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First Published 1659

[see original PDF file text at Project Canterbury for extensive footnotes]



1.—THOUGH crucifixion of itself involveth not in it certain death, and he which is fastened to a cross is so leisurely to die, as that he being taken from the same may live; though when the insulting Jews in a malicious derision called to our Saviour to save himself, and come down from the cross; he might have come down from thence, and in saving himself have never saved us: yet it is certain that he felt the extremity of that punishment, and fulfilled the utmost intention of crucifixion: so that as we acknowledge him crucified, we believe him dead.


2.—For the illustration of which part of the Article it will be necessary, first, to shew that the Messias was to die; that no sufferings, howsoever shameful and painful, were sufficiently satisfactory to the determination and predictions divine, without a full dissolution and proper death: secondly, to prove that our Jesus, whom we believe to be the true Messias, did not only suffer torments intolerable and inexpressible in this life, but upon and by the same did finish this life by a true and proper death: thirdly, to declare in what the nature and condition of the death of a person so totally singular did properly and peculiarly consist.  And more than this cannot be necessary to shew we believe that Christ was dead.


3.—First then, we must consider what St. Paul delivered to the Corinthians first of all, and what also he received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; that the Messias was the Lamb slain before the foundations of the world, and that his death was severally represented and foretold.  For though the sacrificing Isaac hath been acknowledged an express and lively type of the promised Messias; though, after he was bound and laid upon the wood, he was preserved from, the fire, and rescued from the religious cruelty of his father's knife; though Abraham be said to have offered up his only begotten son, when Isaac died not though by all this it might seem foretold that the true and great promised seed, the Christ, should be made a sacrifice for sin, should be fastened to the cross, and offered up to the Father, but not suffer death: yet being without effusion of blood there is no remission, without death no sacrifice for sin; being the saving of Isaac alive doth not deny the death of the antitype, but rather suppose and assert it as presignifying his resurrection from the dead from whence Abraham received him in a figure; we may safely affirm the ancient and legal types did represent a Christ which was to die.  It was an essential part of the paschal law, that the lamb should be slain: and in the sacrifices for sin, which presignified a Saviour to sanctify the people with his own blood, the bodies of the beasts were burnt without the camp, and their blood brought into the sanctuary.


Nor did the types only require, but the prophecies also foretel, his death.  For he was brought, saith Isaiah, as a lamb to the slaughter; he was cut off out of the land of the living, saith the same prophet; and made his soul an offering for sin.  Which are so plain and evident predictions, that the Jews shew not the least appearance of probability in their evasions.


Being then the obstinate Jews themselves acknowledge one Messias was to die, and that a violent death; being we have already proved there is but one Messias foretold by the Prophets, and shewed by those places, which they will not acknowledge, that he was to be slain: it followeth by their unwilling confessions and our plain probations, that the promised Messias was ordained to die: which is our first assertion.


4.—Secondly, we affirm, correspondently to these types and prophecies, that Christ our Passover is slain; that he whom we believe to be the true and only Messias did really and truly die.  Which affirmation we may with confidence maintain, as being secure of any even the least denial.  Jesus of Nazareth upon his crucifixion was so surely, so certainly dead, that they which wished, they which thirsted for his blood, they which obtained, which effected, which extorted his death, even they believed it, even they were satisfied with it: the chief priest of the scribes and the Pharisees, the publicans and sinners, al1 were satisfied; the Sadducees most of all, who hugged their old opinion, and loved their error the better, because they thought him sure for ever rising up.  But if they had denied or doubted of it, the very stones would cry out and confirm it.  Why did the sun put on mourning?  Why were the graves opened, but for a funeral?  Why did the earth quake?  Why were the rocks rent?  Why did the frame of nature shake, but because the God of nature died?  Why did all the people, who came to see him crucified, and love to feed their eyes with such tragic spectacles, why did they beat their breasts and return, but that they were assured it was finished, there was no more to be seen, all was done?  It was not out of compassion that the merciless soldiers brake not his legs, but because they found him dead whom they came to dispatch; and being enraged that their cruelty should be thus prevented, with an impertinent villainy they pierce his side, and with a foolish revenge endeavour to kill a dead man; thereby becoming stronger witnesses than they would, by being less the authors than they desired, of his death.  For out of his sacred but wounded side came blood and water, both as evident signs of his present death, as certain seals of our future and eternal life.  These are the two blessed sacraments of the spouse of Christ, each assuring her of the death of her beloved.  The sacrament of Baptism, the water through which we pass into the Church of Christ, teacheth us that he died to whom we come.  For know ye not, saith St.  Paul, that so many of us as are baptized into Jesus Christ, are baptized into his death? The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, the bread broken, and the wine poured forth, signify that he died which instituted it; and as often as we eat this bread, and drink this cup, we show forth the Lord's death, till he come?


