The Fountain of Life

The Fountain of Life opened up: or, a display
of Christ in his essential and mediatorial glory

by John Flavel

The Excellency of our High-Priest's Oblation,
being the first Act or Part of His Priestly Office

"For by one offering he has perfected forever, those who are sanctified." Hebrews 10:14

After this more general view and consideration of the priesthood of Christ, method requires that we come to a nearer and more particular consideration of the parts thereof, which are his oblation and intercession, answerable to the double office of the High-priest, offering the blood of the sacrifices without the holy place, which typed out Christ's oblation, and then once a year bringing the blood before the Lord into the most holy place, presenting it before God, and with it sprinkling the mercy-seat, wherein the intercession of Christ (the other part or act of his priesthood) was in a lively manner typified to us.

My present business is to open and apply the oblation of Christ; the efficacy and excellency whereof is excellently illustrated, by a comparison with all other oblations, in the precedent context, and with a singular encomium commended to us in these words, from the singularity of it. It is but one offering; one not only specifically, but one numerically considered; but once offered, and never more to be repeated: for Christ dies no more, Rom. 6:9. He also commends it from the efficacy of it; by it he has perfected it, that is not only purchased a possibility of salvation, but all that we need to our full perfection. It brings in a most entire, complete and perfect righteousness: all that remains to make us perfectly happy, is but the full application of the benefits procured by this oblation for us. Moreover, it is here commended from the extensiveness of it; not being restrained to a few, but applicable to all the saints, in all the ages and places of the world: for this indefinite, them that that sanctified, is equivalent to a universal, and is as much as if he had said, To all and every saint, from the beginning to the end of the world. Lastly, He commends it from its perpetuity; it perfects forever, that is, it is of everlasting efficacy: it shall abide as fresh, vigorous and powerful to the end of the world, as it was the first moment it was offered up. All runs into this sweet truth:

DOCTRINE. That the oblation made unto God by Jesus Christ, is of unspeakable value, and everlasting efficacy, to perfect all those who are, or shall be sanctified, to the end of the world.

Out of this fountain flow all the excellent blessings that believers either have, or hope for. Had it not been for this, there had been no such things in rerum natura, as justification, adoption, salvation, etc. peace with God and hopes of glory, pardon of sin, and divine acceptance: these and all other our best mercies, had been but so many entia, rationis, mere conceits. A man, as one says, might have happily imagined such things as these, as he may golden mountains, and rivers of liquid gold, and rocks of diamonds: but these things could never have had any real existence extra mentem, had not Christ offered up himself a sacrifice to God for us. It is "the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered up himself without spot to God, that purges the conscience from dead works," Heb. 9:14. that is, from the sentence of condemnation and death, as it is reflected by conscience, for our works sake.

His appearing before God as our priest, with such an offering for us, is that which removes our guilt and fear together: "He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself," Heb. 9:29. Now, forasmuch as the point before us is of so great weight in itself, and so fundamental to our safety and comfort, I shall endeavor to give you as distinct and clear an account of it, as can consist with that brevity which I must necessarily use. And therefore, reader, apply your mind attentively to the consideration of this excellent Priest that appears before God, and the sacrifices he offers, with the properties and adjuncts thereof; the person before whom he brings, and to whom he offers it; the persons for whom he offers; and the end for which this oblation is made.

First, The Priest that appears before God with an oblation for us, is Jesus Christ, God-man: the dignity of whose person dignified, and derived an inestimable worth to the offering he made. There were many priests before him, but none like unto him, either for the purity of his person, or the perpetuity of his priesthood: they were sinful men, and offered for their own sins, as well as the sins of the people, Heb. 5:3. "but he was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners," Heb. 7:2. He could stand before God, even in the eye of his justice, as a lamb without spot. Though he made his soul an offering for sin, "yet he had done no iniquity, nor was any guile found in his mouth," Isa. 53:9. and indeed his offering had done us no good, if the least taint of sin had been found on him. They were mortal men, that "continued not by reason of death," Heb. 7:25, but Christ is "a Priest forever," Psalm. 110:4.

