Saturday, February 22, 2014

Commentary Lord's Day 6


Question 16. Why must he be very man, and also perfectly righteous?

Answer. Because the justice of God requires that the same human nature, which hath sinned, should likewise make satisfaction for sin; and one, who is himself a sinner, cannot satisfy for others.


It behooved our Mediator to be man, and indeed very man, and perfectly righteous.
First, It behooved him to be man. 1. Because it was man that sinned. It was necessary, therefore, that man should make satisfaction for sin. “As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin,” &c. “Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. (Rom. 5:12. 1 Cor. 15:21.) 2. That he might be able to die. It was necessary that he should make satisfaction for us by his death, and by the shedding of his blood, because it had been declared, “Thou shalt surely die.” “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Gen. 2:17. Heb. 9:22.)

Secondly, It behooved him to be very man, descending from the same human nature which had sinned, and not created out of nothing, or let down from heaven, but subject to all our infirmities, sin excepted: 1. Because the justice of God required that the same human nature which had sinned, should likewise make satisfaction for sin. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” “And in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” (Ez. 18:20. Gen. 2:17.) It was necessary, therefore, that he who would make satisfaction for man, should himself be very man, having sprung from the posterity of Adam, which had sinned. The following passages of scripture are here in point: “Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” “For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” “He took on him the seed of Abraham; wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren,” &c. (1 Cor. 15:21. 1. Tim. 2:5. Heb. 2:16, 17.) So the Apostle says also, that we are buried with Christ in baptism, crucified with him, raised with him, &c. (Rom. 6:4. Col. 2:12.) And Augustine, in his book on true religion, says: “The very same nature was to be assumed, which was to be delivered.” 2. Because the truth of God required it. The prophets, who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, often described our Mediator as one that is poor, weak, despised, &c. The 53d chap. of the prophecy of Isaiah furnishes us with a striking instance. 3. On account of our comfort: for if we did not know him to have sprung from Adam, we could not receive him as the promised Messiah, and as our brother, since the promise is, “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head.” “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 3:15; 22:18.) The Apostle Paul also says in relation to this: “He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one, (that is, of the same human nature); for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” (Heb. 2:11.) It was necessary therefore that he should spring from Adam, in order that he might be our brother. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same,” &c. (Heb. 2:14.) 4. That he might be a faithful High Priest, able to succor them that are tempted. “Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.” (Heb. 2:17, 18.)
Thirdly, It behooved him to be a perfectly righteous man, one that was wholly free from the least stain of original and actual sin, that he might deservedly be our Saviour, and that his sacrifice might avail, not for himself, but for us: for if he himself had been a sinner, he would have had to satisfy for his own sins. “My righteous servant shall justify many.” “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.” “Christ also hath once suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” (Is. 53:11. 1 Pet. 2:22; 3:18.)
But he who is himself a sinner. If the Mediator himself had been a sinner he could not have escaped the wrath of God, much less could he have procured for others the favor of God, and exemption from punishment: neither could the passion, and death of him, who did not suffer as an innocent man, be a ransom for the sin of others. Therefore “God hath made him to be sin for us, (that is, a sacrifice for sin,) who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” “For such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s.” (2 Cor. 5:21. Heb. 7:26, 27.)
The man Christ was perfectly righteous, or has fulfilled the law in four respects. 1. By his own righteousness. Christ alone performed perfect obedience, such as the law requires. 2. By enduring punishment sufficient for our sins. There was a necessity that this double fulfillment of the law should be in Christ: for unless his righteousness had been full, and perfect, he could not have satisfied for the sins of others; and unless he had endured such punishment as has been described, he could not thereby have delivered us from everlasting punishment. The former is called the fulfilling of the law by obedience, by which he himself was conformable thereto; the latter is the fulfilling of the law by punishment, which he suffered for us, that we might not remain subject to eternal condemnation. 3. Christ fulfills the law in us by his Spirit, when he by the same Spirit regenerates us, and by the law leads us to that obedience which is required from us, which is both external and internal, which we commence in this life, and which we shall perfectly and fully perform in the life to come. 4. Christ fulfills the law by teaching it, and freeing it from errors and interpolations, and by restoring its true sense, as he himself said, “I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil it.” (Matt. 5:17.)

Question 17. Why must he in one person be also very God?

Answer. That he might, by the power of his Godhead, sustain, in his human nature, the burden of God’s wrath; and might obtain for and restore to us, righteousness and life.


