Concerning the Nature of Christ's Death, or if it be Properly a Satisfiction.
From an excurses appended at Lecture II on Revelation chapter five in A Complete Commentary upon the Book of the Revelation.
By James Durham
The Text as edited, Copyright 2003 © First Presbyterian Church of Rowlett

Beside what observations have been already hinted at and held forth from this chapter, there are two more; which being clear of themselves from the words, and contributing much to the clearing of two concerning truths, in these days not a little controverted; we may insist a little more in speaking to them as the place gives ground; the one is concerning the nature, the other is concerning the extent of the merit of Christ’s death. The first observation is, that Christ’s death and sufferings are properly a price and satisfaction for sin, and were purposely offered unto the justice of God as such. So that when the majesty of God, to say so, was wronged by the sin of man, and when (at least, by the necessity flowing from the established law and curse) there behooved to be a satisfaction to justice, before any sinner could be freed from the sentence, then our Lord Jesus did offer himself to suffer in the room of the elect for the satisfying of justice; which accordingly was afterward performed by him, and upon that account, accepted by God. The scope of this doctrine is to show, first, that not only Christ’s death and sufferings were for the confirmation of the doctrine he preached; nor yet, in the second place, only to give thereby a pattern of obedience to us; for, these two may be, and are in the death and sufferings of many martyrs; and to attribute no more to the death of Christ, is blasphemous. Nor, in the third place, only to procure to himself this prerogative of forgiving sinners their sins freely; for Christ, being God, had power with the Father to forgive sins before his becoming man: and even this pretended end implies Christ’s death to be a price for making of a purchase, seeing it supposes that he, by honoring God, and doing what was pleasant to him, did procure this privilege to forgive others freely; which certainly implies that these sufferings of his had a meritorious and satisfying virtue before God. But these ends of the Socinians,[1] being such as destroy the Godhead and personality of our Lord Jesus, as the second person of the trinity; and being purposely molded for the supporting of that blasphemy, we need not stand much upon the disproving of them; but we say, beyond these, our Lord Jesus his death was purposely intended by him, and actually accepted by Jehovah, as a proper price and satisfaction.

To clear this a little — When we speak of satisfaction, these things shortly are intended:

1. That as a man had made himself liable to the curse for provoking of God, and (to speak after the manner of men, as most of all this must be understood) thereby had wronged the majesty of God, by daring to disobey him, and to slight his authority; so there is in Christ’s taking on of that debt, and humbling of himself to suffer for the same, a proportionableness and an equivalency for the vindicating of the glory, of the holiness, justice, and sovereignty of God; and to make these shine more, than if the sinner had been actually put at[2] for satisfying in their own persons: for that the Father’s fellow, equal and only begotten Son should humble himself, and become man, and in that nature suffer; and that the majesty of God should make his sword awake against him, and smite him, etc. does much more abundantly declare and set forth the justice of God that will prosecute his threatenings, and his sovereignty and authority, in that he is obeyed and submitted unto, by such an excellent person, as his only begotten Son, than if either men had not sinned, or he, who is but a wretched creature, should have been cast into hell. For by this, justice had never been satisfied, nor had the authority of God been manifested by such a glorious instance as the obedience of the man Christ Jesus. So that we are to conceive of satisfaction in this matter, as that word useth to be [commonly is] understood amongst men, that is, when an injured or wronged person is appeased and satisfied in reference to the party that has done him injury, by the intervening recompense and satisfaction of some other, purposely, by such an equivalent compensation, intending the same.

2. When we speak of satisfaction in this case, it respects God’s purpose and intention in designing the death and sufferings of the Mediator for this very end in the covenant of redemption: so that when there was no imaginable satisfaction to be expected from creatures, whereby there might be a vindication of God’s justice, that so way might be made to pardon elect sinners; for this very end, a body was designed and prepared for the Mediator, as it is, Isa. 53:6, The Lord laid upon him the iniquity of us all; and in his counsel and decree did appoint him who knew no sin, to become sin for others, and thereby as a cautioner [surety] to be liable to their debt.

3. This also is intended, that the Mediator, in his accepting of the offer, and in laying down of his life, did purposely intend thus to satisfy: for when sacrifices and burnt-offerings, etc. could not please God, nor satisfy him in this respect, then did the Son willingly undertake with delight to God’s will, as it is, Psa. 40:6-7, etc. And it is on this ground that Christ is called Cautioner (Heb. 7:22), because he undertook the satisfying for our debt; and upon this ground was there access in justice to exact it of him, though he himself knew no sin. For which, see Isa. 53:7; 10 [and] 2 Cor. 5:21.