Secondly, The oblation or offering he made, was not the blood of beasts, but his own blood, Heb. 9:12. And herein he transcended all other priests, that he had something of his own to offer; he had a body given him to be at his own dispose, to this use and purpose, Heb. 10:10. he offered his body: "yes, not only his body, but his soul was made an offering for sin," Isa. 53:10. We had made a forfeiture of our souls and bodies by sin, and it was necessary the sacrifice of Christ should be answerable to the debt we owed. And when Christ came to offer his sacrifice, he stood not only in the capacity of a priest, but also in that of a surety: and so his soul stood in the stead of ours, and his body in the stead of our bodies. Now the excellency of this oblation will appear in the following adjuncts and properties of it. This oblation being for the matter of it, the soul and body of Jesus Christ, is therefore,

1. Invaluably precious. So the apostle styles it, 1 Pet. 1:19. "You were redeemed "timioi aimati", with the precious blood of the Son of God:" and such it behooved him to offer. For it being offered as an expiatory sacrifice, it ought to be equivalent, in its own intrinsic value to all the souls and bodies that were to be redeemed by it. And so it was, and more also for there was a redundancy of value, an over plus of merit, which went to make a purchase for the redeemed, as will be opened in its place. So that, as one rich diamond is more worth than a thousand pebbles: one piece of gold, than many counters; so the soul and body of one Christ, are much more excellent than all the souls and bodies in the world.

And yet I dare not affirm, as some do, that by reason of the infinite preciousness of Christ's blood, one drop thereof had been sufficient to have redeemed the whole world: for if one drop had been enough, why was all the rest, even to the last drop, shed? Was God cruel, to exact more from him than was needful and sufficient: Besides, we must remember, that the passions of Christ, which were inflicted on him as the curse of the law, these only are the passions which are sufficient for our redemption from the curse of the law; now it was not a drop of blood, but death which was contained in the curse: this therefore was necessary to be inflicted. But surely as none but God can estimate the weight and evil of sin, so none but he can comprehend the worth and preciousness of the blood of Christ, shed to expiate it. And being so infinitely precious a thing which was offered up to God, it must,

2. Needs be a most complete and all-sufficient oblation, fully to expiate the sins of all for whom it was offered, in all ages of the world. The virtue of this sacrifice reaches backward as far as Adam, and reaches forward to the last person of the elect springing from him. That the efficacy of it thus reaches back to Adam, is plain: for, on the account thereof, he is stiled "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," Rev. 13:8.

And to the same sense a judicious expositor understands those words of Christ, John 8:58. "Before Abraham was, I am." And, look, as the sun at midday extends his light and influence, not only forward towards the West, but also backward towards the East, where he arose; so did this most efficacious sacrifice reach all the elect in the virtue of it, who died before Christ came in the flesh. It is therefore but a vain cavil, that some make against the satisfaction of Christ, to render it needless, when they say, many were saved without it, even as many as were saved before the death of Christ. For they say, the effect cannot be before the cause, which is true of physical, but not of moral causes; and such was Christ's satisfaction. As for example, a captive is freed out of prison from the time that his surety undertakes for him, and promises his ransom; here the captive is actually delivered, though he ransom that delivered him be not yet actually paid. So it was in this case; Christ had engaged to the Father to satisfy for them, and upon that security they were delivered.

And the virtue of this oblation not only reaches those believers, that lived and died before Christ's day, but it extends itself forward to the end of the world. Hence Heb. 13:8. Christ is said to be "the same yesterday, to-day, and forever;" that is "He is not so a Savior to us that now live, as that he was not their Savior also, that believed in him, before us, from the beginning: yet not so a Savior both to them and us, as that he shall not be the same to all that shall believe on him to the world's end."

To the same sense are those words, Heb. 11:40. rightly paraphrased, "God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect:" q. d. God has appointed the accomplishment of the promise of sending the Messiah, to be in the last times, that they (namely, that lived before Christ, should not be perfected, that is, justified and saved by anything done in their time, but by looking to our time, and Christ's satisfaction made therein; whereby they and we are perfected together. No tract of time can wear out the virtue of this eternal sacrifice. It is as fresh, vigorous, and potent now, as the first hour it was offered. And though he actually offer it no more, yet he virtually continues it by his intercession now in heaven; for there he is still a Priest. And therefore, about sixty years after his ascension, when he gave the Revelation to John, he appears to him in his priestly garment, Rev. 1:13. "Clothed in a garment down to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle:" in allusion to the priestly ephod, and curious girdle.