It was necessary that our Mediator should not only be a man, and one that was truly such, and perfectly righteous; but that he should also be God—the true and mighty God—and not an imaginary Deity, or one that was adorned with excellent gifts, above angels and men, as heretics suppose. The reasons for this are the following:
1. That he might, by the power of his Godhead, sustain, in his human nature, the infinite wrath of God against sin, and endure a punishment, which, although it were temporal as it respects its duration, was nevertheless infinite in greatness, dignity, and value. If our Mediator had been only a man, and had taken upon himself the burden of God’s wrath, he would have been crushed under its weight. It was necessary, therefore, that he should be possessed of infinite strength, and for this reason be God, that he might endure an infinite punishment, without sinking into despair, or being crushed under it.
There was a necessity that the punishment of the Mediator should be of infinite value, and equivalent to that which is eternal, that there might be a proportion between sin, and the punishment thereof. For there is not one sin amongst all the sins committed, from the beginning to the end of the world, so small that it does not deserve eternal death. Every sin is so exceedingly sinful, that it cannot be expiated by the eternal destruction of any creature.
It was proper, however, that this punishment should be finite in respect to time, because it was not necessary that the Mediator should for ever remain under death; but it became him to come forth from death, that he might accomplish the benefit of our redemption, that is, that he might perfectly merit, and having merited, might apply and bestow upon us the salvation which he purchased in our behalf. It was also required of our Mediator, both to merit and bestow righteousness, that he might be a perfect Saviour in merit, and efficacy. But these things could not have been accomplished by a mere man, who and of whatever strength he might have been possessed, if he, nevertheless, had not the power to come forth from death. It was necessary, therefore, that he who was to save others from death, should overcome death by his own power, and first throw it off from himself. But this he could not have done had he not been God.
2. It was necessary that the ransom which the Redeemer paid should be of infinite value, that it might possess a dignity and merit sufficient for the redemption of our souls, and that it might avail in the judgment of God, for the purpose of expiating our sins, and restoring in us that righteousness and life which we had lost. Hence it became the person who would make this satisfaction for us, to be possessed of infinite dignity, that is, to be God; for the dignity of this satisfaction, on account of which it might be acceptable to God and of infinite worth, although temporal, consists in two things—in the dignity of the person, and in the greatness of the punishment.
The dignity of the person who suffered appears in this, that it was God, the Creator himself, who died for the sins of the world; which is infinitely more than the destruction of all creatures, and avails more than the holiness of all the angels and men. Hence it is, that the Apostles, when they speak of the sufferings of Christ, almost always make mention of his Divinity. “God hath purchased the Church with his blood.” “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.” “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” Yea, God himself, in Paradise, joined together these two: “The seed of the woman shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Acts 20:28. 1 John 1:7. John 1:29. Gen. 3:15.)
The greatness of the punishment which Christ endured appears in this, that he sustained the dreadful torments of hell, and the wrath of God against the sins of the whole world. “The pains of hell gat hold upon me.” “God is a consuming fire.” “The Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all.” (Ps. 116:3. Deut. 4:24. Is. 53:10.) From this we may perceive why it was, that Christ manifested such signs of distress in the prospect of death, whilst many of the martyrs met death with the greatest courage and composure.
Obj. The perfect fulfillment of the law by obedience might have been a satisfaction for our sins. But a mere man, had he only been perfectly righteous, might have fulfilled the law by obedience. Therefore, a mere man, being perfectly righteous, might have satisfied for our sins—and hence it was not necessary that our Mediator should be God. Ans. 1. We deny the major proposition, because it has already been shown that when obedience was once impaired, it was not possible that the justice of God could be satisfied for sin, unless by a sufficient punishment on account of the divine threatening, “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:17.) 2. Although we may grant the minor proposition, that a mere man, by his obedience, might fulfill the law perfectly, yet this obedience could not be a satisfaction for the sins of another, because every one is bound to obey the law. It was necessary, therefore, that the Mediator should endure a sufficient punishment for us, and for this reason be armed with divine power; for the devils themselves are not able to sustain the burden of God’s wrath against sin—much less could man. If it be objected, that the devils and the wicked do sustain and are compelled to sustain the eternal wrath of God, we answer, that they do, indeed, sustain the wrath of God, but not so as ever to satisfy his justice, and come out of their punishment; for their punishment will endure forever. But it behooved the Mediator to endure the burden of God’s wrath, that, having made satisfaction, he might remove it from himself, and also from us.
3. It was necessary that the Mediator should be God, that he might reveal the secret will of God concerning the redemption of mankind, which he could not have done, had he been merely a man. No creature could ever have known, or discovered, the will of God concerning our redemption, had not the Son of God revealed it. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John 1:18.)
4. It behooved the Mediator to be God, that he might be able to giv the Holy Ghost, gather a church, be present with it, and bestow and preserve the benefits purchased by his death. It did not only become him to be made a sacrifice, to throw off death from himself, and intercede for us with God; but it became him also to give assurance that we would no more offend God by our sins. This, however, on account of our corruption, no one could promise in our behalf, who had not the power of giving the Holy Spirit, and through him, the power of conforming us to the image of God. But to give the Holy Spirit, and through him to regenerate the heart, is peculiar to God alone, whose Spirit he is. “Whom I will send unto you from the Father.” (John 15:26.) Only he, who is Lord of nature, can reform it.
5. Finally, it was necessary that the Messiah should be “THE LORD, OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jer. 23:6.)
Obj. The party offended cannot be Mediator. Christ is the Mediator. Therefore, he cannot be the party offended, that is, God. Ans. The major proposition is true only when the party offended is such as admits of no personal distinctions; which, however, is not the case as regards the Godhead. Vide Ursini vol. i. p. 120.

Question 18. Who, then, is that Mediator, who is, in one person, both very God, and a real righteous man?

Answer. Our Lord Jesus Christ; who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.


We have now shown what kind of a Mediator it is necessary for us to have. The next question which claims our attention is, Who is this Mediator? That this Mediator is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, manifested in the flesh, is proven by these considerations:
1. It became the Mediator to be very God, as has been shown. God the Father, however, could not be the Mediator; because he does not work through himself, but through the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Neither is the Father a messenger; because he is sent by no one, but himself sends the Mediator. Nor could the Holy Ghost be the Mediator; because he was to be sent by the Mediator into the hearts of the elect. Therefore, the Son alone is this Mediator.
2. It was necessary that the Mediator should have that which it became him to confer upon us. It became him now, to confer upon us the right and title of the sons of God, which we had forfeited; that is, it became him to bring it to pass, that God might, for his Son’s sake, adopt us as his children. This, however, Christ alone was able to effect, because he alone had the right thereof. The Holy Ghost had not this right, because he is not the Son. Neither did it belong to the Father, for the same reason; and also because it became him to adopt us among his children, through the Son. Therefore, the Word, who is the natural Son of God, is alone our Mediator, in whom, as in the first begotten, we are adopted as the sons of God, as it is said: “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” “As many as received him, to them he gave the power to be called the sons of God.” “Unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ.” “He hath made us to be accepted in the Beloved.” (John 8:36; 1:12. Eph. 1:5, 6.)
3. The Son, alone, is the Word, the Ambassador of the Father, and that person who was sent to the human race, to reveal the will of God, through whom the Father operates and gives the Holy Spirit; and through whom, also, the second creation is accomplished; for it is through the Son that we are made new creatures. The Scriptures, for this reason, every where join the first and second creation, because the second was to be effected by the same person through whom the first was made. “All things were made by the Son.” (John 1:3.) The Mediator was also to be a Messenger, and Peace-maker, between God and us, and to regenerate us by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Son alone is this Mediator.
4. It belongs to the Mediator to send immediately the Holy Spirit. But it is the Son alone who thus sends the Holy Spirit. The Father does, indeed, send the Holy Spirit, but it is through the Son. The Son sends the Spirit immediately from the Father, as he himself declares: “Whom I will send unto you from the Father.” (John 15:26.)
5. It became the Mediator to suffer and die. But it was not possible for any of the persons of the Godhead to suffer and die, except the Son, who assumed our nature. “God was manifested in the flesh.” “Christ was put to death in the flesh.” (1 Tim. 3:16. 1 Pet. 3:18.) Therefore, the Son is the Mediator.
6. That the Son is the Mediator may be proven by a comparison of the prophecies of the Old Testament with their fulfillment in the New Testament.
7. The works and miracles of Christ establish his claims to the office of Mediator. “The works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.” “Believe the works.” “When Christ will come, he will do more miracles than these.” “Go and shew John those things which ye do hear and see. The blind receive their sight,” &c. (John 5:36; 10:38; 7:31. Matt. 11:4, 5.)
8. By these clear testimonies of Scripture: “There is one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” “Christ is made unto us of God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption;” that is, he is made unto us a teacher of wisdom, a justifier, a sanctifier, and a redeemer; which is the same as to say he is a Mediator and Saviour, both by his merit and efficacy; for in this declaration of the Apostle, the abstract is put for the concrete. (1 Tim. 2:5. 1 Cor. 1:30.)
It is here worthy of notice that the Mediator is said to be made unto us of God; which means that he was appointed and given. The Mediator ought to have been given by us, and to have proceeded from us, because we had sinned. But we were not able to give a Mediator, in as much as we were all the children of wrath. Therefore, it was necessary that he should be given unto us of God.
It is also worthy of notice that righteousness and holiness were one and the same thing in us before the fall, viz: an inherent conformity with God and the divine law, as they are now the same thing in the holy angels. Since the fall, however, they are not the same thing in us. For, now, Christ is our righteousness; and our justification consists in the imputation of his righteousness, by which we are accounted just before God. Holiness is the beginning of our conformity with God, whilst sanctification is the carrying forward of this conformity with God, which in this life is imperfect, but which will be fully perfected in the life to come; when righteousness and holiness will again be the same thing in us, as they are now in the holy angels. The sum and substance of the whole doctrine of the Mediator is contained in what now follows.


