Ezekiel Hopkins (1634-1690) on union with Christ, double imputation, and justification

Ezekiel Hopkins

 

In a previous post we looked at a snippet from John Edwards of Cambridge (1637-1716) on the believer’s union with Christ as the foundation of double imputation. The same doctrine can be seen beautifully treated by another Reformed conforming churchman, Ezekiel Hopkins (1634-1690), Bishop of Derry in Ireland, in his posthumously published The Doctrine of the Two Covenants (1712, p. 52-53):

…Faith gives us a title to the righteousness of Christ, and makes it ours not only by the promise of God, but as it is the bond of union between Christ and the soul. By faith it is that we are made mystically one with Christ, living members in his body, fruitful branches of that heavenly and spiritual vine. We have the communication of the same name. So also is Christ, saith the Apostle (1 Cor. 12:12), speaking there of Christ mystical, both his Person and his Church. We have the same relations, I ascend to my Father and to your Father (John 20:17). We are made partakers of the same Spirit, for if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his (Rom. 8:9), he that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). And finally, the very life that we live is said not to be ours, but Christ liveth in us, and that we live by the faith of the Son of God (Gal. 2:20). So that being thus one with Christ, his righteousness becomes our righteousness, even as our sins became his: and God deals with Christ and believers, as if they were one person. The sins of believers are charg’d upon Christ, as though they were his; and the righteousness of Christ is reckoned to believers as theirs: neither is God unjust either in the one, or the other imputation, because they are mystically one; and this mystical union is a sufficient ground for imputation. Yet from this union flows the participation only of the benefits of his mediatorship: for we are not hereby transubstantiated or deify’d, as some of late years have blasphemously conceited; neither the Godhead of Christ, nor his essential righteousness as God, nor his divine and infinite properties are made ours; but only the fruits and effects of his mediation: so that hereupon God graciously accounts of us as if we had done in our own persons, whatsoever Christ hath done for us, because by faith Christ and we are made one.

Later on he offers a further discussion of this doctrine, this time drawing on the biblical imagery of the marriage between Christ and believers (p. 186-188):

Faith makes the righteousness of Christ to be ours, as it is the bond of that mystical union that there is between Christ and the believing soul. If Christ and the believer be one, the righteousness of Christ may well be reckoned as the righteousness of the believer. Nay, mutual imputation flows from mystical union: the sins of believers are imputed to Christ, and the righteousness of Christ to them; and both justly, because being united each to [the] other by a mutual consent (which consent on our part is faith) God considers them but as one person. As it is in marriage, the husband stands liable to the wife’s debts, and the wife stands interested in her husband’s possessions, so it is here: faith is the marriage-band and tie between Christ and a believer; and therefore all the debts of a believer are chargeable upon Christ, and the righteousness of Christ is instated upon the believer: so that upon the account of this marriage-union he hath a legal right and title to the purchase made by it. Indeed this union is an high and inscrutable mystery, yet plain it is that there is such [a] close, spiritual, and real union between Christ and a believer. The Scripture often both expressly affirms it, He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit (1 Cor. 6:17); and also lively illustrates it by several resemblances. It is likewise plain that the band of this union on the believer’s part is faith: consult Rom. 11:17 with 11:20. And therefore from the nearness of this union there follows a communication of interests and concerns: insomuch that the Church is called Christ (1 Cor. 12:12, so also is Christ), and their sufferings called the sufferings of Christ (Col. 1:24; Acts 9:4). So likewise from this mystical union the sins of believers are laid upon Christ, and his righteousness imputed unto them: see this as to both parts: He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21) and He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, that the blessing of Abraham might come upon us (Gal. 3:13-14). It is still upon the account of this union that Christ was reckoned a sinner, and we are reckoned as righteous. And therefore as faith is the bond and tye of this union, so it is, without more difficulty, the way and means of our justification. By faith we are united unto Christ; by that union we have truly a righteousness; and upon that righteousness the justice of God, as well as his mercy, is engaged to justifie and acquit us.