And as the virtue of this oblation reaches backward and forward, to all ages, and to all believers, so to all the sins of all believers, which are fully purged and expiated by it: this no other oblation could do. The legal sacrifices were no real expiations, but rather remembrances of sins, Heb. 9:9, 12. Heb. 10:3. And all the virtue they had, consisted in their typical relation to this sacrifice, Gal. 3:23. Heb. 9:13. And, separate from it, were altogether weak, unprofitable, and insignificant things, Heb. 7:18. But this blood CLEANSES from all sins, 1 John 1:7. and sin, originating, or originated, or actual, flowing from them both. It expiates all fully, without exception, and finally, without revocation. So that by his being made sin for us, we are made not only righteous, but "the righteousness of God in him," 2 Cor. 5:21.

3. And lastly, to name no more; being so precious in itself, and so efficacious to expiate sin, it must needs be a most grateful oblation to the Lord, highly pleasing and delightful in his eyes. And so indeed it is said, Eph. 5:2. "He gave himself for us, an offering, and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet smelling savor." Not that God took any delight or content in the bitter sufferings of Christ, simply and in themselves considered; but with relation to the end for which he was offered, even our redemption and salvation.

Hence arose the delight and pleasure God had in it; this made him take pleasure in bruising, him, Isa. 53:10. God smelled a savor of rest in this sacrifice. The meaning is, that as men are offended with a stench, and their stomachs rise at it, and on the contrary delighted with sweet doors and fragrances; so the blessed God speaking after the manner of man, is offended, and filled with loathing, and abhorrence by our sins; but infinitely pleased and delighted in the offering of Christ for them, which came up as an odor of sweet smelling savor to him, Whereof the costly perfumes under the law were types and shadows. This was the oblation.

Thirdly, This oblation he brings before God, and to him he offers it up: So speaks the apostle, Heb. 9:14. "Through the eternal Spirit he offered himself without spot to God." As Christ sustained the capacity of a surety, so God of a creditor, who exacted satisfaction from him; that is, he required from him, as our surety, the penalty due to us for our sin. And so Christ had to do immediately with God, yes, with a God infinitely wronged, and incensed by sin against us. To this incensed Majesty, Christ our High priest approached, as to a devouring fire, with the sacrifice.

Fourthly, The persons for whom, and in whose stead he offered himself to God, was the whole number of God's elect, which were given him of the Father, neither more nor less: So speak the scriptures. He laid down his life for the sheep, John 10:15. for the church, Acts 20:28. for the children of God, John 11:50, 51, 52!. It is confessed, there is sufficiency of virtue in this Sacrifice to redeem the whole world, and on that account some divines affirm he is called the "Savior of the world," John 4:42 et alibi. We acknowledge also, that he purchased the services of others, besides the elect, to be useful to them, as they many ways are. In which sense others take those scriptures that speak so universally of the extent of his death. We also acknowledge that the elect being scattered in all parts, and among all ranks of men in the world, and unknown to those that are to tender Jesus Christ to men by the preaching of the gospel; the stile of the gospel (as it was necessary) is by such indefinite expressions suited to the general tenders they are to make of him: but that the efficacy and saving virtues of this all-sufficient sacrifice, is co-extended with God's election, so that they all, and no others can, or shall reap the special benefits of it, is too clear in the scriptures to be denied, Eph. 5:23. John 17:2, 9, 19, 20. John 10:26, 27, 28. 1 Tim. 4:10.

Fifthly, The design and end of this oblation was to atone, pacify, and reconcile God, by giving him a full and adequate compensation or satisfaction for the sins of these his elect: so speaks the apostle, Col. 1:20. "And having made peace, through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." So 2 Cor. 5:19. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself." Reconciliation is the making up of that breach caused by sin, between us and God, and restoring us again to his favor and friendship. For this end Christ offered up himself to God; I say, not for this end only, but more especially; hence it is called "hilasmos", a propitiation; and so the Seventy render that place, Numb. 15, the propitiating ram. But here I would not be mistaken, as though the reconciliation were made only between us and God the Father, by the blood of the cross; for we were reconciled by it to the whole Trinity. Every sin being made against the divine Majesty, it must needs follow, that the three Persons, having the same divine essence, must be all offended by the commission, and so all reconciled by the expiation and remission of the same. But reconciliation is said to be with the Father, because, though the works of the Trinity, ad extra, be undivided, and what one does, all do; and what is done to one, is done to all; yet by this form and manner of expression (as a learned man well observes), the scriptures point out the proper office of each Person. The Father receives us into favor; the Son mediates, and gives the ransom which procures it; the Spirit applies and seals this to the persons and hearts of believers. However, being reconciled to the Father, we are also reconciled to the Son, and Spirit, as they are one God in three Persons. And if it be objected, that then Christ offered up a sacrifice, or laid down a price to reconcile us to himself; I shall more fairly and directly meet with, and satisfy that objection, when I come to speak of Christ's satisfaction, which is one of the principal fruits of this excellent oblation. For the present, this may inform you about the nature and precious worth of Christ's oblation. The uses whereof follow in these five practical inferences.