The doctrine of the Mediator, which is intimately connected with the glory of God and our comfort, must be carefully considered for the following reasons: 1. That we may acknowledge and magnify the mercy of God, in that he has given his Son to be our Mediator, and to be made a sacrifice for our sins. 2. That we may know God to be just, in as much as he would not, out of his clemency, pardon sin; but was so greatly displeased therewith that he would not remit it, except satisfaction were made by the death of his Son. 3. That we may be assured of eternal life, in having a Mediator who is both willing and able to grant it unto us. 4. Because the doctrine of the Mediator is the foundation, and substance, of the doctrine of the church. 5. On account of heretics, who at all times oppose, with great bitterness, this doctrine; and that, having a proper knowledge of it, we may be able to defend it against all their assaults.
The doctrine of the Mediator seems to belong to the article of justification, because there also the office of the Mediator is explained. But it is one thing to teach what, and what kind of a benefit justification is, and how it is received, which is done when the doctrine of justification is treated of; and it is another thing to show whose benefit it is, and by whom it is bestowed upon us, which properly belongs here.
The principal things to be considered in relation to the Mediator, are the following:

          I.      What a Mediator is:
          II.      Whether we need a Mediator:
          III.      What his office is:
          IV.      What kind of a Mediator he ought to be:
          V.      Who he is:
          VI.      Whether there can be more than one Mediator.


A mediator, in general, signifies one who reconciles two parties that are at variance, by interposing himself and pacifying the offended party, by entreaty, by satisfaction, and giving security that the like offence will not again be committed. A mediator, in the German, is ein schiedmann. To reconcile includes: 1. To intercede for the offender with the offended. 2. To make satisfaction for the injury done. 3. To promise, and bring it to pass, that the offending party shall not repeat the offence. 4. To bring the parties at variance together. If any of these conditions are wanting, there can be no true reconciliation.
But in special, and as here applied to Christ, a Mediator is a person reconciling God, who is angry with sin, and the human race exposed to eternal death on account of sin, by making satisfaction to divine justice by his death, interceding for the guilty, and applying, at the same time, his merits through faith to them that believe, regenerating them by his Holy Spirit, thus bringing it to pass that they cease from sinning; and finally hearing the groans and prayers of those that call upon him. Or, a Mediator is a peace-maker between God and men, appeasing the anger of God, and restoring men to his favor, by interceding and making satisfaction for their sins, bringing it to pass that God loves men, and men love God, so that a constant and eternal peace or agreement is effected between them.
A middle person, and mediator, are different. The former is the name of the person—the latter the name of the office. Christ is both. He is a middle person, because in him is the nature of each party—he has the nature of God and of man. He is a Mediator, because he reconciles us to God; although he is to a certain extent a middle person, in the same respect in which he is a Mediator; because in him the two extremes, God and man, are joined together.
Addenda. It is sometimes asked, whether Adam had need of a Mediator before the fall? To this, answer may be returned according to the signification which we attach to the term, Mediator. If we mean by it, one through whose mediation, or by whom God bestows his benefits, and communicates himself to us, then Adam, even before his fall, had need of a Mediator, because Christ ever has been the person through whom the Father creates and quickens all things; for “in him was life,” both natural and spiritual, “and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4.) But if we understand by a Mediator, one who performs these and all the other duties which belong to the office, then we reply that Adam did not need a Mediator before the fall. We must observe, however, that the Scriptures do not speak of Christ, as being Mediator before the fall of man.