Richard Hooker (1554-1600) on the relation between the believer’s union with Christ and perseverance

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The believer’s spiritual union with Christ is a doctrine distilling great comfort, and is key to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Richard Hooker (1554-1600) picks up on this in his A Discourse of Justification:

He that hath the Son, hath life, saith St. John, and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life (1 Jn. 5:12). If therefore he which once hath the Son, may cease to have the Son, though it be for a moment, he ceaseth for that moment to have life. But the life of them which have the Son of God, is everlasting in the world to come (1 Jn. 5:13). But because as Christ being raised from the dead died no more, death hath no more power over him (Rom. 6:10, Cf. Hooker’s Sermon on the Perpetuity of Faith); so justified man being allied to God in Jesus Christ our Lord, doth as necessarily from that time forward always live, as Christ, by whom he hath life, liveth always (Jn. 14:19)…

For as long as that abideth in us, which animateth, quickeneth, and giveth life, so long we live, and we know that the cause of our faith abideth in us for ever. If Christ, the fountain of life, may flit and leave the habitation, where once he dwelleth, what shall become of his promise, I am with you to the world’s end? If the seed of God, which containeth Christ, may be first conceived and then cast out; how doth St. Peter term it immortal (1 Pet. 1:23? How doth St. Peter affirm it abideth (1 Jn. 3:9)? If the Spirit, which is given to cherish and preserve the seed of life, may be given and taken away, how is it the earnest of our inheritance until redemption (Eph. 1:14)? How doth it continue with us for ever (Jn. 14:14)? If therefore the man which is once just by faith, shall live by faith, and live for ever, it followeth, that he which once doth believe the foundation, must needs believe the foundation for ever. If he believe it for ever, how can he ever directly deny it? Faith holding the direct affirmation; the direct negation, so long as faith continueth, is excluded.

– Richard Hooker (1554-1600), The Works of that Learned and Judicious Divine Mr. Richard Hooker (1793 edition), 3:462-463.

John Edwards (1637-1716) on justifying faith and personally applying Christ’s merits

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Reformed divines generally consider justifying faith to consist of three elements: knowledge (notitia), assent (assensus), and trust (fiducia). A person can have a bare theoretical knowledge of the truths of the Gospel (notitia), and cognitively agree with or assent to them as being true (assensus), both of which are necessary to justifying faith; but it is only when these are accompanied by a turning away from yourself to trust entirely in Christ and his merits alone for salvation (fiducia), i.e. personally applying his merits to yourself by faith, that faith becomes justifying faith. John Edwards (1637-1716) stresses the necessity of this personal application of Christ in his The Doctrin [sic] of Faith and Justification set in a True Light, p. 107-109:

We smile at the Athenian, who being shew’d a map of the world, presently look’d where his house stood, and when he could not find that there, he found fault with the map, as an imperfect representation of the world; for (as he thought) if it had been a complete one, it must needs have had in it his little dwelling at Athens. This, indeed, might argue silliness in the poor man; but apply this to religion, and the business of our souls, and the salvation of them, and then such kind of acting will not be folly, but exceeding great wisdom and prudence. The Holy Scriptures, but especially the Gospel, is the map which we Christians are presented with; it is continually before our eyes, and we are invited to survey the several parts and climates of it. Here is great salvation tendered to us; wherever we cast our eyes, there are manifest discoveries of the love of God in Christ, of his designs of mercy to lost souls, of his glorious purposes to save sinners. But the whole Gospel is no better than an unknown land, to the person that is not particularly interested in it; and therefore that which we are chiefly to mind, is whether we are comprehended in this map of life, and whether besides the general belief of the Gospel, we can particularly apply and appropriate Christ’s purposes of mercy to ourselves. This is the special and peculiar act of justifying faith, and therefore in this we should think ourselves most of all concerned. For as it is with food, physick [i.e. medicine] and apparel, if the first be not eaten, it cannot nourish us; if the second be not taken, it cannot cure us; and if the last be not put on and worn, it cannot warm us: so neither can the mercy of God in Christ be really advantageous to us, unless it be by some proper instrument applied and made use of. The great and precious promises, in which God’s mercies are contain’d and convey’d, are generally propounded to the righteous; but it is a true and operative faith which makes the particular and special application of them to ourselves.

This was represented of old in the Mosaic sacrifices for sin; they were first slain and offer’d, and then the blood of them was sprinkled. This was absolutely necessary, in order to the expiation of sin. Unless those that offer’d the sin-offering had the blood of it sprinkled upon them, they remain’d unpurified. Which occasion’d that of the Psalmist, Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean, for the hyssop was made use of in sprinkling the blood. And we find that this sprinkling or application of the blood of the sacrifices is mention’d expressly by the sacred writers of the New Testament, and it is applied to the sufferings of Christ, to let us know, that the shedding of the blood of Christ on the cross will not avail us, except there be added this sprinkling of it upon us, this applying the virtue and merit of his sufferings. And this is done by faith: for by it all things that Christ hath done or suffer’d for us as a Mediator, are applied to us. Him God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, Rom. 3:25. Whence I gather, that it is faith that makes Christ’s undertakings effectual. God is not actually reconcil’d to us, till by faith we lay hold on Jesus. We are saved by his meritorious sufferings; but not unless they be applied and appropriated unto us by faith; namely, when every one of us can particularly say, from an inward sense and persuasion in his heart, and from a secret virtue and change which he feels there, “the Son of God hath loved me, and given himself for me, Christ was born for me, suffer’d and died for me, rose again for me, ascended into heaven, and there intercedeth for me; in a word, all his undertakings were for me and my everlasting benefit.”

