Stephen Charnock – The Necessity of Christ’s Death

rp_charnock.jpg “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” — Luke 24:26

Let us here see the evil of sin. Nothing more fit to shew the baseness of sin, and the greatness of the misery by it, than the satisfaction due for it; as the greatness of a distemper is seen by the force of the medicine, and the value of the commodity by the greatness of the price it cost. The sufferings of Christ express the evil of sin, far above the severest judgments upon any creature, both in regard of the greatness of the person, and the bitterness of the suffering. The dying groans of Christ shew the horrible nature of sin in the eye of God; as He was greater than the world, so His sufferings declare sin to be the greatest evil in the world. How evil is that sin that must make God bleed to cure it! To see the Son of God haled to death for sin is the greatest piece of justice that ever God executed. The earth trembled under the weight of God’s wrath when He punished Christ, and the heavens were dark as though they were shut to Him, and He cries and groans, and no relief appears; nothing but sin was the procuring meritorious cause of this.

The Son of God was slain by the sin of the lapsed creature; had there been any other way to expiate so great an evil, had it stood with the honour of God, Who is inclined to pardon, to remit sin without a compensation by death, we cannot think He would have consented that His Son should undergo so great a suffering. Not all the powers in heaven and earth could bring us into favour again, without the death of some great sacrifice to preserve the honour of God’s veracity and justice; not the gracious interposition of Christ, without becoming mortal, and drinking in the vials of wrath, could allay divine justice; not His intercessions, without enduring the strokes due to us, could remove the misery of the fallen creature. All the holiness of Christ’s life, His innocence and good works, did not redeem us without death. It was by this He made an atonement for our sins, satisfied the revenging justice of his Father, and recovered us from a spiritual and inevitable death. How great were our crimes, that could not be wiped off by the works of a pure creature, or the holiness of Christ’s life, but required the effusion of the blood of the Son of God for the discharge of them! Christ in His dying was dealt with by God as a sinner, as One standing in our stead, otherwise He could not have been subject to death. For He had no sin of His own, and “death is the wages of sin” (Rom 6:23). It had not consisted with the goodness and righteousness of God as Creator, to afflict any creature without a cause, nor with His infinite love to His Son to bruise Him for nothing. Some moral evil must therefore be the cause; for no physical evil is inflicted without some moral evil preceding. Death, being a punishment, supposeth a fault. Christ, having no crime of His own, must then be a sufferer for ours: “Our sins were laid upon him” (Isa 53:6), or transferred upon Him. We see then how hateful sin is to God, and therefore it should be abominable to us. We should view sin in the sufferings of the Redeemer, and then think it amiable if we can. Shall we then nourish sin in our hearts? This is to make much of the nails that pierced His hands, and the thorns that pricked His head, and make His dying groans the matter of our pleasure. It is to pull down a Christ that hath suffered, to suffer again; a Christ that is raised, and ascended, sitting at the right hand of God, again to the earth; to lift Him upon another cross, and overwhelm Him in a second grave. Our hearts should break at the consideration of the necessity of His death. We should open the heart of our sins by repentance, as the heart of Christ was opened by the spear. This does an “Ought not Christ to die?” teach us.

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