4. In the fourth place this is included, that by the Lord Jehovah, the offended party, this death and willing suffering of our blessed Lord Jesus, was actually accepted as satisfactory and well-pleasing to him, in the room and stead of these who had offended, so that thereby he, in the order agreed upon, does lay by quarrels at the offending party, as men do discharge the principal creditor the debt, when the cautioner has satisfied in his name. Hence the Lord pronounces often that in his beloved Son he is well pleased, and that he has found a ransom (Job 33:24). And from this it is, that his death is called a propitiation, as being acceptable to God, when other sacrifices could not be.

That in these respects Christ’s death is truly a satisfaction for sin, may from this text thus be made out:

1. If by Christ’s death we be redeemed, if the effect flowing from his death be a redemption, then is his death (under which all his sufferings are comprehended) a proper price and satisfaction for sin. But the former is true, therefore, etc. There is a double strength in this argument to make out the connection, first, in the word redemption: which, (as we show in the exposition) beside other things, do imply:

(1) That sinners, by sin, are sold and mortgaged, and the law and curse have obtained a right over them.

(2) That, at least, in respect of that established law and curse (that day thou eatest, thou shalt die) there was no dissolving of that right, but by some intervening satisfaction: otherwise the Lord, who pronounced it, might be thought not to be just and true in his threatnings.

(3) This implies, that when men and creatures could give no price, our Lord Jesus did actually undertake, and accordingly did pay; therefore it is a freedom that was bought, and he is a redeemer, because he did buy it, and satisfy for it; and this expression, being borrowed from the manner of men, will infer no less, as is said.

The second part of the strength of the argument is in this: That this redemption is attributed to his death and blood — thou hast redeemed us by thy blood — and these put together, make it exceeding strong; for the very price of the redemption is thereby clearly held forth. So, if it be asked, Why is Christ called a Redeemer? Answer. Because he redeemed us. If again it be said: wherewith did he redeem us, or, with what price? It is answered: with his blood. And indeed there can be no other reason why so frequently our redemption is attributed to his death, but because his death comes in a peculiar respect thereunto; so that when we (as once Isaac was to his father) were lying obnoxious to the stroke of God’s justice, he offered himself in our room (as there was a Ram provided in the place of Isaac) that thereby we might escape (as it is, 2 Cor. 5:21). He redeemed us from the curse, being himself made a curse for us; which must be understood to be in our stead (Gal. 3:13-14).

2. (Which is almost one with the last branch of the former) It is clear by this, that all the good that comes to the redeemed is still reckoned as the effect and purchase of Christ’s suffering; which must respect the merit and efficacy of his blood, as by the same way of satisfaction procuring the same. And in this respect it may be said singularly of the Mediator, the second person of the Godhead, that he has procured this redemption, otherwise than can be said of the first and third person of the blessed Trinity. Therefore also we are said to be loved by him, and washen by his own blood (Rev. 1:5). But of this argument was spoken in the former.

3. This is brought as the song of all the redeemed, and as that which will agree to all of them, when the congregation of the first-born shall be brought together: now what other influence can the blood of Christ have upon these who were redeemed by him, from the foundation of the world, and before his death, when the example thereof could have no effect, or upon young ones, upon whom his sufferings can have no moral influence by opening or confirming to them doctrinally the way to heaven? And yet both these may well be capable of the efficacy thereof, as it is considered as a satisfaction. Now, considering that all the redeemed are equally, and in the same respects, obliged to Christ’s death for their life, and for that cause do jointly concur in the same song of praise; we must either say, that none such as have been formerly instanced, are saved, or we must say, that they are all saved without any respect to his sufferings, both which, are false and absurd. Or lastly, we must acquiesce in this, that by Christ’s sufferings, as by a satisfaction, this was procured to them, and therefore consequently, that his death is to be considered as such, seeing no otherwise it can have influence on their redemption. And there being but one redemption, and one way by which it is procured, viz. Christ’s death; and one song, comprehending the acknowledgment of all the redeemed; and seeing, to some, it must be satisfaction; therefore it must be esteemed to be so, in reference to all others also, who are, or shall be partakers thereof.

4. This fruit of his death, viz. redemption, is peculiar to some of all kindreds and nations and is not common to all. It must therefore be considered as flowing from his death, as a satisfaction meritoriously procuring the same. Otherwise the effects which may follow, upon his confirming his doctrine by his death, giving an example to others, etc. are common indifferently to all that are hearers of the gospel; for in these respects he is so, and does so to all. This therefore being peculiar to some (as the next doctrine will further clear), must be understood as qualified by the covenant of redemption to be for the satisfying in the room of such and such, and not of others; which consideration does plainly bring it to the notion of a satisfaction.