INFERENCE 1. Hence it follows, That actual believers are fully freed from the guilt of their sins, and shall never more come under condemnation.

The obligation of sin is perfectly abolished by the virtue of this sacrifice. When Christ became our sacrifice, he both bare, and bare away our sins. First, They were laid upon him, then expiated by him; so much is imported in that word, Heb. 9:28. "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many". To bear, the word is a full and emphatical word, signifying not only to bear, but to bear away. So John 1:29. "Behold the Lamb of God, "ho arion", that takes away the sins of the world;" not only declaratively, or by way of manifestation to the conscience; but really, making a purgation of sin, as it is in Hebrews 1:3, "katarismon poiesamenos", word for word, a purgation being made, and not declared only. Now, how great a mercy is this, "that by him, all that believe should be justified from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses," Acts 13:39. What shall we call this grace? surely, we should do somewhat more than admire it, and faint under the sense of such a mercy. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered," Psalm. 32: or, O the blessedness or felicities of him that is pardoned! who can express the mercies, comforts, happiness of such a state as this? Reader, let me beg you, if you be one of this pardoned number, to look over the cancelled bonds, and see what vast sums are remitted to you. Remember what you were in your natural estate: possibly you were in that black bill, 1 Cor. 6:3. What, and yet pardoned! full and finally pardoned, and that freely, as to any hand that you had in the procurement of it! what can't you do less, than fall down at the feet of free grace, and kiss those feet that moved so freely towards so vile a sinner? It is not long since your iniquities were upon you, and you pinedst away in them. Their guilt could by no creature power be separated from your soul. Now they are removed from you, as far as the East from the West, Psalm. 103:11. So that, when the East and West, which are the two opposite points of heaven, meet, then your soul and its guilt may meet again together.

O the unspeakable efficacy of Christ's sacrifice, which extends to all sins! 1 John 1:7. "The blood of Christ CLEANSES from all sins, sins past and present, without exception. And some divines of good note affirm, all sins to come also; for, (says Mr. Paul Blains), original sin, in which all future sins are, as fruits in the root, is pardoned; and if these were not pardoned, they would void and invalidate former pardons. And lastly, it would derogate from the most plenary satisfaction of Christ. But the most say, and I think, truly, that all the past sins of believers are pardoned, without revocation, all their present sins without exception; but not their sins to come by way of anticipation: and yet for them there is a pardon of course, which is applied on their repentance, and application, of Christ's blood; so that none of them shall make void former pardons. O let these things slide sweetly to your melting heart.

INFERENCE. 2. From this oblation Christ made of himself to God for our sins, we infer the inflexible severity of divine Justice, which could be no other way diverted from us, and appeased, but by the blood of Christ. If Christ had not presented himself to God for us, Justice would not have spared us: And if he do appear before God as our surety, it will not spare him; Rom. 8:32. "He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up to death for us all." If forbearance might have been expected from any, surely it might from God, "who is very pitiful, and full of tender mercy," James 5:11. yet God in this case spared not. If one might have expected sparing mercy and abatement from any, surely Christ might most of all expect it from his own Father; yet you hear, God spared not his own Son. Sparing mercy is the lowest degree of mercy, yet it was denied to Christ: he abated him not a minute of the time appointed for his suffering, nor one degree of wrath he was to bear; nay, though in the garden Christ fell upon the ground, and sweat clodders of blood, and in that unparalleled agony scrued up his spirit to the highest intention, in that pitiful cry, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass;" and though he brake out upon the cross, in that heart-rending complaint, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" yet no abatement; Justice will not bend in the least; but having to do with him on this account, resolves upon satisfaction from his blood. If this be so, what is the case of your soul, reader, if you be a man or woman that has no interest in this sacrifice? For if these things be done in (Christ) the green tree, what will be done to (you) the dry tree? Luke 23:31 "That is, if God so deal with me, that I am not only innocent, but like a green and fruitful tree, full of all delectable fruits of holiness, yet if the fire of his indignation thus seize upon me, what will be your condition, that are both barren and guilty, void of all good fruit, and full of all unrighteousness," and so like dry scary wood, are fitted as fuel to the fire? Consider with yourself, man, how canned you imagine you canned support that infinite wrath that Christ grappled with in the room of God's elect! He had the strength of a Deity to support him, Isa. 42:1. "Behold my servant whom I uphold." He had the fullness of his Spirit to prepare him, Isa. 61:11. He had the ministry of an angel, who came post from heaven to relieve him in his agony, Luke 22:43. He had the ear of his Father to hear him, for he cried, "and was heard in that he feared," Heb. 5:7. He was assured of the victory, before the combat; he knew he should be justified, Isa. 50:8. and yet for all this he was sore amazed, and sorrowful even to death, and his heart was melted like wax in the midst of his affections. If the case stood thus with Christ, notwithstanding all these advantages he had to bear the wrath of God for a little time; how do you think, a poor worm as you are, to dwell with everlasting burnings, or contend with devouring fire? Luther saw ground enough for what he said, when he cried, out, "I will have nothing to do with an absolute God," That is, with a God out of Christ: for, "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Woe and alas for evermore to that man who meets a just and righteous God without a Mediator! Whoever you are that readest these lines, I beseech you, by the mercies of God, by all the regard and love you have to your own soul, neglect not time, but make quick and sure work of it. Get an interest in this sacrifice quickly, what else will be your state when vast eternity opens to swallow you up? what will you do, man, when your eye-strings and heart strings are breaking? O what a fearful shriek will your conscience give, when you are presented before the dreadful God, and no Christ to screen you from his indignation! Happy is that man who can say in a dying hour, as one did, who being desired, a little before his dissolution, to give his friends a little taste of his present hopes, and the grounds of them, cheerfully answered, I will let you know how it is with me: then stretching forth his hand, said,