Later on, on p. 209-210, he adds this beautiful bit:

…the act of faith whereby we apply the righteousness of Christ to our own souls in particular, cannot but convey an infinite joy to us: for see how it is in secular and worldly matters, if I can cast mine eye on a small parcel of land, and say with truth, that these few acres of ground are mine, that they belong to me as the right owner, this is far more grateful and pleasant to me, than if I should mount a hill, and take a view of a much larger tract of ground; nay, if I should come down, and have the liberty to ride or walk in it, to feed my eye, and almost lose it in surveying its vast extent, but then after all must say, this belongs to my neighbour, not a foot of these fair fields is mine. If it be thus in temporal and worldly things, it is much more in those that are spiritual. If I can only say, there are great and precious promises in the Gospel, there are vast privileges purchased by Christ’s undertakings, sinners may partake of all benefits and blessings by his blood; but if I cannot add, that I have an interest and propriety in them, I have no ground in rejoicing. What comfort is it to a man to be told, that the sun shines, when he is pent up in a dungeon, where he never sees the light, or feels the warmth of the sun? But if I can say, and say it truly and on good grounds, that I have a portion in those undertakings, I am particularly concerned in the death and merits of Christ, I have a share in the promises of the Gospel, I can, and do apply his meritorious righteousness to my soul, I rest on Christ, not only as a perfect Saviour, but as my Saviour; if I can say this, I have reason to rejoice and be exceeding glad.

Johannes Cocceius (1603-1669): Vivification of the new man is the cause of the mortification of the old man

Johannes_Cocceius

 

There are two parts of conversion, answering to two ends. For the person who is converted is converted from bad to good, from darkness to light, from the slavery of Satan to God (1 Ki. 8:25; Is. 59:20; Jer. 15:19; Acts 26:18).

These parts are called in Scripture nekrosis, mortification, or ekdosis, the putting off of the old man; and zoopoiesis, vivification and endusis, the putting on of the new man. ‘Having put off the old man with his deeds; and having pit on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him’ (Col. 3:9-10, see also Eph. 4:22-24 and Gal. 5:24-25).

These parts go together. But, as regards the order of nature, although newness be subsequent to oldness, […] yet the newness of the love of God is the cause of abolishing the oldness of the enmity of God. Darkness is not removed except by light; nor death except by life; nor poverty except by riches; nor nakedness except by being clothed; nor ugliness except by beauty; nor vice except by virtue; in the same way, neither is hate except by love.

– Johannes Cocceius (1603-1669), Summa Theologiae, XLV. 6-8.

John Edwards (1637-1716) on the believer’s union with Christ as the foundation of double imputation

John_Edwards

 

In his The Doctrin [sic] of Faith and Justification set in a True Light, the Reformed Conformist John Edwards (1637-1716) extensively discusses the doctrine of double imputation, or, to use his parlance, mutual imputation. That is, the mutual imputation of the sin of believers to Christ on the cross and the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience to believers. Concerning the latter imputation, Edwards writes (spelling modernized):

“By Christ’s obedience we are esteemed by God as obedient: and in Christ’s undergoing the penalty of disobedience, we are looked upon as undergoing that penalty ourselves […] God accounts of it as if we had satisfied in our own persons.” (p. 292-293)

He goes on to discuss how this mutual imputation is founded on believers’ union with Christ by faith (p. 294):

“Believers are virtually the same with Christ: they are accounted as one person with him, and he with them. This near conjunction, or rather identity, is set forth by that of husband and wife (Eph. 5:31), of the head and its members (Eph. 4:15; Col. 2:19), of the vine and its branches (Rom. 11:17; John 15:1-2). As the husband and wife are but one legal person, as the head and members make but one body, and the vine and branches but one tree, so Christ and the regenerate are reckoned the same. They are not only one body (1 Cor. 12:13), but one Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). Yea, as the Father and Christ are one, so Christ and believers are one. That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us (John 17:21). That they may be one, even as we are one (v. 22). It must be a very true, real and strict union that is expressed to us by so many ways. Now, this near and intimate conjunction between Christ and his chosen, is the foundation of the reciprocal transferring of sin and righteousness. For Christ, and the faithful, being by their near union become one mystical person, there must needs flow from thence this interchangeable communication. By virtue of this coalition it is, that believers are reckoned to have done and suffered the very same things that Christ did and suffered. Not only their sins are transferred on him, but his obedience and death are esteemed as theirs. This is the natural result of Christ’s being made, by the Divine appointment and constitution, one person with us.”

