Christ as truly the mediator between us and our Heavenly Father. He spoke for us and speaks for us today - He covenanted for us - covenanted to stand in our place, firmly, and without fail, when prior to time the pactum salutis was enacted. There is no failure in Him - and no failure in His atonement for us, those of us united to Him.

This theme of redemption comes up again (as also union, but I'll blog on that tomorrow) several pages later into the text of Colquhoun's sermon, as he presents reasons for Christ to have come in the flesh. His second point concerns Christ's necessity of being made "under the law" in order to redeem us. Colquhoun writes,
"He engaged to become a Surety for those who were, in the everlasting covenant, given to Him; and, as sustaining that character, to pay their debt of perfect obedience for life by obeying the precepts of the law as a covenant of works in their stead, and their debt of complete satisfaction for sin by enduring for them the full execution of the condemning sentence of the law." (p. 14, Sermons on Important Doctrines )
Here, the twofold work of Christ - the two-fold grace of God in Christ's life and death are held forth as precious elements of the Gospel! Christ indeed covenanted with the Father that His full and spotless righteousness would be ours, those whom the Father had given Him, and that we would be acceptable before God - having the perfect righteousness of obedience and having given perfect satisfaction for our sins. This is simply double imputation... but precious to God's people.

Colquhoun goes on further to elaborate:
"The disobedience of those who are naturally obliged to obedience could not be compensated but by the obedience of Him who was not naturally nor originally obliged to obey." (p. 15, Sermons on Important Doctrines)
This is one of the Federal Vision hallmarks - that Christ's active obedience cannot be transmitted to us, because He needed to obey for Himself, and could henceforth not be said to obey for the elect in their place. Yet Christ is said by Paul to be "made under the law" at the right time, so that He might become subject to that which he, as God-Man, was not naturally nor originally subject to. His obedience was FOR us, as the Surety. Colquhoun continues:
"But because what the Son of God engaged to do in the room of His elect could not have been obedience had he not been under the law and bound to obey it, He therefore assumed the human nature so that as man He might be capable of yielding obedience, which as God only He could not be. On account of the dignity to which His human nature was advanced, in consequence of its union with the divine nature in His person, He was under no obligation to obey for Himself because His human nature never existed by itself, but, from the moment of its assumption, subsisted always in His divine person; notwithstanding, as He was hereby capable of obedience, He became bound to obey as a Surety for the elect. Besides, as in the character of Surety for them, He had engaged to bear the execution of the curse of the Law for the satisfaction of divine justice, He becames man so that the sword of justice might have an opportunity of smiting Him." (p. 15, Sermons on Important Doctrines)
Christ both obeyed and died for His elect... for both were necessary for our salvation. I appreciate the keen insight Colquhoun evidences here, and the applicability to today's controversies. When Christ's identity as standing in our room both under obligation of obedience and necessity of satisfaction for sin is missed... all manner of dangerous error can (and does) arise, as indeed it is. Colquhoun's exposition is both precious encouragement and necessary prophylactic against error.

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