That we need a Mediator is evident—
1. Because the justice of God does not admit of any reconciliation without a return to his favor. An advocate is, therefore, necessary. Neither can we be reconciled to God except intercession be made in our behalf. An intercessor is, therefore, needed. So, satisfaction is demanded. Hence there must be one to satisfy. Then there must be an application of the benefit, for there is a necessity that it should be received. Hence there must be some one to apply the benefit of redemption. And, finally, without a removal of sin, and the restoration of the image of God in us, we will not cease to sin against God. Hence, we need some one to deliver us from sin, and renew our nature. But of ourselves we are not able to accomplish these things; we cannot appease God, who is angry; we cannot make ourselves acceptable in his sight, &c. We need, therefore, another person to act as Mediator for us, who may perform these things in our behalf.
2. God demanded a Mediator from the party which had committed the offence. As a divine Being, he could not receive satisfaction from himself. His justice made it necessary that the offending party should make satisfaction, or obtain favor through such a Mediator as would be able to satisfy perfectly, and also be most acceptable to God, so as not to be driven from his presence; and who might, by his influence with God, be able easily to reconcile us to him by making satisfaction, entreaty and intercession in our behalf. Such a Mediator, however, we were entirely unable to find from among ourselves; because we were all the children of wrath. There was, therefore, a necessity for some third person to come in as a Mediator, who should be given of God, and who would be very man, and at the same time most acceptable to God.
3. It is necessary that those who would obtain deliverance should make satisfaction to the justice of God, either by themselves, or by another. Those who cannot make this satisfaction of themselves have need of a Mediator. It is required of us now, if we would obtain deliverance from sin, to satisfy the justice of God either by ourselves, or by another. But we are unable to effect this by ourselves. Hence we have need of a Mediator.
Obj. Where there is but one way of making satisfaction, no other is to be sought, or proposed. The law acknowledges but one way, which is, by ourselves. Therefore we must not propose any other; nor must we say, either by ourselves, or by another. Ans. The whole is conceded, as it respects the law: for the law prescribes but one way of making satisfaction, and it is in vain that we look for another. But yet whilst this is true as touching the law, it, nevertheless, does not reject every other way. It does indeed say that satisfaction must be made through ourselves. But it never says, only through ourselves. It does not, therefore, exclude the method of making satisfaction through another. And although God did not express this other method in the law, yet it was comprehended in his secret counsel, and afterwards revealed in the gospel. The law does not, therefore, explain this method, but leaves it to be unfolded by the gospel. Nor is there in this any conflict, or want of agreement between the law and the gospel, inasmuch as the law (as has just been remarked) no where adds the exclusive particle, saying that satisfaction can only be made by ourselves.
4. That we have need of a Mediator with God, may be shown by many other considerations, of which we may mention the following: 1. The chidings and compunctions of conscience. 2. The punishments of the wicked. 3. The sacrifices instituted by God, which referred to, and shadowed forth the perfect sacrifice of Christ. 4. The sacrifices of the heathen and Papists, with which they desired to please God, which had their origin in the feeling, or consciousness of the need of some satisfaction being made in order to our acceptance with God.


It becomes a Mediator to treat with both parties, the offended and offending. It was in this way that Christ performed the office of Mediator, treating with each party.
With God, the offended party, he does these things:—1. He intercedes with the Father for us, and prays that our sin may not be laid to our charge. 2. He offers himself as a satisfaction in our behalf. 3. He makes this satisfaction by dying for us, and enduring a punishment sufficient to meet our case, finite indeed as to time, but infinite in dignity and value. 4. He becomes our surety, that we shall no more offend God by our sins. Without this suretiship intercession finds no place, not even with men, much less with God. 5. He at length effects this promise in us by giving us his Holy Spirit, and everlasting life.
With us, as the offending party, he does these things:—1. He presents himself to us as the messenger of the Father, revealing this, his will, that he should present himself as our Mediator, and that the Father accepts of his satisfaction. 2. He makes this satisfaction, and grants and applies it unto us. 3. He works faith in us, by giving us the Holy Spirit, that we may embrace, and not reject this benefit which is offered unto us; because there can be no reconciliation unless each party consents: “He works in us both to will, and to do.” (Phil. 2:13.) 4. He brings it to pass by the same Spirit that we leave off sinning and commence a new life. 5. He preserves us in this state of reconciliation by faith and new obedience, and defends us against the devil, and all enemies, even against ourselves, lest we fall. 6. Finally, he will raise us up from the dead, and glorify us, that is, he will perfect the salvation begun, and the gifts which we lost in Adam, as well as those which he has merited for us.
All these things Christ does, obtains, and perfects, not only by his merits, but also by his efficacy. He is, therefore, said to be a Mediator, both in merit and efficacy; because he does not only by his sacrifice merit for us, but he also, by virtue of his Spirit, effectually confers upon us his benefits, which consist in righteousness, and eternal life, according to what is said: “I lay down my life for the sheep.” “I give unto them eternal life.” “As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given unto the Son to have life in himself.” “As the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, so the Son quickeneth whom he will.” (John 10:15, 28; 5:21, 46.)
There are many benefits comprehended in the office of the Mediator; for God has instituted it for the purpose of bestowing blessings upon the Church. Paul comprehends these blessings very briefly in four general terms, when he says, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who, of God, is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption.” (1 Cor. 1:30.) He is made unto us wisdom, 1. Because he is the matter and subject of the wisdom which we possess. “I determined not to know any thing among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” “We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but to them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 2:2; 1:24.) 2. Because he is the cause of our wisdom, and that in three ways; because he brought it from the bosom of the Father—instituted, and preserves the ministry of the word, through which he instructs us concerning the will of the Father, and his office as Mediator; and, finally, because he works effectually in the hearts of the elect, so that they assent to the doctrine, and are renewed in the image of God. In a word, Christ is our wisdom, because he is the subject, the author, and the medium. He is our righteousness, that is, our justifier. Our righteousness is in him, as in the subject; and he himself gives this unto us by his merit and efficacy. He is our sanctification, that is, sanctifier; because he regenerates us, and sanctifies us through the Holy Spirit. He is our redemption, that is, redeemer; because he finally delivers us: for the word that is here translated redemption, does not only signify the price, but also the effect and consummation of our redemption.


This question is most wisely connected with the foregoing; for since it is manifest, that satisfaction must be made—that it must be made through another, and that it must be with the satisfaction of the Mediator, which has already been described, we must now enquire, What kind of a Mediator is he?
In answer to this question we would reply, that our Mediator must be man—very man, deriving his nature from our race, and retaining it for ever—a perfectly righteous man, and very God. In a word, he must be a person that is theanthropic, having both natures, the divine and human, in the unity of his person, that he may truly be a middle person, and mediator between God and men.
The proofs concerning the person of the Mediator are drawn from his office; for it was necessary that he should be, and possess all that was included in his office. These proofs have been already presented and explained, in the exposition of the 15th, 16th and 17th Questions of the Catechism, to which we refer the reader.