"Here is the grave, the wrath of God, and devouring flame, the just punishment of sin, on the one side: and here am I, a poor sinful soul, on the other side: but this is my comfort, the covenant of grace, which is established upon so many sure promises, has saved all. There is an act of oblivion passed in heaven: I will forgive their iniquities, and their sins will I remember no more. This is the blessed privilege of all within the covenant, among whom I am one." O it is sweet at all times, especially at such a time, to see the reconciled face of God, through Jesus Christ, and hear the voice of peace through the blood of the cross.

INFERENCE. 3. Has Christ offered up himself a sacrifice to God for us? Then let us improve, in every condition, this sacrifice, and labor to get hearts duly affected with such a sight as faith can give us of it. Whatever the condition or complaint of any Christian is, the beholding the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world, may give him strong support, and sweet relief. Do you complain of the hardness of your hearts, and want of love to Christ? Behold him as offered up to God for you; and such a sight, (if any in the world will do it) will melt your hard hearts. Zech. 12:10. "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and shall mourn." It is reported of Johannes Milieus, that he was never observed to speak of Christ and his sufferings, but his eyes would drop. Are you too little touched and unaffected with the evil of sin? Is it your complaint, Christian, that you canned not make sin bear so hard upon your heart as you Would? Consider but what you have now read; realize this sacrifice by faith, and try what efficacy there is in it to make sin forever bitter as death to your soul. Suppose your own Father had been stabbed to the heart with such a knife, and his blood were upon it, Would you delight to see, or endure to use that knife any more? sin is the knife that stabbed Christ to the heart; this shed his blood. Surely, you can never make light of that which lay so heavy upon the soul and body of Jesus Christ.

Or is your heart pressed down even to despondency, under the guilt of sin, so that you cry, how can such a sinner as I be pardoned? my sin is greater than can be forgiven? "Behold the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world." Remember that no sin can stand before the efficacy of his blood. 1 John 1:7. "The blood of Jesus Christ CLEANSES from all sin." This sacrifice makes unto God full satisfaction.

Are you at any time staggering through unbelief filled with unbelieving suspicions of the promises? Look hither, and you shall see them all ratified and established in the blood of the cross, so that hills and mountains shall sooner start from their own basis and centers, than one little of the promise fail. Heb. 9:17, 18, 19.

Do you at any time find year hearts fretting, disquieted, and impatient under every petty cross and trial? See how quietly Christ your sacrifice came to the altar, how meekly and patiently he stood under all the wrath of God and men together This will silence, convince, and shame you.

In a word, here you will see so much of the grace of God, and love of Christ, in providing and becoming a sacrifice for you: you will see God taking vengeance against sin, but sparing the sinner: you will see Christ standing as the body of sin alone; for, "he was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him:" that whatever corruption burdens, this, in the believing application, will support; whatever grace is defective, this will revive it.

Blessed be God for Jesus Christ!