5.—Dead then our blessed Saviour was upon the cross; and that not by a feigned or metaphorical, but by a true and proper death, As he was truly and properly man, in the same mortal nature which we the sons of Adam have; so did he undergo a true and proper death, in the same manner as we die.  Our life appeareth principally in two particulars, motion and sensation; and while both or either of these are perceived in a body, we pronounce it lives.  Not that the life itself consisteth in either or both of these, but in that which is the original principle of them both, which we call the soul: and the intimate presence or union of that soul unto the body is the life thereof.  The real distinction of which soul from the body in man, our blessed Saviour taught most clearly in that admonition; Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  Now being death is nothing else but the privation or recession of life, and we are then properly said to die when we cease to live; being life consisteth in the union of the soul unto the body, from whence, as from the fountain, flow motion, sensation, and whatsoever vital perfection; death can be nothing else but the solution of that vital union, or the actual separation of the soul, before united to the body.  As therefore when the soul of man doth leave the habitation of its body, and being the sole fountain of vitality bereaves it of all vital activity, we say that body or that man is dead: so when we read that Christ our Saviour died, we must conceive that was a true and proper death, and consequently that his body was bereft of his soul, and of all vital influence from the same.


6.—Nor is this only our conception, or a doubtful truth; but we are as much assured of the propriety of his death, as of the death itself.  For that the unspotted soul of our Jesus was really and actually separated from his body, that his flesh was bereft of natural life by the secession of that soul, appeareth by his own resignation, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit; and by the Evangelist's expression, and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.  When he was to die, he resigned his soul, when he gave it up, he died; when it was delivered out of the body, then was the body dead: and so the eternal Son of God upon the cross did properly and truly die.


This reality and propriety of the death of Christ is yet farther illustrated from the cause immediately producing it, which was an external violence and cruciation, sufficient to dissolve that natural disposition of the body which is absolutely necessary to continue the vital union of the soul: the torments which he endured on the cross did bring him to that state, in which life could not longer be naturally conserved, and death, without intervention of supernatural power, must necessarily follow.


7.—For Christ, who took upon him all our infirmities, sin only excepted, had in his nature got only a possibility and aptitude, but also a necessity of dying; and as to any extrinsical violence, able, according to the common course of nature, to destroy and extinguish in the body such an aptitude as is indispensably required to continue in union with the soul, he had no natural preservative; nor was it in the power of his soul to continue its vital conjunction unto his body bereft of a vital disposition.


8.—It is true that Christ did voluntarily die, as he said of himself, No man taketh away my life from me, but I lay it down of myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  For it was in his power whether he would come into the hands of his enemies; it was in his power to suffer or not to suffer the sentence of Pilate, and the nailing to the cross; it was in his power to have come down from the cross, when he was nailed to it: but when by an act of his will he had submitted to that death, when he had accepted and embraced those torments to the last, it was not in the power of his soul to continue any longer vitality to the body, whose vigour was totally exhausted.  So not by a necessary compulsion, but voluntary election, he took upon him a necessity of dying.


It is true that Pilate marvelled he was dead so soon, and the two thieves lived longer to have their legs broken, and to die by the accession of another pain: but we read not of such long furrows on their backs as were made on his, nor had they any such kind of agony as he was in the night before.  What though he cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost? What though the Centurion, when he saw it, said, Truly this man was the Son of God? The miracle was not in the death, but in the voice: the strangeness was not that he should die, but that at the point of death he should cry out so loud: he died not by, but with, a miracle.


9.—Should we imagine Christ to anticipate the time of death, and so subtract his soul from future torments necessary to cause an expiration, we might rationally say the Jews and Gentiles were guilty of his death, but we could not properly say they slew him: guilty they must be, because they inflicted those torments, on which in time death must necessarily follow; but slay him actually they did not, if his death proceeded from any other cause, and not from the wounds which they inflicted: whereas St.  Peter expressly chargeth his enemies, Him ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain; and again, The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew, and hanged on a tree.  Thus was the Lamb properly slain, and the Jews authors of his death, as well as of his crucifixion.


10.—Wherefore being Christ took upon himself our mortality in the highest sense, as it includeth a necessity of dying; being he voluntarily submitted himself to that bloody agony in the garden, to the hands of the ploughers who made long their furrows, and to the nails which fastened him to the cross: being these torments thus inflicted and continued did cause his death, and in this condition he gave up the ghost; it followeth that the only begotten Son of God, the true Messias promised of old, did die a true and proper death.  Which is the second conclusion in this explication.