The Mediator has thus far been spoken of as the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, as we have shown in the eighteenth question of the Catechism. The sum and substance of what we are to believe in relation to this subject is this, that the Scriptures attribute at the same time these three things to Christ, and to him alone:
First, that he is God. “The Word was God.” “All things were made by him.” “The Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” “Who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness.” “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.” (John 1:1. Acts 20:28. Rom. 1:4. 1 John 5:7.) To these declarations of scripture, we may add those which attribute to Christ divine worship, invocation, hearing of prayer, and such works as are peculiar to God alone. Those passages which attribute to Christ the name of Jehovah, are also in point. (Jer. 23:6. Zach. 2:10. Mal. 3:1.) The same thing may in like manner be said of those declarations of Scripture which refer to Christ, the things spoken of Jehovah in the Old Testament. (Is. 9:6. John 12:40, &c.)
2. That he is very man. The humanity of Christ is proven by those declarations of Scripture which affirm that he was man, the Son of man, the son of David, the son of Abraham, &c. (1 Tim. 2:5. Matt. 1:1; 9:6; 16:13.) Also, those which declare that he was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, that he had a body of flesh, and came in the flesh. (Rom. 1:3. Col. 1:22. 1 John 4:2.) The same thing is also proven by those passages which attribute to Christ things peculiar to man; as, to grow, to eat, to drink, to be ignorant, to be fatigued, to rest, to be circumcised, to be baptized, to weep, to rejoice, &c.
3. That these two natures in Christ constitute one person. Those declarations of Scripture are here in point, which attribute, through the communication of properties, to the person of Christ, those things which are peculiar to the divine, or human nature. “The Word was made flesh.” “He partook of flesh and blood.” “Before Abraham was, I am.” “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” “God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, by whom also he made the world.” “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” “Who is over all, God blessed for ever.” “Had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.” (John 1:14. Heb. 2:14. John 8:38. Matt. 28:20. Heb. 1:1, 2. 1 John 4:3. Rom. 9:6. 1 Cor. 2:8.)


There is but one Mediator between God and man. The reason of this is, because no one but the Son of God can perform the office of Mediator; and as there is only one natural Son of God, there cannot be more than one Mediator.
Obj. 1. But the saints also make intercession for us. Therefore, they are also mediators. Ans. There is a great difference between the intercession of Christ, and that of the saints who live in the world, and make intercession both for themselves, and others, even their persecutors and enemies: for the saints depend upon the merits of Christ in order that their intercessions may avail, whilst Christ depends upon his own merits. And still more, Christ alone offered himself a surety, and satisfier, sanctifying himself for us, that is, presenting himself in our stead before the judgment seat of God, which cannot be said of the saints.
Obj. 2. Where there are many means, there must be more than one Mediator. But there are many means of our salvation. Therefore, there are more mediators than one. Ans. We deny the major proposition; for the means, and Mediator of salvation, are not one and the same thing.


It has been shown, that a Mediator is one who reconciles parties that are at variance, as God and men. This reconciliation is called in the Scriptures a Covenant, which has particular reference to the Mediator, inasmuch as every mediator is the mediator of some covenant, and the reconciler of two opposing parties. Hence the doctrine of the Covenant which God made with man, is closely connected with the doctrine of the Mediator. The principal questions which claim our attention in the consideration of this subject, are the following:

          I.      What is this Covenant?
          II.      Was it possible without a Mediator?
          III.      Is it one, or more than one?
          IV.      In what do the old and new Covenants agree, and in what do they differ?


A covenant in general is a mutual contract, or agreement between two parties, in which the one party binds itself to the other to accomplish something upon certain conditions, giving or receiving something, which is accompanied with certain outward signs and symbols, for the purpose of ratifying in the most solemn manner the contract entered into, and for the sake of confirming it, that the engagement may be kept inviolate. From this general definition of a covenant, it is easy to perceive what we are to understand by the Covenant here spoken of, which we may define as a mutual promise and agreement, between God and men, in which God gives assurance to men that he will be merciful to them, remit their sins, grant unto them a new righteousness, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life by and for the sake of his Son, our Mediator. And, on the other side, men bind themselves to God in this covenant that they will exercise repentance and faith, or that they will receive with a true faith this great benefit which God offers, and render such obedience as will be acceptable to him. This mutual engagement between God and man is confirmed by those outward signs which we call sacraments, which are holy signs, declaring and sealing unto us God’s good will, and our thankfulness and obedience.
A testament is the last will of a testator, in which he at his death declares what disposition he wishes to be made of his goods, or possessions.
In the Scriptures, the terms Covenant and Testament are used in the same sense, for the purpose of explaining more fully and clearly the idea of this Covenant of God; for both of them refer to and express our reconciliation with God, or the mutual agreement between God and men.
This agreement, or reconciliation, is called a Covenant, because God promises to us certain blessings, and demands from us in return our obedience, employing also certain solemn ceremonies for the confirmation thereof.
It is called a Testament, because this reconciliation was made by the interposition of the death of Christ, the testator, that it might be ratified: or because Christ has obtained this reconciliation by his death, and left it unto us, as parents, at their decease, leave their possessions to their children. This reason is adduced by the apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, where he says: “For this cause he is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force, after men are dead; otherwise it is of no strength at all whilst the testator liveth.” (Heb. 9:15, 16, 17.) Whilst the testator lives he has the right to change, to take from, or to add any thing which he chooses to his will. The Hebrew word Berith, signifies only a covenant, and not a testament; whilst the Greek word διαθηκη, which is used in the Epistle to the Hebrews, signifies both a covenant and a testament, from which it is inferred (as some suppose) that this Epistle was written not in the Hebrew, but in the Greek language.
Obj. A testament is made by the death of the testator. But God can not die. Therefore his testament is not ratified; or this reconciliation can not be called a testament. Ans. We deny the minor proposition; because God is said to have redeemed the Church with his own blood. Hence he must have died; but it was in his human nature, according to the testimony of the apostle Peter, who says of Christ the testator, who was both God and man, that he was put to death in the flesh. (1 Pet. 3:18.)