Johannes Braun (1628-1708) on God’s absolute decree and things decreed conditionally

Johannes Braun cover

 

“Although God has decreed so many various things, nevertheless only a singular decree of God is granted, and this is absolute and by no means conditioned, nor is one thing [which has been decreed] contrary to another, as the Socinians, Vorstius, Episcopius, the Jesuits, and others dream. For by a singular and absolute act of the will he has decreed whatever should come to pass or not come to pass […] Although God may decree certain things under some particular condition, such as Peter’s salvation under the condition that he believes, yet only the thing decreed is conditioned, but not the decree itself: for he has decreed absolutely to give salvation and its condition, namely faith and perseverance in faith.”

– Johannes Braun (1628-1708), Doctrina Foederum, sive Systema Theologiae Didacticae & Elencticae, Vol. I, Pars II, Cap. IX. Section XI

Bénédict Pictet (1655-1724) on the unity, holiness, and catholicity of the Church

Benedict Pictet

 

The Swiss Reformed theologian Bénédict Pictet (1655-1724) discusses the unity, holiness, and catholicity of the Church in his Theologia Christiana, Book XIII, Chapter III. Below is my own translation:

1. Among the attributes of the Church, the first is its unity. For since it is a sacred society comprehending all the elect, it is necessary to have some  unity by which all those elect may be connected with one another; and this unity consists in those bonds which unite the members with one another.

2. Now as the Church may be considered in reference to either its external or internal state, so the bonds are of two kinds: some are internal, and others external; additionally, some bonds are essential, and others accidental.

3. The internal bonds are: (1) the unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3; 1 Cor. 12:13). The Spirit is the soul of the Church; by this unity of the Spirit two [or more] societies, which are animated by this same Spirit, constitute one body, even though they may be entirely unknown to one another. Thus we constitute the true body together with the churches in distant parts of the world. (2) The unity of faith (Eph. 4:4), that is, one doctrine of salvation set forth in the Gospel, which is embraced by faith. (3) The unity of love [charitatis], which follows the unity of faith, and by which the faithful who are united to Christ by faith should be gathered among themselves in love, so that the unity of the Spirit may be kept by the bonds of peace (Eph. 4:3), wherefore love is called the bond of perfection (Col. 3:14). (4) The unity of hope (Eph. 4:4); that is, of the thing hoped for and of the heavenly inheritance to which we are all equally called.

4. The external bonds are: (1) the unity of sacraments, as the unity of baptism (Eph. 4:4); and (2) the unity of ministries.

5. These are essential bonds, but there are others which are accidental, which are: (1) agreement in all dogmas; (2) unity of the form of [ecclesiastical] government; (3) unity of the same [ecclesiastical] laws; and (4) unity of the same [ecclesiastical] discipline.

6. Schism is the rupture of the bonds which constitute the unity of the Church, but schism is to be distinguished in a twofold manner: as either universal schism, by which the general truths which constitute the foundation of Christianity are renounced, or as particular schism, by which [some] truths are renounced which are of great moment, but not those general truths [which constitute the foundation of Christianity].

7. Every separation is not schism, although every schism is separation; still, every unjust separation is schism. [Note: For more on schism, see these posts by Johannes Wollebius, Heinrich von Diest, Johann Heinrich Alsted, Pierre Jurieu, and Matthew Poole]

8. The Church is called holy, (1) because God has separated it from the world to be a peculiar people (Tit. 2:14); (2) because it devotes itself to holiness, not the shadowy kind of holiness as was the holiness of the Jewish nation; and (3) because it is purified and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. It may also be called holy with respect to the doctrine which it teaches, in that the purity of its dogmas and the holiness of its precepts surpass whatever is read in legislators, hierophants, and philosophers, laudable as these may be.

9. It is called catholic, not only because of its orthodoxy, in which sense the Fathers employed the term catholic […], but (1) because it is dispersed throughout the whole world and is not affixed to a certain place, in contrast to the Old Testament Church which was confined within the narrow limits of Judea; (2) because it is read that in it there is no distinction of the race, order, or status of men, for there is no difference between Jew and Greek (Rom. 10:12; Acts 10:35); and (3) because it is bound to endure through all ages unto the consummation of the world.