11.—But, thirdly, because Christ was not only man, but also God, and there was not only an union between his soul and body while he lived, but also a conjunction of both natures, and an union in his person: it will be farther necessary, for the understanding of his death, to shew what union was dissolved, what continued, that we may not make that separation either less or greater than it was.


12.—Whereas, then, there were two different substantial unions in Christ, one of the parts of his human nature each to other, in which his humanity did consist, and by which he was truly man; the other of his natures, human and divine, by which it came to pass that God was man, and that man God: first, it is certain, as we have already shewed, that the union of the parts of his human nature was dissolved on the cross, and a real separation made between his soul and body.  As far then as humanity consists in the essential union of the parts of human nature, so far the humanity of Christ upon his death did cease to be, and consequently he ceased to be man.  But, secondly, the union of the natures remained still as to the parts, nor was the soul or body separated from the Divinity, but still subsisted as they did before, by the subsistence of the second Person of the Trinity.


13.—The truth of this assertion appeareth, first, from the language of this very Creed.  For as we proved before, that the onlybegotten and eternal Son of God, God of God, very God of very God, was conceived, and born, and suffered, and that the truth of these propositions relied upon the communion of properties, grounded upon the hypostatical union: so while the Creed in the same manner proceedeth speaking of the same Person, that he was buried and descended into hell, it sheweth that neither his body, in respect of which he was buried, nor his soul, in respect of which he was generally conceived to descend into hell, had lost that union.


14.—Again, as we believe that God redeemed us by his own blood, so also it hath been the constant language of the Church, that God died for us: which cannot be true, except the soul and body in the instant of separation were united to the Deity.


Indeed, being all the gifts of God are without repentance, nor doth he ever subtract his grace from any without their abuse of it, and a sinful demerit in themselves, we cannot imagine the grace of union should be taken from Christ, who never offended, and that in the highest act of obedience, and the greatest satisfaction to the will of God.


It is true, Christ cried upon the cross with a loud voice, saying, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?  But if that dereliction should signify a solution of the former union of his natures, the separation had been made not at his death, but in his life.  Whereas indeed those words infer no more than that he was bereft of such joys and comforts from the Deity, as should assuage and mitigate the acerbity of his present torments.


15.—It remaineth therefore, that when our Saviour yielded up the ghost, he suffered only an external violence; and what was subject to such corporal force did yield unto those dolorous impressions.  Being then such is the imbecility and frailty of our nature, that life cannot long subsist in exquisite torments; the disposition of his body failed the soul, and the soul deserted his body.  But being no power hath any force against omnipotency, nor could any corporal or finite agent work upon the union made with the Word, therefore that did still remain entire both to the soul and to the body.  The Word was once indeed without either soul or body; but after it was made flesh it was never parted either from the one or from the other.


Thus Christ did really and truly die, according to the condition of death to which the nature of man is subject: but although he was more than man, yet he died no more than man can die; a separation was made between his soul and body, but no disunion of them and his Deity.  They were disjoined one from another, but not from him that took them both together; rather by virtue of that remaining conjunction they were again united after their separation.  And this I conceive sufficient for the third and last part of our explication.


16.—The necessity of this part of the Article is evident, in that the death of Christ is the most intimate and essential part of the mediatorship, and that which most intrinsically concerns every office and function of the mediator, as he was prophet, priest, and king.


17.—First, it was necessary, as to the prophetical office, that Christ should die, to the end that the truth of all the doctrine which he delivered might be confirmed by this death.  He was the true and faithful witness, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession.  This is he that came by water and blood: and there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, the water, and the blood.  He preached unto us a new and better covenant, which was established upon better promises, and that was to be ratified with his blood; which is therefore called by Christ himself the blood of the new testament, or everlasting covenant: for that covenant was also a testament; and where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.  Beside, Christ, as a prophet, taught us not only by word, but by example: and though every action of his life, who came to fulfil the Law, be most worthy of our imitation; yet the most eminent example was in his death, in which he taught us great variety of Christian virtues.  What an example was that of faith in God, to lay down his life, that he might take it again; in the bitterness of his torments to commend his spirit into the hands of his Father; and for the joy that was set before him, to endure the cross, and despise the shame? What a pattern of meekness, patience, and humility, for the Son of Man to come not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many; to be led like a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb dumb before the shearer, not to open his mouth; to endure the contradictions of sinners against himself; and to humble himself unto death, even the death of the cross?  What a precedent of obedience, for the Son of God to learn obedience by the things that he suffered; to be made under the Law, and, though he never broke the Law, to become obedient unto death; to go with cheerfulness to the cross upon this resolution, as my Father gave me commandment, even so I do? What exemplar of charity, to die for us while we were yet sinners and enemies, when greater love hath no man than this, to lay down his life for his friends; to pray upon the cross for them that crucified him, and to apologize for such as barbarously slew him; Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do? Thus Christ did suffer for us, leaving us an example that we should follow his steps; that as he suffered for us in the flesh, we should arm ourselves likewise with the same mindFor he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin: that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh, to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.  And so his death was necessary for the confirmation and completion of his prophetical office.