This covenant could only be made by a Mediator, as may be inferred from the fact that we, as one of the parties, were not able to satisfy God for our sins, so as to be restored to his favor. Yea, such was our miserable condition, that we would not have accepted of the benefit of redemption had it been purchased by another. Then God as the other party, could not, on account of his justice, admit us into his favor without a sufficient satisfaction. We were the enemies of God, and hence there could be no way of access to him, unless by the intercession of Christ, the Mediator, as has been fully shown in the remarks which we have made upon the question—Why was a Mediator necessary? We may conclude, therefore, that this reconciliation was possible only by the satisfaction and death of Christ, the Mediator.


This covenant is one in substance, but two-fold in circumstances; or it is one as it respects the general conditions upon which God enters into an engagement with us, and we with him; and it is two as it respects the conditions which are less general, or as some say, as it respects the mode of its administration.
The Covenant is one in substance. 1. Because there is but one God, one Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ, one way of reconciliation, one faith, and one way of salvation for all who are and have been saved from the beginning. It is a great question, and one that has been much debated, whether the ancient fathers were saved in a different way from that in which we are saved, which, unless it be correctly explained, throws much obscurity and darkness around the gospel. The following passages of Scripture teach us what we are to believe in relation to this subject: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.” “And God gave him to be Head over all things to the Church.” “From whom the whole body fitly joined together,” &c. “No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” “There is none other name under heaven given whereby we must be saved.” “No one knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom,” &c. “No one cometh to the Father but by me.” “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life;” he means, I am the way by which even Adam obtained salvation. “Many kings and prophets desired to see the things which ye see,” &c. “Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad.” (Heb. 13:8. Eph. 1:22; 4:16. John 1:18. Acts 4:12. Matt. 11:27. John 14:6. Luke 10:24. John 8:56.) All those, therefore, who have been saved, those under the law as well as those under the gospel, had respect to Christ, who is the only Mediator, through whom alone they were reconciled to God and saved. Hence, there is but one covenant.
2. There is but one covenant, because the principal conditions, which are called the substance of the covenant, are the same before and since the incarnation of Christ; for in each testament God promises to those that repent and believe, the remission of sin; whilst men bind themselves, on the other hand, to exercise faith in God, and to repent of their sins.
But there are said to be two covenants, the old and the new, as it respects the circumstances and conditions which are less general, which constitute the form, or the mode of administration, contributing to the principal conditions, in order that the faithful, by their help, may obtain those which are general.


Since there is but one covenant, and the Scriptures speak of it as though it were two, we must consider in what particulars the old and the new covenants agree and in what they differ.
They agree, 1. In having God as their author and Christ as the Mediator. But Moses, some say, was the Mediator of the Old covenant. To this we reply, that he was Mediator only as a type of Christ, who was even then already Mediator, but is now the only Mediator without any type; for Christ having come in the flesh, is no longer covered with types.
2. In the promise of grace concerning the remission of sins, and eternal life granted freely to such as believe by and for the sake of Christ, which promise was common to those who lived under the old covenant, as well as to us; although it is now delivered more clearly, for God promises the same grace to all that believe in the Mediator. “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head.” “I will be a God unto thee and thy seed.” “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved even as they.” (Gen. 3:15; 17:7. John 3:36. Acts 15; 11.) We here speak of the promise of grace in general, and not of the circumstances of grace particularly.
3. In the condition in respect to ourselves. In each covenant, God requires from men faith and obedience. “Walk before me and be thou perfect.” “Repent and believe the gospel.” (Gen. 17:1. Mark 1:15.) The new covenant, therefore, agrees with the old in that which relates to the principal conditions, both on the part of God, and on the part of man.
The two covenants differ, 1. In the promises of temporal blessings. The old covenant had many special promises in relation to blessings of a temporal character, such as the promise of the land of Canaan, which was to be given to the Church—the form of the ceremonial worship, and of the Mosaic polity, which were to be preserved in the land even to the time of the Messiah—the birth of the Messiah from that people, &c. But the new covenant has no such special promises of temporal blessings, but only such as are general, because God will preserve his church even to the end, and will always provide for it a certain resting place.
2. In the circumstance of the promise of grace. In the old covenant, the faithful were received into the favor of God, on account of the Messiah that was to come, and the sacrifice which he would offer; in the new, the same blessing is obtained for the sake of the Messiah who has already come, and for the sacrifice which he has already offered in our behalf.
3. In the rites, or signs, which are added to the promise of grace. In the old covenant the sacraments were various, and painful, such as circumcision, the passover, oblations and sacrifices. In the new, there are only two sacraments—Baptism and the Lord’s Supper—both of which are simple and significant.
4. In clearness. The old had types and shadows of good things to come. All was typical, as the priests, sacrifices, &c. Hence every thing was more obscure and unintelligible. In the new, we have a fulfillment of all these types, so that every thing is clearer and better understood, both in regard to the sacraments and the doctrine which is revealed.
5. In the gifts which they confer. In the old, the effusion of the Holy Spirit was small and limited; in the new, it is large and full. “I will make a new covenant.” “If the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more,” &c. “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.” (Jer. 31:31. 2 Cor. 3:5. Joel 2:28.)
6. In duration. The old was to continue only until the coming of the Messiah; but the new will continue forever. “I will make an everlasting covenant with them.” (Jer. 32:40.)
7. In their obligation. The old bound the people to the whole law, the moral, ceremonial, and judicial; the new binds us only to the moral, and to the use of the sacraments of Christ.
8. In their extent. In the old covenant, the church was confined to the Jewish nation, to which it became all those who would be saved to unite themselves. In the new, the church is established among all nations, and is open to all that believe of every nation, rank, condition, or language.
Remark. The old testament, or covenant, is often used in Scripture by a figure of speech, called synedoche, (in which a part is taken for the whole,) for the law, with respect to that part which is especially treated of. For in the old covenant, the law was enforced more strenuously, and there were many parts of it. The gospel was also more obscure. The new testament, or covenant, on the other hand, is for the most part taken for the gospel, because in the new a great part of the law is abrogated, and the gospel is here more clearly revealed.

Question 19. Whence knowest thou this?

Answer. From the holy Gospel, which God himself revealed first in Paradise; and afterwards published by the Patriarchs and Prophets, and was pleased to represent it by the shadows of sacrifices, and the other ceremonies of the law; and lastly has accomplished it by his only begotten Son.


