The passive obedience of Christ has always held first place in the Christian doctrine of salvation, and this was so with the Puritans.  In their Larger Catechism, Christ is said to have “felt and borne the weight of God’s wrath” (Question 49).  This enduring of the wrath of God was directly related to the Law (Galatians 3.13) and, on this account, believers are freed from “the rigor and exaction of the law” (George Downame) for justification.  This deliverance is “because the law, as a Covenant of works, hath executed upon them, in Christ, all its penalty for all their sins” (John Crandon).

Richard Baxter is an exception to the Puritan belief in this respect and denies that Christ’s sufferings were a proper execution of the threatening of the Law upon man.  He adopts a Grotian view of Law and punishment, and asserts that it was not “all the punishments” of the elect that Christ bore but, rather, that His suffering made “full sufficiency to those Ends for which it was designed.”  He argues that the work of Christ must not be thought of in the category of a human obedience, but in His office of mediator.  No Puritan doubted that there was some sort of mediatorial law under which Christ was sent to be the Savior of the elect, but that this mediatorial law provided the formal cause of Christ’s sufferings they strenuously denied.

From: The Grace of Law: A Study in Puritan Theology by Ernest F. Kevan (London: Carey Kingsgate Press, Ltd., 1964), pp. 141-142.

Ernest F. Kevan (1903-1965) was a Baptist minister (1924-1946) and Principal of London Bible College (1946-1965).

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