18.—Secondly, it was necessary that Christ should die, and by his death perform the sacerdotal office.  For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.  But Christ had no other sacrifice to offer for our sins than himself.  For it was not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins: and therefore when sacrifice and offering God would not, then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God; then did Christ determine to offer up himself for us.  And because the sacrifices of old were to be slain, and generally without shedding of blood there is no remission; therefore if he will offer sacrifice for sins he must of necessity die, and so make his soul an offering for sin.  If Christ be our Passover, he must be sacrificed for us.  We were sold under sin, and he which will redeem us must give his life for our redemption: for we could not be redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but only with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot.  We all had sinned, and so offended the justice of God, and by an act of that justice the sentence of death passed upon us: it was necessary therefore that Christ our surety should die, to satisfy the justice of God, both for that iniquity, as the propitiation for our sins, and for that penalty, as he which was to bear our griefs.  God was offended with us, and he must die who was to reconcile him to us.  For when we were enemies, saith St.  Paul, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.  We were sometimes alienated, and enemies in our mind by our wicked works; yet now hath he reconciled us in the body of his flesh through death.   Thus the death of Christ was necessary toward the great act of his priesthood, as the oblation, propitiation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world: and not only for the act itself, but also for our assurance of the power and efficacy of it, (For if the blood of bulls and goats sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge our conscience from dead works?) and of the happiness flowing from it (for he that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?) Upon this assurance, founded on his death, we have the freedom and boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.  Neither was the death of Christ necessary only in respect of us immediately for whom he died, but in reference to the priest himself who died, both in regard of the qualification of himself, and consummation of his office.  For in all things it behoved him, to be made like unto his brethren: that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest, and having suffered, being tempted, might be able to succour them that are tempted: so that passing through all the previous torments, and at last through the pains of death, having suffered all which man can suffer, and much more, he became, as an experimental priest, most sensible of our infirmities, most compassionate of our miseries, most willing and ready to support us under, and to deliver us out of, our temptations.  Thus being qualified by his utmost suffering, he was also fitted to perfect his offering.  For as the high priest once every year for the atonement of the sins of the people entered into the Holy of Holies not without blood; so Christ being come an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, with his own blood entered in once into the holiest place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.  And this is the grand necessity of the death of Christ in respect of his sacerdotal office.


Thirdly, there was a necessity that Christ should die in reference to his regal office.  O king, live for ever, is either the loyal or the flattering vote for temporal princes; either the expression of our desires, or the suggestion of their own: whereas our Christ never shewed more sovereign power than in his death, never obtained more than by his death.  It was not for nothing that Pilate suddenly wrote, and resolutely maintained what he had written, This is the King of the Jews.  That title on the Cross did signify no less than that his regal power was active even there: for having spoiled principalities and powers he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it; and through his death destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.  Nor was his death only necessary for the present execution, but also for the assecution of farther power and dominion, as the means and way to obtain it.  The Spirit of Christ in the Prophets of old testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should followHe shall drink of the brook in the way, saith the Prophet David; therefore shall he lift up his head.  He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.  For to this end Christ both died and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord of the dead and living.


Thus it is necessary to believe and profess our faith in Christ who died: for by his blood and the virtue of his death was our redemption wrought, as by the price which was paid, as by the atonement which was made, as by the full satisfaction which was given, that God might be reconciled to us, who before was offended with us, as by the ratification of the covenant made between us, and the acquisition of full power to make it good unto us.


20.—After which exposition thus premised, every Christian is conceived to express thus much when he makes profession of faith in Christ Jesus which was dead: I do really and truly assent unto this, as a most infallible and fundamental truth; That the only-begotten and eternal Son of God, for the working out of our redemption, did in our nature, which he took upon him, really and truly die, so as, by the force and violence of those torments which he felt, his soul was actually separated from his body; and although neither his soul nor body was separated from his Divinity, yet the body bereft of his soul was left without the least vitality.  And thus I believe in Jesus Christ which was crucified and dead.



for the next chapter in Pearson:  And Buried.