This question corresponds with the third question of the Catechism, where it is asked: Whence knowest thou thy misery? Out of the law of God. So it is here asked: Whence knowest thou thy deliverance? Out of the gospel. Having, therefore, spoken of the Mediator, we must now speak of the doctrine which reveals, describes, and offers him unto us—which doctrine is the Gospel. After having spoken of the gospel, we must in the next place, speak of the way in which we are made partakers of the Mediator, and his benefits—which is by faith. First, then, we must speak of the gospel, which is, with great propriety, made to follow the doctrine of the Mediator, and the covenant, 1. Because the Mediator is the subject of the gospel, which teaches who and what kind of a Mediator he is. 2. Because he is the author of the gospel. It is a part of the office of the Mediator to reveal the gospel, as it is said: “The only begotten which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John 1:18.) 3. Because the gospel is a part of the covenant; and is often taken for the new covenant.
The principal questions to be discussed, in relation to the gospel, are the following:

          I.      What is the gospel?
          II.      Is it a new doctrine?
          III.      In what does it differ from the law?
          IV.      What are its effects?
          V.      From what does it appear that the gospel is true?


The term gospel signifies, 1. A joyful message, or good news. 2. The sacrifice which is offered to God for this good news. 3. The reward which is given to him who announces these joyful tidings. Here it signifies the doctrine, or joyful news of Christ manifested in the flesh; as “behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10, 11.)
The words επαγγελια and ευαγγελια are of a somewhat different signification. The former denotes the promise of a mediator that was to come: the latter is the announcement of a mediator already come. This distinction, however, is not always observed; and is rather in the words than in the thing itself; for both denote the same benefits of the Messiah, so that the distinction is only in the circumstance of time, and in the manner of his appearance, as is evident from the following declarations of Scripture: “Abraham saw my day, and was glad.” “No man cometh to the Father but by me.” “I am the door, by me if any,” &c. “God hath appointed him head over all things to the church.” “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.” (John 8:56; 14:6; 10:7. Eph. 1:22. Heb. 13:8.)
The gospel is, therefore, the doctrine which the Son of God, our Mediator, revealed from heaven in Paradise, immediately after the fall, and which he brought from the bosom of the Eternal Father; which promises, and announces, in view of the free grace and mercy of God, to all those that repent and believe, deliverance from sin, death, condemnation, and the wrath of God; which is the same thing as to say that it promises and proclaims the remission of sin, salvation, and eternal life, by and for the sake of the Son of God, the Mediator; and is that through which the Holy Spirit works effectually in the hearts of the faithful, kindling and exciting in them, faith, repentance, and the beginning of eternal life. Or, we may, in accordance with the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth questions of the Catechism, define the gospel to be the doctrine which God revealed first in Paradise, and afterwards published by the Patriarchs and Prophets, which he was pleased to represent by the shadows of sacrifices, and the other ceremonies of the law, and which he has accomplished by his only begotten Son; teaching that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; which is to say that he is a perfect Mediator, satisfying for the sins of the human race, restoring righteousness and eternal life to all those who by a true faith are ingrafted into him, and embrace his benefits.
The following passages of Scripture confirm this definition which we have given of the gospel: “This is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” “And that repentance and remission of sin should be preached in his name, among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 6:41. Luke 24:47. John 1:17.)


The gospel sometimes signifies the doctrine concerning the promise of grace, and the remission of sins to be granted freely, on account of the sacrifice of the Messiah, who had not as yet come in the flesh; and then, again, it signifies the doctrine of the Messiah as already come. In the latter sense, it has not always been, but commenced with the New Testament. In the former sense, however, it has always been in the Church; for immediately after the fall it was revealed in Paradise to our first parents—afterwards it was published by the Patriarchs, and Prophets, and was at length fully accomplished, and revealed by Christ himself. The proofs of this are the following:
1. The testimony of the Apostles. Peter says, “To him gave all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired, and searched diligently.” (Acts 10:43. 1 Pet. 1:10.) Paul says of the gospel, “Which he had promised afore by his prophets.” (Rom. 1:2.) Christ himself says, “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me.” (John 5:46.)
2. The promises and prophecies which relate to the Messiah, establish the same thing.
This must, therefore, be carefully noticed, because God will have us know that there was, and is from the beginning to the end of the world, only one doctrine, and way of salvation through Christ, according to what is said, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh to the Father but by me.” “Moses wrote of me.” (Heb. 13:8. John 14:6; 5:46.) Does any one ask, How Moses wrote of Christ? We answer, 1. By enumerating the promises which had respect to the Messiah. “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” “God shall raise up a prophet,” &c. “A star shall rise out of Jacob.” “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh come.” (Gen. 12:3. Deut. 10:15. Num. 24:17. Gen. 49:10.) 2. He restricted these promises to a certain family from which the Messiah was to be born; and to which the promise was afterwards more frequently referred, and spoken of. 3. The whole Levitical priesthood, and ceremonial worship, as sacrifices, oblations, the altar, the temple, and other things which Moses described, all looked forward to Christ. The kings and kingdom of the Jewish nation were types of Christ, and of his kingdom. Hence Moses wrote many things of Christ.
Obj. 1. Paul declares the gospel was promised through the prophets; and Peter says that the prophets prophecied of the grace that should come unto us. Therefore the gospel has not always been. Ans. We grant that the gospel has not always been, if we understand by it the doctrine of the promise of grace as fulfilled through the manifestation of Christ in the flesh, and as it respects the clearness and evidence of this doctrine; for in ancient times the gospel was not, but was only promised by the prophets: 1. As concerning the fulfillment of those things which, in the Old Testament, were predicted of the Messiah. 2. In regard to the clearer knowledge of the promise of grace. 3. In respect to the more copious outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit; that is, the gospel then was not the announcement of Christ already come, dead, risen again, and seated at the right hand of the Father, as it now is; but it was a preaching of Christ, who would at some future time come, and accomplish all these things. Nevertheless, there was a gospel, that is, there was a joyful announcement of the benefits of the Messiah that was to come, sufficient for the salvation of the ancient fathers, as it is said, “Abraham saw my day, and rejoiced.” “To him gave all the prophets witness.” “Christ is the end of the law.” (John 8:56. Acts 10:43. Rom. 10:4.)
Obj. 2. The apostle Paul says, the gospel was the mystery which was kept secret since the world began, and that in other ages it was not made known to the sons of men. (Rom. 16:25. Eph. 3:5.) Ans. This objection contains an incorrect division, inasmuch as it disjoins things which ought not to be separated. For the apostle adds, in connection with the above, as it is now; which ought not to be omitted, because it shows that in former times the gospel was also known, although less clearly, and to fewer persons, than it now is. The objection is also weak, in affirming that to be strictly so, which was only declared such in a certain respect: for it does not follow, that it was then altogether unknown, because it is now more clearly perceived, and that by many more persons. It was known to the fathers, although not so clearly as to us. Hence the importance of the distinction between the words επαγγελια and ευαγγελιον, as above expressed.
Obj. 3. The law came by Moses, grace and truth by Jesus Christ. Therefore the gospel has not always been known. Ans. Grace and truth did indeed come through Christ, viz, in respect to the fulfillment of types, and the full exhibition and copious application of those things which were formerly promised in the Old Testament. But it does not follow from this, that the ancient fathers were entirely destitute of this grace: for unto them also the same grace was applied by, and on account of Christ, who would subsequently appear in the flesh although it was given in smaller measures to them than to us. For, whatever grace and true knowledge of God has ever come to men, has come through Christ, as it is said, “The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” “No man cometh to the Father, but by me.” “Without me ye can do nothing.” (John 1:18; 14:6; 15:5.)
But it is said, the law was by Moses; therefore the gospel was not by him. Ans. This is so declared, because it was the principal part of his office to publish the law; yet he also taught the gospel, because he wrote and spoke of Christ, although more obscurely, as has been shown. But it was the peculiar office of Christ to publish the gospel, although he at the same time taught the law, but not principally, as did Moses: for he took away from the moral law the corruptions and glosses of false teachers—he fulfilled the ceremonial law, and abrogated it, together with the judicial law.