5. There is a special emphasis and significancy in this, that thou hast redeemed us by thy blood, etc. Which does respect the excellency of the person who did lay down his blood for making of this purchase. It is thou, who art the first and last, who was dead and is alive, and liveth forever, who art the Son of God; yea, who art God (Acts 20:28; as was more fully cleared [in] Rev. 1:4-5); for thou and thy relate to the person described by such titles, in the former part of this prophesy. This gives ground for this argument: if the purchase made by the blood of Jesus Christ be such as could be made by none but by the blood of him who was, and is God, then his death and sufferings, for that end, must be a satisfaction, and by their merit and efficacy procure the redemption purchased. But the former is true. Therefore, etc.

The reasons of the consequence are because, (1) All the other ends of suffering may be in the sufferings of a mere man. (2) There were not need of such an excellent price, if the merit and worth thereof did not concur, by way of satisfaction, for obtaining of this redemption. (3) This respect to the excellency of the person, shows where from mainly their redemption flows, viz. that the person dying was of such worth, and that therefore his death and sufferings are accounted of great price before God. (4) And lastly, there is here a clear opposition: thou hast redeemed us by thy blood. That is: Thou, who art God, hast condescended to lay down thy life, and shed thy blood for us who were of little worth. Which imports that his sufferings were estimated in the stead of what should have been otherwise exacted from them.

These arguments will be the more clear, if we consider that opposition which is made by the apostle (Rom. 5), between our blessed Lord Jesus, the second Adam, and the first Adam, of whom men have their sinful being. For in that comparison, and opposition, Christ is not only made the author of life to these that are by faith his seed, as the first Adam was the author of death to these that descended from him; but also, and especially in this, that as by disobedience and transgression of Adam, death was brought upon his posterity, as being procured by the guilt and demerit, to speak so, of that offence; so by the obedience, righteousness, and sufferings of the other, life and freedom from the dominion of sin is purchased, and that by way of merit and satisfaction equivalent to the former offence. For as by Adam’s fall the holiness and justice of God were wronged, so by the obedience of the second Adam, they were wonderfully made to shine. And this being the apostle’s scope, to compare these two Adam’s together, both in respect of the opposite effects that flow from them to their seed, and in respect of the opposite means by which these are procured, this which is asserted must necessarily follow.

It is also observable, and does exceedingly confirm the truth laid down, and discover the horridness of the opposite blasphemy, that the denying of Christ’s death to be a satisfaction and the denying of his blessed Godhead, are knit together, that the asserting of the one does infer the other. Therefore these wretched Socinians, who deny the eternal Godhead, and the personality of the second person of the Godhead, must also deny the merit and excellency of his obedience in his death, without which it could not be a satisfaction. But, on the contrary, the redeemed, who have the right thoughts of Christ’s Godhead, have also this impression of his death, that it is a satisfaction laid down in their name; upon both which grounds, they praise in this song, viz. that so excellent a person should redeem them by so excellent a price as the blood of God. And this does demonstrate their engagement to him, that when (upon supposition of the threatened curse, at least) there was no other that could undertake their debt, or satisfy for them, but he who was God, that even then he who was the Son of God did undertake the same. We are persuaded that all whoever shall share in this song, shall acknowledge both these truths, and heartily bless the Son of God for making satisfaction by his blood. And considering that the abettors of this blasphemy do by this deny the Godhead of our blessed Lord’s person, and altogether make void the efficacy of his sacrifice and priestly office, so that neither his person nor his offices are acknowledged by them, which yet are the two great and solid foundations of Christianity; therefore they are not worthy to be disputed with, nor accounted Christians. But rather [are] to be joined with, and reckoned among heathens, or the followers of Mahomet, and the receivers of his Alcoran [Koran]. For which cause, Christians would guard against this most horrid error, as being most blasphemous against the Mediator, and most destructive to their own salvation; for by these grounds they can neither have a Redeemer nor a redemption. It is reported of Socinus[3] (the great patron of this blasphemy, by a learned man, viz. Cameron,[4] who writes that he had it from one of his disciples), that he privately denied the world to be made of nothing, lest thereby he should be necessitated to acknowledge the infiniteness of God’s power; which afterward was more publicly avowed and contended for by some of his followers. What horrible things are these, that men’s corruptions will not conceive and foster? And what height or depth will not the devil drive men to, where he gets liberty? These things have ever been abhorred as most detestable, even as to the very mentioning of them; yet this horrid blasphemy wants not its patrons in this spring-time of error; and therefore men ought to walk the more circumspectly in reference to the same.

[1] Sixteenth century sect founded by Laelius and Faustus Socinus, which denied the divinity of Christ.

[2] Put at — to push, to exert power against (Jamieson).

[3] Faustus Socinus (Sozzini) (1539-1604).

[4] John Cameron (c.1579-1625). Scottish synergistic theologian.