The gospel and the law agree in this, that they are both from God, and that there is something revealed in each concerning the nature, will, and works of God. There is, however, a very great difference between them:
1. In the revelations which they contain; or, as it respects the manner in which the revelation peculiar to each is made known. The law was engraven upon the heart of man in his creation, and is therefore known to all naturally, although no other revelation were given. “The Gentiles have the work of the law written in their hearts.” (Rom. 2:15.) The gospel is not known naturally, but is divinely revealed to the Church alone through Christ, the Mediator. For no creature could have seen or hoped for that mitigation of the law concerning satisfaction for our sins through another, if the Son of God had not revealed it. “No man knoweth the Father, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.” “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee.” “The Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (Matt. 11:27; 16:17.)
2. In the kind of doctrine, or subject peculiar to each. The law teaches us what we ought to be, and what God requires of us, but it does not give us the ability to perform it, nor does it point out the way by which we may avoid what is forbidden. But the gospel teaches us in what manner we may be made such as the law requires: for it offers unto us the promise of grace, by having the righteousness of Christ imputed to us through faith, and that in such a way as if it were properly ours, teaching us that we are just before God, through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. The law says, “Pay what thou owest.” “Do this, and live.” (Matt. 18:28. Luke 10:28.) The gospel says, “Only believe.” (Mark 5:36.)
3. In the promises. The law promises life to those who are righteous in themselves, or on the condition of righteousness, and perfect obedience. “He that doeth them, shall live in them.” “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Lev. 18:5. Matt. 19:17.) The gospel, on the other hand, promises life to those who are justified by faith in Christ, or on the condition of the righteousness of Christ, applied unto us by faith. The law and gospel are, however, not opposed to each other in these respects: for although the law requires us to keep the commandments if we would enter into life, yet it does not exclude us from life if another perform these things for us. It does indeed propose a way of satisfaction, which is through ourselves, but it does not forbid the other, as has been shown.
4. They differ in their effects. The law, without the gospel, is the letter which killeth, and is the ministration of death: “For by the law is the knowledge of sin.” “The law worketh wrath; and the letter killeth.” (Rom. 3:20; 4:15. 2 Cor. 3:6.) The outward preaching, and simple knowledge of what ought to be done, is known through the letter: for it declares our duty, and that righteousness which God requires; and, whilst it neither gives us the ability to perform it, nor points out the way through which it may be attained, it finds fault with, and condemns our righteousness. But the gospel is the ministration of life, and of the Spirit, that is, it has the operations of the Spirit united with it, and quickens those that are dead in sin, because it is through the gospel that the Holy Spirit works faith and life in the elect. “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation,” &c. (Rom. 1:16.)
Obj. There is no precept, or commandment belonging to the gospel, but to the law. The preaching of repentance is a precept. Therefore the preaching of repentance does not belong to the gospel, but to the law. Ans. We deny the major, if it is taken generally; for this precept is peculiar to the gospel, which commands us to believe, to embrace the benefits of Christ, and to commence new obedience, or that righteousness which the law requires. If it be objected that the law also commands us to believe in God, we reply that it does this only in general, by requiring us to give credit to all the divine promises, precepts and denunciations, and that with a threatening of punishment, unless we do it. But the gospel commands us expressly and particularly to embrace, by faith, the promise of grace; and also exhorts us by the Holy Spirit, and by the Word, to walk worthy of our heavenly calling. This however it does only in general, not specifying any duty in particular, saying thou shalt do this, or that, but it leaves this to the law; as, on the contrary, it does not say in general, believe all the promises of God, leaving this to the law; but it says in particular, Believe this promise; fly to Christ, and thy sins shall be forgiven thee.


The proper effects of the gospel are—
1. Faith; because “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” “The gospel is the ministration of the Spirit.” “The power of God unto salvation.” (Rom. 10:17. 2 Cor. 3:8. Rom. 1:16.)
2. Through faith, our entire conversion to God, justification, regeneration and salvation; for through faith we receive Christ, with all his benefits.


The truth of the gospel appears—
1. From the testimony of the Holy Ghost.
2. From the prophecies which were uttered by the prophets.
3. From the fulfillment of these prophecies, which took place under the New Testament dispensation.
4. From the miracles by which the doctrine of the gospel was confirmed.
5. By the testimony of the gospel itself; because it alone shows the way of escape from sin, and ministers solid comfort to the wounded conscience

Ursinus, Z., & Williard, G. W. (1888). The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism (pp. 85–106). Cincinnati, OH: Elm Street Printing Company.